Ah, fall. My favorite time of the year, with one glaring downside — shorter days. I guess that’s Mother Nature’s way of saying, “You can’t have it all.”
But you can have most of it, including more manageable temperatures and, especially in New England, a riot of color. For golfers, autumn offers an exceptional experience, given that so many courses are located in visually stunning areas.
So, given the aforementioned shorter days, and the fact that most of us still need to work for a living, I find myself looking to get myself a quick nine holes during the fall months. That’s not to say that you can’t grab 18 on the weekends, or your days off (though autumn is such a great time to ride my bike, I still run into a time crunch). As a result, we’re going to highlight a number of top-notch nine-hole courses around the region.
Like skiing, golf has a rich and wonderful history, and I love courses that reflect those bygone eras. Hotchkiss School Golf Course (Hotchkiss.org) in Lakeville is situated on the grounds of this prestigious private prep school and boasts a design that remains virtually untouched since it opened in 1924. The course was built by renowned architect Seth Raynor, who was developing a track at Yale when he was coerced to visit Hotchkiss. The layout incorporates the existing terrain, which makes for mounding in the fairways and a number of wildly undulating greens, as well as deep greenside bunkers.
Local lore has it that Hollywood megastar Katherine Hepburn once lived near the second tee of Fenwick Golf Course (FenwickGolfCourse.com) in Old Saybrook and would play during the summer on this superb seaside nine. Winding through a quintessential New England village, Fenwick is Connecticut’s oldest public golf course, dating back to a 2,550-yard track in 1894. In 1900, Connecticut Magazine described Fenwick: “Some of the hazards are wonderful country roads that have been built along the river and Sound and are made of vast quantities of sand, four times as much as are necessary, with a variety of cacti along the sides.”
Another historic track is Roseland Golf Course (RoselandGolfCourse.com) in Woodstock, one of the oldest nine-hole layouts in the state. Originally built in 1896, the course is a modest 2,397 yards in length, providing golfers of all skill levels with the opportunity for a fun, relaxing round. The layout features narrow, tree-lined fairways and postage-stamp greens. With only a single, moderate hill, the course is relatively flat and is fairly easy to walk.
Formerly a private course, the Green Woods Country Club in Winsted (GreenWoodsCC.net) changed to semi-private a few years back, which was welcomed news for folks who didn’t want to invest in a full membership. The conditions are impressive, even during the late season. Typical of the older nine-hole courses in New England — Greenwoods was built more than a century ago — the layout is on the short side, with small, tricky greens as its only defense in these days of juiced golf balls and modern drivers.
Canaan Country Club (CanaanCC.com) is a beautiful layout in Connecticut’s northwest hills. The par-35 course borders the Blackberry River and crosses wetlands, with several holes featuring a picturesque view of Canaan Mountain. The par-three eighth hole, which plays from 170 to 210 yards, depending upon tee placement, has made several “Ten Toughest Par Threes in Connecticut” lists over the years. It plays over a deep gully to an elevated green. The green is deep, so a back pin placement adds 10 to 15 yards to the shot.
Any list of memorable nine-hole courses in the Granite State would be incomplete without including a grand hotel. My favorite is the Mountain View Golf Course (MountainViewGrand.com) at the magnificent Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield. Originally built in 1900, and redesigned in 1938 by architect Ralph Barton, the historic course offers challenging play and stunning panoramic mountain views (and matching views of the sprawling hotel). A number of deals — like “Two-for-One Mondays” and a “Twilight Golf Special” (after 3 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday) — make a round a bargain. Long-rumored expansion plans have failed to materialize, which is just fine. This course is an absolute gem.
The nine-hole layout at the Den Brae Golf Course (www.denbrae.com) in Sanbornton delivers 2,959 yards from the longest tees for a par 36. Originally the Den Brae dairy farm, construction started in 1957, and the course opened in August, 1958. Located in the Lakes Region, Den Brae is now a third-generation, family-owned golf course (the Craig family), with four sets of tees each hole, a grass driving range, and a practice putting green.
Designed by celebrated architects Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek, the Hooper Golf Club (HooperGolfCourse.com) in Walpole opened in 1927. Known for building low-cost but entertaining courses, Stiles was a prolific Golden Age designer who teamed with Van Kleek in 1923. Together they built dozens of courses, predominantly in New England. Set in remote wooded countryside in central New Hampshire, Hooper is a terrific example of their partnership, with a wonderful variety of holes.
Closer to the big city of Manchester, Brookstone Golf and Driving Range (Brookstone-Golf.com) in Derry is one of the state’s premier nine-hole, par-three golf facilities. Noted architect Howard Maurer, who created the course, did a commendable job preserving the site’s natural characteristics. You’ll deal with rolling hills, water hazards, and sand traps that are strategically-placed to create “target style” greens.
Vacationland is home to a notable collection of old-school golf experiences, many of which are ancient nine-holers along its rocky coastline. Castine Golf Club (CastineGolfClub.com), perched at the mouth of Penobscot Bay, is a Willie Park Jr. course that dates to 1921. The public club is known for its breathtaking views of Castine Harbor and Blue Hill and its passionate group of members who welcome visitors throughout the year. Tennis and yachting programs also are available.
Frye Island Golf Club is a Geoffrey Cornish design located on a wooded island in Sebago Lake, about a half-hour west of Portland (and a 10-minute ferry ride). With a 420-yard, par-four, and 520-yard, par-five on the card, it’s a surprisingly difficult course. But it’s also a scenic one. The par-three eighth hole, which soars over a pond filled with cattails, is one of the prettiest holes you’ll ever play, while its sharply sloping green will punish wayward approach shots. The nine-hole layout features two sets of alternating tees that allow an individual to play 18 holes with a very different perspective on each nine.
