The golf course at Yale University is a monument to the Roaring Twenties and more specifically to both Seth Raynor and Charles Blair Macdonald who were gifted an enormous 700-acre wooded swamp on which to build a course by Mrs Tompkins in loving memory of her husband Ray. Armed with $400,000 – then the largest ever golf course budget – Raynor and Macdonald set about creating a masterpiece on a bold scale.
Despite neglect during the latter half of the 20th century – which has now been firmly remedied – Yale remains a testament to everything that is truly magical about classical, penal and strategic architecture. Consequently Yale is one of the world’s most challenging courses and also the world’s best collegiate layout… although the latter point does Yale no justice as there are few inspiring college courses around the world.
Many cavernous bunkers require careful entry via wooden steps and from the depths of these traps you’ll need a hot sand wedge to keep your card intact. With fairways that pitch and roll in a pleasing, almost seaside fashion, you can expect a fair share of awkward stances at Yale. Expect a few three putts too. The greens at Yale rival those at the Home of Golf in terms of size and severity of undulation.
The Yale golf course has played host to every significant championship in the State of Connecticut, along with two USGA Junior National Events. To play Yale you’ll need to befriend a member or a Yale student or employee. Alternatively you might want to gather together a group of 100 friends and acquaintances… Yale do allow outsize group outings on Mondays.
In the book Golf’s 100 Toughest Holes by Chris Millard, the par four 10th is described as “a straightaway par four”. The author continues: “At 396 yards from the back tees, this hole gives new meaning to the word uphill. Immediately off the tee, the fairway elevates to block out any sight of the landing area. A 240-yard drive will put you in the swale. Whereas you couldn’t see the landing area from the tee, now you can’t see the flag. The fairway is lined with dense forestation on both sides, and the green is 40 feet above the fairway. A deep trap extends across the front width of the green to catch short shots. The green itself is double tiered so that the rare approach shot that does find the green needs to be accurate.”
I personally could care less about conditions, but its sad to see how poorly Yale treats this course, especially given the alumni who want to see change and are willing to fund it. It's probably one of the courses in the country in most need of a restoration. The design itself is one of the boldest, most exciting in the country, and with the proper care, it could easily be one of the best courses in the country.
The first is an awesome opener with a long carry off the tee, playing to a semi-blind leven type green that runs from front to back. The second features probably a 30 foot drop left of the green into the bunkers. The problem is that Robert Trent Jones rebunkered the entire course to soften the slopes, making it nearly impossible for the ball to run into the bunkers as intended. The third features a strategic tee shot where playing closer to the hazard will yield a better angle for the blind second shot. The green here was originally a double punchbowl a la Chicago's 12th or the Creek's 5th but was removed due to drainage difficulties. My hope is that it can one day be restored as it sits perfectly into the landscape.
The fourth is one of Ben Crenshaw's favorite par 4's in the world, a road hole template that is probably the best attempt at simulating the tee shot on the 17th at St Andrews. Unfortunately modern technology has made the pond an easy carry for many collegiate players, but there is a hill not far beyond the third green where a back tee could easily be placed. The fifth is a short template that has been softened, making the effect of the bowl very minimal, but still pretty cool. The sixth features a cool tee shot over a diagonal creek and plays to another green that has been softened, as it once featured a severe hog's back. The seventh is a cool tee shot over unique hills and plays up to a spectacular green site.
