CT Golf News

Week of November 29, 1998

The three toughest golf holes in Connecticut

By John Torsiello
When you're not hitting the ball very well, every hole is a tough hole. But even when you're on top of your game, there are some holes so difficult that they can make grown golfers cry.

Welcome to Connecticut's three toughest golf holes.

This summer, golfers across the state were asked to choose the toughest par 3, par 4 and par 5 in Connecticut in the 1998 Best of CT Golf Poll, and nearly 150 different holes were mentioned. But three were chosen most often.

Two of them are at venerable Yale Golf Course in New Haven: the par-3 9th hole and the par-5 18th. Ellington Ridge Country Club in Ellington lays claim to the toughest par 4 in the state, the 18th.

How difficult are they? Unless you've played them, words may not do them justice. Then again, count yourself among the fortunate who have not had to endure their wrath.

Toughest Par 3

Are you difficult to intimidate? Well, Yale's "Famous Ninth" par-3 will make even the most seasoned player shiver. Hitting from an elevated tee with a large pond looming below you in front of the green, it's a 212-yard carry to the middle of the green from the blue tees, 198 from the whites and 166 from the reds. Hit your tee shot short, and your ball will roll back down a steep slope and into the water.

CTGolfer Online photos

Yale Golf Course in New Haven is home to two of the toughest holes in the state: the par-3 9th (top) and the par-5 18th (below). Taking the title of toughest par 4 is the 18th hole at Ellington Ridge Country Club in Ellington. Tennis, anyone?

The most unusual feature is the deep swale that runs across the middle of the green. The depression is so deep that you may not be able to see the cup when you line up your putt. If the cup is on the front part of the green, you run the risk of rolling the ball past the hole and into the water. Ouch.

"It's absolutely intimidating," said David Baker, an assistant pro at Yale who has played the course numerous times. "You've got a pond in the front, a large trap to the left of the green, and the wind is usually at your back. Depending upon where the pin is placed and the wind, I've hit anything from a 6 iron to a 3 wood. Par is a very good score on the hole."

Toughest Par 4

The biggest single factor making Ellington Ridge Country Club's par-4 18th hole so difficult is its length. The hole plays 475 yards from the back tees, 435 from the whites and 402 from the golds. There are fairway bunkers where your tee shot should land, and the elevated green requires a full carry to the flag. The green itself is surrounded by bunkers and trees along both sides, ready to catch any errant approach shot.

"Even for the pros, 18 is a long hole," said head pro Tony Rowe. "A big drive still leaves you with a long iron in. Hit it 275 or 280, and you've got 200 yards left to the hole. Having to fly the ball to the elevated green makes the second shot hard to hold and makes the hole play to its yardage."

About the only approach you can take on Ellington Ridge's 18th is to bang a driver as far as you can (the fairway is generous) and hope to be left with a second shot that demands nothing more than a 3 iron or 4 iron in. Anything short off the tee and you've turned 18 into a par 5. For that matter, a score of five on the hole is not bad for the average player, and a four is truly something to brag about back in the clubhouse.

Toughest Par 5

Back at Yale Golf Course, you'll also find the state's toughest par 5, the 18th hole. And it's a doozy. John Daly, playing a Nike Tour event at Yale several years ago, has been about the only player to truly master the hole, which plays a whopping 616 yards from the blue tees, 590 from the whites and 541 from the reds.

"It's a monster," said Baker, the assistant pro. "I've hit 3 wood, 3 wood again, and been left with a wedge in. The safest approach is to play the hole from the right side. It's a true three-shot par 5."

One of the unique features about the hole is the two-tiered fairway that comes into play for your second shot. The left side is high and sloping, the right side is low and narrow. In between is a steep slope of nasty rough that will swallow your ball and ruin the hole.

Even from the white tees, the 18th is brutal, requiring a solid drive to a flat landing area then a fairway wood over the top of a hill, leaving the average player with a 7 iron shot to a huge green below.

The best part of the hole? It's the last one of your round.

John Torsiello is a Torrington-based golf writer.

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