The one-hour ferry ride from Rockland to the island of North Haven is a delightful prelude to nine holes at North Haven Golf Club (NorthHavenGolfClub.com), as is the short walk from the ferry landing to the clubhouse at this very special track. This charming Stiles and Van Kleek nine boasts golden fescue rough and Velvet bentgrass greens, harkening back to its early 20th century roots. The course features a number of great holes, though the lovely par-three sixth hole, which plays over a tidal inlet, deserves special mention.
The first of three courses that you’ll find on Mount Desert Island, the Causeway Club (TheCausewayClub.com) in Southwest Harbor was founded in 1920. It’s a short course of just 2,300 yards, and quite golfer-friendly. The views of sparkling Norwood Cove from the holes of this century-old course, and the backdrop of Acadia National Park, Flying Mountain, Beech Mountain, and Acadia Mountain are spectacular. Looking for variety? The club’s pool and tennis courts perch on a point overlooking Somes Sound — a seven-mile fjord — Great Harbor, and the Cranberry Islands.
Near Boston, Unicorn Golf Course (UnicornGC.com) in Stoneham has an intriguing history. Originally designed as an 18-hole private golf course, the layout was crafted by architects Stiles and Van Kleek, and shared by the communities of Stoneham and Woburn. In 1972, Stoneham purchased the property within the town limits and redesigned the course to play as a nine-hole track now known as Unicorn. The course traverses a hilltop, with some holes playing out in the open, and others surrounded by huge old oak trees lining the fairways.
The Dunroamin Golf Course (DunroaminCC.com) in Gilbertsville is a picturesque track that allows players to focus on their golf game and leave life’s distractions behind. The course is fairly open but has its share of challenges and large Vesper Velvet bentgrass greens. The course is relatively short, with four par-fours that measure about 300 yards, but accuracy with approach irons and putting ability are a must.
Established as one of America’s first courses, dating back to 1895, Greenock Country Club (GreenockCC.com) in Lee was redesigned in 1927 by the legendary Donald Ross. No surprisingly, the nine-hole course is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and original style. The sixth hole is a fabulous risk-reward par-five, measuring only 465 yards but with water on both sides of the green. For a change of pace, the club is located within minutes of the historic town of Stockbridge, and just a few short miles from Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The Blandford Club (BlandfordCountryClub.com) in Blandford is a wonderful nine-hole layout nestled in the scenic hills of the western portion of the Commonwealth. Only 2,722 yards from the tips (par-35), this William Dexter-designed track is fun for all ability levels. The course also is one of the oldest in the region, having opened in 1910.
In Deerfield, the Meadows Golf Club (MeadowsGolf.com) is a popular 9-hole course dating back to the 1930s, designed and built by Knappy Greenwood. The surroundings make for an aesthetically pleasing round, and the holes are routed through a slightly undulating area adjacent to the Deerfield and Green rivers. The course plays to a length of 2,800 yards (par-36), and has a USGA course rating of 66.5 and slope rating of 104.
The Coventry Pines Golf Course (CoventryPines.com) in Coventry has invested money and manpower into refurbishing this lengthy nine-hole, 3,170-yard course. Two of the most difficult holes are back to back — the 408-yard par-four fifth and the 520-yard par-five sixth. The latter is listed as Coventry’s top handicap hole.
The layout at Pinecrest Golf Club (PinecrestRI.com) in Richmond is maintained in splendid condition, providing a truly rewarding golf experience. This course manages to be enjoyable and a bit rebellious at the same time. Not particularly long, Pinecrest is fairly tight and has several doglegs and uphill shots that complicate play.
In South Kingstown, the Rose Hill Golf Club (TheRoseHillGolfClub.com) is a straightforward par-three layout with holes ranging from 118 to 218 yards. You can play nine in 60 minutes and 18 in less than two hours. Like Pinecrest, the course at Rose Hill is neatly kept up. Three holes — the second, fourth and fifth — are personal favorites, playing across water and providing a true test of your shot making.
By placing a premium on superb playing conditions, the Midville Golf Club (MidvilleGolfClub.com) in West Warwick has produced an excellent nine-hole track. The layout measures just under 3,000 yards from the tips, and there are several par-fours that are almost attainable off the tee if you’re a big hitter. The No. 1 handicap hole is the sixth, a par-five measuring 535 yards.
Since purchasing the Northfield Country Club (NorthfieldCountryClub.com) in 2020, owner Ted Hoehn has invested heavily in the club, making significant improvements to the clubhouse and the course. But this jewel of the Green Mountain State has an impressive track record of surviving hardships. Initially “established” in 1927 as little more than a rough links track, the club also has seen many expansions and upgrades to the course over the years. Recently, the club overcame the damage that resulted when Tropical Storm Irene wreaked havoc on the five bridges that span the river and damaged the first, second and ninth fairways.
Blush Hill Country Club (BlushHillCountryClub.com) in Waterbury is a nine-hole, par-33 course, with blue tees measuring out to 2,479 yards. You’ll find three par-threes and six par-fours, as well as outstanding views overlooking the Worcester Mountain Range. The course has some of the smallest greens around, so even the most advanced golfers will have to be accurate with their approach shots and short irons. After nine holes, treat yourself to a Heady Topper at The Alchemist brewery in nearby Stowe.