The stretch of 8-10 is my favorite in the world. The 8th is a cape style hole off the tee with a massive green that is almost a double redan, sloping right to left in the front and left to right in the back. The 9th is hands down my favorite par-3 in the world, the biarritz hole. Its an extremely strategic shot, to a front pin the water is extremely intimidating, but bailing out long will leave a putt that is literally seven feet uphill. The 10th is rather controversial but I absolutely love it. The strategy is similar to the 10th at Shinnecock. Laying up short of the hill will leave a longer yet even look at the green, while playing to the bottom of the hill leaves a shot that goes uphill almost 50 feet. The green is absolutely insane with a massive slope seperating the front and back. Putting straight at the hole after missing long of a front pin ensures your ball will roll off the green, but Raynor created a side bank that allows the player to almost play it sideways. I spent about 15 minutes just putting this green, its that cool
The 11th is a short 4 with a redan style green featuring an awesome bunker literally blown into solid rock. The 12th is the alps, a cool blind shot into a tantalizing green. The 13th is a very natural redan, playing over a hill and allowing the ball to release onto the green. The 14th is the knoll hole, an awesome dogleg right featuring a fairway that slopes harder from left to right than you can believe. The green is posted up on a table top where missing is not an option. 15 and 16 have been ruined, like many other courses, by the J*nes family, moving on. The 17th features a cool principal's nose bunker and a unique double plateau.
The 18th hole is extremely controversial but I just think if you don't like it you're too soft. Its supposed to be a true par five and its unlike anything I've ever seen before. The tee shot plays over a hill where cutting more of the corner yields a better angle. Two avenues high up in the air appear on the second shot, each yielding different options, with the third shot being played downhill to the final green. Real par 5's aren't holes where you're supposed to have a chance at eagle. When the course was built, par fives were the hardest holes in golf, and the fact that this one has stood the test of time shows how amazing this course is.
Yale is one of those courses that some might say "isn't for everyone" but I honestly think that if you're included in that category that it "isn't for" I really just don't want to hear your opinions on golf courses, because I know they're wrong. Sure you can take a crack on the shitty conditions and the changes made over the years but you can't detract from the amount of strategy and gusto this course carries. It was meant to be a test to the games best and it still is, presenting one of the most different courses you'll come across.
Over a period covering 25 years I have been able to play Yale no less than 5-6 times -- it helps that the club is nearby to I-95 when making the drive to and from New York and Boston.
There's no need for me to rehash all the golf holes -- others have weighed in and much of the comments are spot on.
My main gripe with Yale is that generally the times I have played the course it is, at best, in fair condition. I can remember the first time playing the course and frankly I needed to make a full shoulder turn to get a ball on the green to go more than 10 feet. Or, having tees that are not level or fairways that more than likely will produce flyer lies and on and on and on it goes.
I find it hard to comprehend how a facility with the name Yale -- can be so consistently disappointing on that front.
Let me clarify before all those who love the course cringe at my viewpoint. I am not advocating in any manner, shape or form that turf quality / presentation needs to be utterly pristine in the mold of a Augusta National or Muirfield Village. Not at all. I grew up playing on courses where grass, more often than not, grew by accident -- not by design. However, when conditions are not kept at a reasonable level the richness of the design details cannot flourish.
Yale is striking because of the vastness of the property and the way a number of individual holes command the location they have during the round. But, the layout is hardly bulletproof in terms of hole variety throughout the 18 holes.
Without doubt the opening quartet of par-4 holes is quite special and the par-4 8th has always fascinated me as well as the equally spellbinding Biarritz 9th.
But, the inward half is simply good but hardly on the same level as the outward side. The par-5 18th is clearly a conversation hole and for those enamored with quirky golf it certainly does that.
Yale gets plenty of "buzz" but I can easily make a case that a protégé of Macdonald and Raynor -- Charles "steam shovel" Banks did even more noted work at three of his designs -- Whipporwill in Westchester and Forsgate / Banks and Essex County -- each in NJ. The richness of the design details in the aforementioned courses has been enhanced in recent years and the turf quality brings to life in a grand fashion what the architect originally sought.
Unfortunately, there are a number of people who dismiss conditioning -- simply honing in on the design but not drawing the connection that golf is played with shots and the role the turf plays is central to the design pedigree really shining.
I'd like to return and see how things have progressed. However, I've been told in past instances how things have truly improved and then when returning seeing roughly the same result. Without a real effort to bolster the presentation the architecture simply cannot resonate to its highest level and it's my belief that a facility that fails that test cannot be presumed to be among the elite layouts of the land. If you want another example on this front check out Highlands Links on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.
