The Course at Yale University is one of my favorite courses to play – not just for the history and sheer (often odd) beauty of the holes but the supreme golfing challenge as well.
For a number of years I would travel with my golfing compadres South from Western, MA to New Haven, CT and play the Course at Yale University. Afterwards, we would hit the famous pizza joints in downtown New Haven. Just head downtown to Sally’s or Frank Pepe’s and you’ll be doing fine.
The course concept began long ago, in 1924, when a 700-acre of land was given by Mrs. Ray Tompkins as a gift to Yale in memory of her husband.
It was designed by Charles Blair MacDonald (in collaboration with Seth Raynor and Charles Banks) who was an accomplished golfer, well-known golf course architect and co-founder of the USGA. It was opened for play in 1926.
Today, the Yale Golf Course is recognized as one of the finest examples of early American golf course design. Large deep bunkers and narrow rolling fairways are on magnificent display everywhere at Yale GC.
In 1988, Golf Magazine ranked Yale as 71st among the 100 most difficult courses in the world. Many recognize the layout as one of the best collegiate courses in the nation. Two of the holes- the 432-yard par-4 fourth and the 238-yard par-3 ninth – have been ranked among the 100 most difficult holes.
I’ve played there a number of times and just love this course. In the Fall time, there is probably no prettier course in the Northeast.
Here are just a few on my favorite holes on this gem.
#4. Hole number 4 is called “Road.” It’s a long 440 yard par 4 that takes 2 excellent shots to reach the green.
Raynor used the pond to re-create the angle of the out of bounds at the famous number 17 “Road Hole” at St. Andrews and created a road bunker twice as deep as the one on the most famous of courses. Stay out of that one to save at least a few strokes!
It has been called one of Ben Crenshaw’s favorite holes due to the creative use of water as a driving hazard. He often called it, “A great par-four-and-a-half.”
#9. Hole number 9 is called “Biarritz” and is the signature hole at Yale (see top 2 pics). It plays up to 235 yards and has minimum carry of 190 to carry the water.
On a crisp Fall day it’s one of the most beautiful holes you’ll ever see. The water, the framing of the trees, the anticipation of a well-struck shot all cascade into feelings of nervousness and excitement. There’s no turning back now!
If you’ve never played the course you’ll find the most bizarre 8 foot deep swale in the middle of the green. If you hit on the opposite green from where the pin is located the ball will actually disappear from view as it goes down (and down and down) the swale and finally back up again towards the flag.
I mean you really have to give the ball a good whollop to traverse this odd anomaly – but at least you’ll have fun doing it!
#18. Hole number 18 is called “Home.” (see pic above) Another beautifully strange hole. From the tips its a massive 621 yards. You literally play along a mountain (or over it if you so choose). The shorter way home is up the mountain the longer way down below to the right.
It’s hard to describe it unless you actually experience it. You really have to string some shots together to have a decent score on this ending hole.
My claim to fame the last time I played number 18 from the tips (all 621 yards of it!) – a tap in bogey! Somehow, I’m pretty proud of that 🙂
It’s such a beautiful, odd course. So many little unique twists and turns. For example, it has only 2 par 5’s and you don’t see one until hole 16 (the other at 18). The greens can be massive but also have unexpected and surprising contouring and undulation. Almost some magical thing at every hole.
Here’s hoping you can get up to The Course at Yale and have as much memorable fun as I always do. I can almost guarantee it anytime you play this wonderfully quirky but solid course.
PS: Supposedly it’s bad luck to get into the “Principle’s Nose” bunker on 17 (just love that name!) – so don’t go there 🙂