The Course at Yale

The Course at Yale (No. 37 U.S., No. 78 World)

By: Thomas Dunne

One thing that tends to happen when you've been a member of a club for a while is that you develop something I call "guest patter." These are your home course's points of interest—the features and anecdotes that you dutifully mention in your role as host. Over time, these little nuggets become so well-worn that you could repeat them in your sleep. Which is what I'm about to do (again) in this space. Rather than a comprehensive review, these are things I'd actually say if we were playing a round at Yale. And this tour has an added benefit—you don't have to watch my snap hook all day.

#1. Eli. Par 4, 410 yards. "Raynor and Macdonald apparently felt Yale's natural terrain was bold enough that fairway bunkers weren't necessary. The only one on the course is right there. Aim just right of it."

#2. The Pits. Par 4, 374 yards. "You might want to hit the three-wood here…okay, fine, driver it is."

#3. Blind. Par 4, 411 yards. "This is one of two non-Raynor greens on the course. The original was a Double Punchbowl--whatever that means--tucked close to the pond on the right. They say it was moved away from the water to speed up play." If I'm not feeling chatty, I might go with: "This hole is annoying."


#4. Road. Par 4, 437 yards. "Ben Crenshaw once said this hole demonstrates the perfect use of water as a driving hazard. A great par-four-and-a-half." 

#5. Short. Par 3, 147 yards. "Not one of the great Macdonald-Raynor Short holes, but it does the job. The bunkers surrounding the green were once twelve feet deep, but that didn't last long. They were prone to flooding as this is the lowest point on the property."

#6. Burnside. Par 4, 421 yards. "Macdonald and Raynor didn't just build template holes—on every site they had to build original stuff, too. This is pretty simple strategy—flirt with the stream on the left to shorten the approach, which is always a bit more uphill than meets the eye."

#7. Lane. Par 4, 377 yards. "The next two holes were 100 percent manufactured, but ninety years later hardly anyone notices. In dry years this green gets very fast."  

#8. Cape. Par 4, 406 yards. "This is my favorite hole on the course. The entire strategy is controlled by the huge sideboard on the right half of the green. The left-hand bunker is one of the deepest in America, and yet, amazingly, it's not as bad a place to be as the ones on the right."  

#9. Biarritz. Par 3, 213 yards. "The famed Biarritz. In the NCAA regionals a couple of years ago, a player from the University of South Carolina came to this hole—he'd teed off on #10—needing a par to shoot 64 and match the course record. He made a 9." Also: "Thanks, I'd love a hot dog!"

#10. Carries. Par 4, 396 yards. "By far the hardest hole on the course for the average golfer. The landing area is tight, and then you basically have to hit a mid-iron to the roof of a three-story building. Oh, and the green is crazy, too. Have fun."

#11. Valley. Par 4, 379 yards. "I've come to appreciate this as a perfect breather hole. 8, 9 and 10 are really the heart of the course and you can easily go 5-5-5 on those three. The eleventh is just a nice drive-and-pitch that gives us a chance to get back on track before the course toughens up again."

#12. Alps. Par 4, 400 yards. "National it's not."

#13. Redan. Par 3, 212 yards. "Doesn't play like a true Redan, but still a good hole."

#14. Knoll. Par 4, 365 yards. "So underrated. Blast a driver around the corner and you're rewarded with a chance to play a wedge to a pedestal green from a severely hanging lie." Also: "Hey, look, there's a gnome in the woods."

#15. Eden. Par 3, 190 yards. "A solid if unspectacular Eden template. The green can be very slick if you're above the hole—just like the original." 

#16. Long. Par 5, 553 yards. "Did you notice we haven't played a par five until now?"

#17. Nose. Par 4, 437 yards. "The best hole on the back nine and possibly the best green on the course—a Double Plateau that easily keeps company with its counterparts at National and Fishers Island."

#18. Home. Par 5, 621 yards. "This hole defies explanation. You don't play it, you try to survive it. The green's on the other side of that mountain. " 

Off Course:
New Haven is a pretty serious "comfort food" destination.The classic finish to a day at the Course at Yale involves devouring "apizza" at one of New Haven's famous old-school establishments. Some swear by either Sally's or Frank Pepe's, but to this observer, the two are close enough in quality that it's best to just pick the one with the shorter line out front. Gun to my head, I say go with Pepe's white clam pie. If you have a late-afternoon tee time, hit Louis' Lunch, which maintains its 1895 character—and lays claim to the invention of the hamburger. Overnight visitors might also enjoy a stogie and a wee dram at the Owl Shop, a dark but not overly clubby cigar bar.


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