Far too many people have provided support Yale mainly because of the name connection to Macdonald / Raynor. While those two icons of American architecture should be rightly feasted -- the day-to-day presentation of Yale doe not strike the same chord and has been downplayed when assessments are provided. As I outlined, if one were to see what Banks has done at the clubs I have mentioned you will see a real connection between the architecture and the presentation. This connection is what is missing at Yale.
For the reasons specified -- at this moment -- Yale has not closed the sale.
M. James Ward
Yale Golf Club is planning a major overhaul.
The golf course was closed for a period of time this year -- since reopened -- and the overall course conditioning has been suspect for quite some time. Candidly, the layout has benefited from its inherent design even though turf quality has been, to be charitable, frankly alarming.
There's been a pledge to infuse significant dollars into the upkeep and how that plays out is clearly uncertain.
The famed par-3 9th hole is not even open despite the rest of the 17 holes being operational.
But, at this point in time, in my opinion, Yale is not the #1 course in The Nutmeg State. There's plenty of work that's needed to get done and one can only wonder if the commitment -- both from a financial and manpower side, will be sustained. The layout is a marvelous one but its continued lofty status cannot be sustained through a conceptual viewpoint but an actual one.
If Yale is no loner the #1 course in the state, which course is?
Hugh: Good question. Likely the following have a case -- CC of Fairfield, Tamarack and Wee Burn. I don't doubt the rigors of The Stanwich Club but I don't see the single-minded focus on difficulty per se as being compelling architecture of the first order.
Yale cannot be number one now given the situation the state of the course now. There's plenty of work needed to bring back the layout and when that happens -- or should I say "if" that happens -- then a reassessment can be done. Ranking courses is not based on past performance -- but how matters stand in real time. To argue otherwise, is an affront to those courses / clubs that have consistently kept up their pace to be the best they can be.
How to rate a golf course that is one of the most architecturally significant in the USA? How to rate a golf course for longer, better players where technology has eliminated many of the most interesting land forms and terrain changes resulting that is now a bit inconsistent.
The Course at Yale has many outstanding holes such as three, four, eight, nine, ten, twelve, thirteen and eighteen. Most of the other holes are also good or have some very interesting character to them. Forty years ago I likely would have highlighted nearly every hole on the course but now the only consistency is in the quality of the green shapes. Holes five-seven and holes eleven, fourteen and sixteen no longer measure up to the others.
I played The Course at Yale, designed and built by Seth Raynor for a second time on September 11, 2019. Charles Banks assisted on building it while Charles Blair Macdonald consulted. It was not in good condition but I put that out of my evaluation although my playing partner and I both decided to write an email regarding the condition of the course. About five weeks later, my playing partner returned to play it again and said the course was in excellent condition. When I played, we met up with the coach of Yale’s golf team as his team was finishing the second hole and we were finishing fifteen so we went to say hello. The third is a tremendous hole for average length players. Yet the college team, instead of playing from the back tee of 411 yards, decided to play the hole to the right of the second green, adding about 50 yards to the hole. This hole is a dogleg right over water with the fairway nearly blind from the tee. Five players hit their 3 metals and all of them easily cleared the water, their balls finding the right side of the fairway before the fairway narrows to nothing, leaving only gap wedges in to the green.
I was not surprised. As I went around The Course at Yale I kept thinking about longer, better players and what they would think of the golf course. They obviously would marvel at the green complexes, particularly the large, undulating, multi-tiered greens. But for the journey from tee to the green they simply see a very different golf course to the average length player or mid-handicapper. The fairways are wide here and there are few sharp doglegs, so generally the better players will take a full rip at the ball.
