Situated beside the Foxwoods Resort Casino, near North Stonington, the North course at Rees Jones’s upmarket 36-hole Lake of Isles golf facility is the public one that all golfers can play, albeit for a significant green fee.
Measuring a little bit shorter than the South course, the North is actually rated a tougher track than its twin sibling. Both layouts are routed around a central 90-acre lake with fairways weaving around a number of wetland areas.
Strongest holes on the North’s big layout include the doglegged par fours at the 6th and 9th while, on the more undulating back nine, the testing 574-yard 15th and 459-yard 18th holes ensure a grandstand end to the round.
A common concept in golf course architecture is the “playaway” hole—a simple, forgiving start allowing the golfer’s round to begin quickly and easily. The opening hole at Lake of Isles North is the antithesis: It starts with a forced carry of 180 yards to the fairway and then adds another 360 yards to a green elevated 40 feet above the fairway and guarded by bunkers left and right. Nor does Rees Jones let up on the second hole, a par 3 over water. There a total of 7 forced carry tee shots here. The most challenging was at #16 where a carry of 185 yards over a lake was needed to reach the fairway—from a set of tees aimed at golfers with handicaps as high as 18!
The holes do get more interesting as one moves away from the clubhouse, with doglegs at #s 3,5,6,9, 14 and 18 requiring some thought off the tee. But after some nicely contoured greens at the first 3 holes, most of the remaining putting surfaces are flat and dull.
An aerial approach is the only choice at over half the holes. I had dinner with Rees Jones a few tears ago. He’d had a wrist injury, was having trouble getting his iron shots airborne and allowed that he better understood the desirability of allowing a running approach. Had he designed Lake of Isles North after that injury, it would be a more interesting course.
The piece de resistance here is the requirement to ride. I estimated that there’s well over a mile of distance from greens to tees. Though this was dictated by the rocky, swampy piece of land chosen, it does not allow an enjoyable walk.