The Course at Yale is a national treasure among golf courses in the USA, perhaps even more than National Golf Links of America. It could be classified as America’s “golf museum piece”, sitting there today in the rolling hills surrounding New Haven just as it has basically always been. The wide fairways, large undulating green, long/wide/deep bunkers and rolling fairways offer several blind shots combined with many template holes making it a golf course that enthusiasts of golf architects must play and study. If one thinks about perhaps the three greatest courses where Seth Raynor and Charles Blair Macdonald had a leading role in their development – Chicago (flat land), National Golf Links (a mixture of rolling and flat but only a couple blind shots), and Yale (primarily built around rolling and hills), one would have to say that Yale was the most unique course built for its time.
Nearly everyone I know who has played Yale rates it very highly, even amongst their “bests” or “favorites.” There are a few who do not favor it because of the blind shots which in their opinion, leads to too many guesses as they favor being able to see the entirety of the hole. They also critique the size and scale of the greens for their difficulty. But for the vast majority, they enjoy the fun of the adventure and resulting uncertainty that is created through those blind shots as well as from land forms near the greens creating quirky bounces that have a 50-50 chance of a favorable bounce and lie versus an ending that makes you either puzzled or in despair.
One should avoid the ugly clubhouse and terrible locker room. Thankfully, the staff is ultra-friendly in the pro shop and dining area. My sense is that the $30 billion endowment of the university has a clause directing none of it go towards the golf course or clubhouse. That is a pity if that is the case. Anyway, back to the golf course.
Golf started at Yale as Robert Pryde, from Scotscraig near St. Andrews, came to the USA in 1892 and helped to establish a golf course at the New Haven Country Club. Yale students played there and later established the college team in 1896 where Mr. Pryde became the de-facto head coach at Yale and a professional for many local courses.
In 1923, Mrs. Sarah Wey Tompkins donated 720 acres to Yale in memory of her late husband, Ray, who captained the football team in 1882 and 1883. The scorecard I was given last year now includes the following on the front, “Ray Tompkins Memorial Yale Golf Course.” When I first played there on June 6, 2005 in a best-ball charity outing there was no reference on the scorecard to Mr. Thompkins. It is now a nice acknowledgement. The course was built simply as a reaction to Yale slipping in stature in college golf. Yale University won 13 of the first 20 national college golf titles, but then went 7 consecutive years without winning. As Princeton and Harvard were building their own courses, the decision was made to build a “great” course as a way to attract the very best young high school amateurs. As Mr. Macdonald was somewhat “retired” he became more of a consultant to Mr. Raynor who laid out two courses, although only one course was built.
The course was designed and constructed by Seth Raynor with a budget of nearly $450,000, a massive amount for its time. The land was a mixture of poor soil, rapid changes in topography, swamp, rock, and woods. Augusta National was completed five years later for $100,000. The designers decided to utilize several “template” holes of which the most famous is the Biarritz green on the ninth hole. They were assisted by Charles Banks, who later became a noted architect on his own. Mr. Macdonald, who held a high regard for himself, wrote in 1928 in his book “Scotland’s Gift: Golf” that “today Yale has a classical course which is unexcelled in comparison with any inland course in this country or in Europe” At the time of his writing this was likely the case in comparison to the courses in the USA, but unlikely regarding inland courses in Europe. After all, Sunningdale, Swinley Forest, Ganton, and Morfontaine were all in existence.
One “quirk” of the course is that the only two par 5’s come very late at sixteen and eighteen. It is almost the reverse of Merion East where the only two par 5’s are the second and fourth. It is somewhat surprising that Yale would be built this way given obvious areas of land in earlier holes that could have easily been made a par 5 such as six, seven, eight, eleven, or fourteen. If one looks at the back ends of these holes you can see that the land is either of similar interest or perhaps even better for locating a green site. Maybe the $450,000 budget was not quite big enough?
In addition to a routing that somehow was able to work through all of the changes in terrain to find the teeing areas and interesting land for green sites, the course also has a wonderful quality in that no hole resembles another hole on the golf course. The only commonality that exists among some holes is that some holes are downhill and some holes are uphill. There are several holes that incorporate a pond. Other holes bring the tree lines more into play. But that is where the similarity of the holes end. The routing, land shapes of the fairways, number/length/shape/depth of bunkers are of a good variety, and then one comes to the greens. The greens, while all large, are completely unique where one is unlike the other. As you go through your round, what you might have learned about one’s reading abilities and stroke does not carry forward to the later holes because of their different slopes and undulations. It is perhaps Yale’s best defining feature.
The current scorecard lists three sets of tees, 6409/5984/5144, par 70. The course is rated 71.3/133 and 69.3/130 from the first two. We played the 6409 tees. I do have the scorecard from my first visit when the tees were set at 6749 rated 72.9/132. I am assuming they still play those longer tees for college competitions and top amateur events. For the hole descriptions I will reference the “college” tees of 6749 and the tees I played of 6409.
1 – par 4 410/383 with the college tees playing as a dogleg right across the corner of Griest pond. Simply put, it is a much nicer hole from the college tees. For the tees we played you start from an elevated tee with the pond not really in play unless you hit a very poor shot. Trees line both sides of the fairway tilted left to right and rolling with a single bunker on the left at the top of the crested fairway. At the green there is a large bunker front left that reduces the opening to the green by 75% with two bunkers on the right on slightly higher ground. The 10,300 square feet green has higher land behind it. This hole is all about the pin location on this massive green. On the right side is a plateau while the left side is lower with the left front having its own bowl. There is really nice mounding and land shaping near the green but I did find the green easy to read and putt as the green speeds were around 10. I found the visual of the hole for the approach shot to be slightly better than the hole itself but it is a good starting hole.
2 – par 4 374/362 going back the way you just came but now up the hill to a blind green from the tee of which much of the green can either remain completely blind or partially blind depending on where the tee shot finishes. The left side of the fairway falls off substantially leaving for certain a blind shot. The right side of the fairway or just off the offers the best view of the green with sits on a shelf. There are woods to the right that one can get into. The green is angled right to left with two fronting bunkers on the left that sit fifteen feet the green’s surface and one on the back right. The land on the left side of the green continues to fall away from those two left front bunkers. This is another large green with lots of undulations to it. It is another nice hole but not overly complicated if you find the center/right side of the fairway.
3 – par 4 411/379. The back tee makes the hole play straighter yet does make it play more difficult as the pond on the right is more in play. From the elevated tee this plays as a dogleg right over a pond to a fairway that looks fairly tight due to the slope of the hill on the left side running down to flatter land. There is a pin locator to help you with the approach shot as it is very likely the view to the green will be blocked by a second rise in the hill coming in off the left that leaves only about 20% of the green in view if you can find the right side of the fairway nearer the pond. This green was once a double punchbowl green located closer to the pond but now is defined by its size and tilt to the right. There is a single bunker on the right about 60 yards short of the green where there is essentially no fairway. The green is surrounded by higher ground front and to the left. This is a super hole even if the longer players make it pretty simple.
4 – par 4 437/425. This hole is deemed the “road” hole. Teeing off fairly close to the back of the third green, this dogleg right plays over the same pond as the third hole, but the pond is much more in play here because the water comes in much more on this hole shrinking the fairway by about 20%. For the average length player, the pond is very much in one’s mind although longer hitters will simply fly it over the pond by quite a margin leaving a simple wedge into the green. The fairway rises gradually all the way to the green which sits above on a shelf of higher ground. The green is wonderfully surrounded by bunkers at the corners with the front right being the deepest leading to a blind recovery shot. The bunkers at the rear corners of the green should be out of play but if in them, the recovery shot is difficult as the green goes away from you. It is a fabulous hole and for me, the best hole on the golf course.
5 – par 5 147/135. This slightly tiered green is large than it looks and is surrounded by a “moat” of sand with three small breaks in them. The bunkers are not as deep as many others to a green that is raised a few feet sloped back to front. This is a somewhat bland hole and the weakest par 3 on the golf course.
6 – par 4 421/409. This dogleg left plays downhill and is heavily tree lined on both sides. A stream appears briefly on the left side. There is a long narrowing bunker front of the green and a smaller pot-like bunker behind it at the right side of the green.
7 – par 4 37/365. This hole was created by use of dynamite and plays as a straight hole plays slightly down with heavy trees on the left and a hill on the right and to a green sitting above you with a false front. There is a deep bunker on the right front. The green is enormous with a 5 feet of slope back to front and left to right. The slope is so severe that it does not allow for some pin positions nearer the edges of the green that otherwise would be very interesting.
8 – par 4 406/394. The “cape” hole playing as a dogleg left downhill over a rise and then it feels like the approach is uphill but it is not. This hole is good for average length players but not much for longer hitters who easily carry the rise and then have a clear line to the green with a sand wedge in hand. Hitting down the left could lead to a blind shot as the land falls away. The green is certainly wide enough and is one of the longer ones on the course at 46 yards. I was not surprised to three putt this one as I thought it to be one of the more difficult greens to read. There is a long bunker at the right side of the green while the one on the left, similar to the second hole, sits well below the green, probably fifteen feet, surrounded by rougher vegetation. This bunker will definitely result in a blind recovery shot. The front half of the green goes right to left with a very tall mound on the right of the green but the back half goes left to right. It is one of the better holes on the course.
9 – par 3 213/201. The most famous hole of the course as the “Biarritz” hole. This hole can certainly play as long as 250 yards to a back pin location. The green is 65 yards deep and 12,000 square feet with a five feet depression in the middle. One has to carry the Griest pond which comes very close to the front of the green. Woods surround the other three sides of the green. There is a substantial slope from the back right to the left. It is hard to say what spot on the green is the most difficult putt, the back right or anywhere on the front prior to the swale. There is a bunker on the front right and two on the left side with the right one being the most difficult of the three. This is a classic hole and wholly deserving of its acclaim. Still, I liked the fourth hole more. My partner and I both got up and down for pars.
10 – par 4 382/379. If the eighth and ninth were not fun enough, to follow is the marvelous tenth. This hole crosses over the entry road and then climbs and climbs and climbs some more to a green that will always be blind until you are on it or level with it. It feels like you are hitting up a mountain. The uphill fairway is tree-lined on both sides and has a substantial drop-off the closer to the hole due to the roll-out but makes the green even higher and completely blind above you. There is a substantial wall fronting the green leading down to two bunkers perhaps 12 feet below the green. The green is sloped fiercely back to front with tiers at both. Although I am not a fan of the second at Cruden Bay, I think this is a very good hole because I do not have a gap wedge in my hands for the approach. The approach is more similar to the second at Pine Valley although that is played from a level lie and you will not likely have a level lie here for one’s second.
11 – par 4 379/347. There is room to lengthen this hole but you would have to change it to a slight dogleg from either side and take down more trees. As it is, this hole plays straight downhill about 60 feet with rocky land to the left and trees on either side. There is a large, deep bunker fronting the left side two similar sized bunkers right and left. The green is angled left to right and front to back. For me, this is the weakest par 4 on the golf course.
12 – par 4 400/387. The “Alps hole and there is room to lengthen this hole another 30 yards before it runs into one of the hiking trails behind the tee. But as the hole is uphill leading to another blind shot into the green, more distance is perhaps not necessary. Trees line both sides. There is a large, deep fronting bunker that one must carry to reach the green that is on a shelf well above you. There is a bunker on the left side. The green has several plateaus and swales to it. It is a marvelous hole.
13 – par 3 212/196. The “redan” hole although not as severely sloped as other redans. One feels like the green has been softened through the years. This hole is the most beautiful on the golf course playing from an elevated tee downhill over a pond. There are two deep fronting bunkers that do not allow a ball to land short and run onto the green. There is a large bunker left which sits about 4 feet below the green and two bunkers right of the green. The land is sloped to run into any of those bunkers front or left. Trees surround the hole.
14 – par 4 365/353. The hole has no bunkers and plays downhill. It is heavily tree lined and has a knoll on the left side kicking balls to the right. The green is raised and trickier than it appears as it seems to go front to back and right to left but I am not sure it does either. My approach shot bounded off the back. There is a 4-feet fall-off to the right of the green.
15 – par 3 190/171. The “Eden” hole and a nice par 3. The green is steeply sloped back to front with deep bunkers on both corners of the front.
16 – par 5 553/495. The first par 5 and it has a substantial difference between the two tees. This hole bends gently to the left but the green is set off to the right. It is again heavily tree lined on both sides. There are bunkers flanking the green. This is the weakest hole on the course. The original green was moved as it was in lower land that often flooded. Yet something should be done to improve the hole.
17 – par 4 437/425. This hole plays downhill over a pond and bends gently left. There is a “principle’s nose” like collection of three bunkers at a raised area fronting the green. The green itself is raised slightly with multiple tiers in it. As we had been behind a elderly single the entire back nine who refused to let us through, he finally waved us through here and I three putted in my haste, but it might have been due to the green. As it turned out, the fellow was not waving us through, he had gotten his cart into an area where it would not go forward and he wanted our help. We helped him reverse and raced to the next tee where we heard him yell at us for going through.
18 – par 5 621/580. If the ninth is the most famous, then surely the eighteenth is the second most noted hole at Yale. There are two separate hills on this hole with the second shot for most players being completely blind. Is the hole straight or is it a double dogleg? The safer line for the second shot is down the right side but it adds distance. The better line to the green for the second shot is to the higher ground on the left which will leave a shorter shot in but there is a sidehill with thick grass that you simply must avoid. The third shot is downhill to a very long and wide green with bunkers on either side. There is a fall-off behind the green where a bunker has been placed to stop balls from going onto the entry road. The green is very slanted seemingly in all directions. Longer hitters from the forward tee can carry the crest of the first hill, but I doubt their ability from the back tee to do so. This is another green that is more than 50 yards long.
The Course at Yale is magnificent, if a bit uneven. There may be no better use of the land for a golf course in the USA and perhaps no better green complexes. Unless the weather is lousy, it does lack in difficulty other than on the greens. It does not require quite as much strategy as it would have 50 years ago, but it is a course that any serious student of golf architecture should play. It is not in my top 100 and that sounds sacrilegious as I thoroughly enjoy playing there and marvel at what was created. I do understand why many put it in their top 100 or even top 50 courses in the world. Some say it is Seth Raynor’s finest work but I put several other courses ahead of it. But one should certainly route it into their playing schedule if anywhere near the area.
Yale is a fabulous course. For quite some time I had been able to play Yale numerous times and always heard Stanwich was the best in the state. I finally played Stanwich and while Stanwich is wonderful. Yale is fabulous. I won't go thru the course hole by hole. Simply put If and When you play Yale....You will take a minimum 5 holes to your grave. As I go thru the course in my head...There are no less than 9 fabulous holes. Not good holes but remember them forever type holes. This is a course you fly to play. Play the back tee on one just to capture the essence of the pond on the hole. 1/2/3/4 may be the best start to any course....period. 8/9/10 may be the best 3 hole stretch anywhere...18 is just the fitting end to the round...Wow Find a way to play here. You'll never forget it.
A great course and must play if you're in the area. All the template holes are exceptional and the original holes are even better (that's not true, they are all wonderful). Favorite hole on the course is the 8th but there isn't a weak hole out there. Conditioning could be better but it really isn't as bad as advertised. Easily one of the top courses in CT.
What a course!!!! The triumvirate of C. B. Macdonald, Macdonald, Seth Raynor and Charles Banks, designed this gem in 1926. Yale Golf Course is a testament to their wizardry. The first hole is intimidating to say the least. Long carry to a deceptive green, I would suggest adding another club on your approach shot. The 2nd is relatively easy, unless you end up in the 30 + foot deep bunker left, as I did. The 3rd if are right you are dead in the water. Left leaves you with a blind approach. I am not sure what advice to give on this one as it kicked my butt %$&**&^$. The 4th is even tougher, at 440 yards favor the left side of the fairway as the water hazard sneaks in from the right. ‘Exhale on the 5th, relatively short par 3 but with bunkers surrounding it, it is essentially an island par 3. The 7th hole looks benign on the scorecard, but what a green. It is elevated with a huge slope to the front. If you miss left will probably end up rolling into the woods, if you miss right, as my playing partner did, you may roll into the front right bunker. Godspeed. The 8th is a beast. I hooked my approach and paid the penalty from a 30 foot deep bunker, ugh!!!. The 9th is why you came. Biarritz is a course design that is widely underutilized. For this 235 yard par 3 to a 65 yard long green half the fun is when the pin is back. There is nothing quite like hitting a good tee shot, see it land on the green, watching it disappear and hoping, praying, cussing and seeing it rise back up from the depths of the 8 foot elevation drop to give you a shot at birdie. It reminded me of teenage sex. I hate to say it but the 9th is the climax. The 12th is a super golf hole, uphill with a blind shot to a two tiered green. The 18th is a good hole with a blind shot but the excitement is over. Yale is an amazing golf course that shoots it’s wad to early.
Yale has been climbing the rankings in recent years. The course is big, bold, with a variety of required shots, including blind approaches. Most of the holes have a "wow" feeling.
It has some of the best template holes, including the 9th Biarritz and the Punchbowl green on the 10th.
Yale is a Charles Blair Macdonald masterpiece that doesn’t get the love it deserves because of its conditioning. I liked all the holes at Yale and it is hard to pick a favorite. The best known hole is clearly the Biarritz ninth, with its legendary carry over water to a seriously challenging green. After the round I expected this to be the hole that shined through and the one that would be the most memorable, however, I find myself thinking back about the "Blind" third hole with very fond memories, although I think the three-hole stretch from ten through twelve is difficult to beat.
If I had to single out one hole, though, it would be the fourteenth "Knoll," which plays only 353 yards from the blue tees. You likely won't see your tee ball land given the hilly terrain. Charles Banks described your second shot on this hole as a "… lift and hold shot. The green is elevated on all sides and slopes to the left." As Godley and Kelly point out in their book Golf at Yale, it is a "deceptively compact par-four, made challenging by its tilts, angles, and uneven lies." And, I would add by the narrow nature of the green and your intended target.
The finishing hole is a par five of 621 yards from the tips and it plays over a crazy combination of hills. Especially for the first time player, there is little sense of where to hit and what would constitute a good golf shot. The terrain is monumental and it appears to not have been sculpted at all, just the original crazy and jumbled land forms.
To say that you have to hit your tee shot uphill understates the case. Likewise, the shot down from the high ground encompasses a precipitous fall. It is made all the more interesting by having two distinct fairways you can play. You can go to the right and across the top of the mountain or to a lower plateau on its right. The humps and bumps make it quite unpredictable where your ball will kick unexpectedly. The 18th hole is good summation of Yale in general. It is an epic finishing hole on an epic golf course.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
The minute you step into the men’s locker room, you can’t help but notice the framed pictures hanging around the room of every MacDonald/Raynor course they built. This just highlights that you’re at a historic and special layout which has lasted almost 100 years. The 9th hole (Biarritz) gets a lot of attention at Yale, and understandably so, but so many other template holes are worthy of much acclaim. The course did look a bit tired and I was hoping for better conditioning. There are so many blind shots here and challenging changes in elevation, which could be limiting (punishing) for lesser-skilled golfers.