Review: Keney Park Golf Course

Course Name: Keney Park Golf Course

Designer: Devereux Emmet (1927, Front 9), Robert J. Ross (1930, Back 9), Matthew Dusenberry (2016, Renovation)

Location: Windsor, Connecticut

History: Golf in North Hartford’s Keney Park began with 9 holes in 1927 from prolific architect Devereux Emmet (Congressional C.C., Garden City). A back 9 was added in 1930 by Hartford native Robert J. Ross. Over the years, the course deteriorated, as many public parkland courses from the time period did. In 2013, the city of Hartford decided to renovate Keney Park alongside another city course, Goodwin Park. Matthew Dusenberry and his team completed their restoration in 2016, adding practice facilities, improving conditions, and adding bunkers and length. Initial reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and Keney Park tied for 1st place for Best Classic Restoration in Golf Inc.’s 2016 ranking. In addition, Keney Park recently placed amongst the top courses in Connecticut:

  • #2 Best Public Course in Connecticut – Golfweek (2018)

Conditions: 6/10, Both the teeboxes and fairways are in great shape, but almost every hole contains random soggy or barren spots. The greens rolled true but pretty slow.

Value: 8/10, One of the best things about Keney Park is the price. Showing their commitment to local golfers, Hartford residents only pay $32 for 18 on the weekend. Even for non-residents, it’s $42 to walk 18. Seniors, juniors, and twilight golfers also receive fantastic discounts.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Gold                        70           6449               70.6              127

Blue                         70           6046               68.6              124

White                      70           5629               66.5              121

Green                      70           4712               66.9              113

Hole Descriptions: Let’s play a game. I’m thinking of a Northeast public, parkland course from golf’s golden age of architecture that fell into disrepair before being resurrected almost a century after its inception. If you guessed Bethpage Black, you’d be correct, but Keney Park also fits the bill. While Keney obviously can’t compete with Bethpage, the similarities are uncanny.

Hartford’s golf scene is surprisingly strong with several fantastic public courses and the PGA’s only regular stop in New England within a 10 mile radius. I initially looked into playing Pete Dye’s Wintonbury Hills, but they had a tournament so Keney Park was my natural next choice after hearing great things.

The opening hole at Keney Park is one of the easiest on the course as a short, downhill 332 yard par 4. While the hole is fairly unremarkable, I appreciated the rolling, contoured fairway and the fact that the teebox is continuous with the fringe on the practice green. Like most greens at Keney Park, the 1st green is extremely difficult with several swales including a two-tiered back-to-front slope. Needless to say, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the greens which I felt were a bit too tricked out. My abysmal 41 putt performance certainly doesn’t foster love either.

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Your view from the 1st teebox
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The hardest part about these holes are the crazy greens

At 509 yards from the Tips, the double dogleg par 5 2nd is on shorter side, but reaching in two is nearly impossible due to a creek that bisects the fairway about 220 yards off the tee. Most golfers will need to stay short and left of this creek. After this hazard, the fairways turns uphill and to the right. The right side is generous, but a devastating waste bunker lies in wait on the left. This green is one of the flattest on the course.

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Your view from just short of the creek on the 2nd

The 160 yard 3rd hole is the first of several superb par threes at Keney Park. This hole requires a carry the entire way over a gully and false front. Multiple bunkers long and a deep bunker on the right surround this undulating green.

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The par 3 3rd from just short of the carry

The 383 yard 4th hole features the tightest teeshot on the front 9, with trees on the right and OB lining the left. Outside of this, the only concern on this hole is a large fairway bunker on the right side of the fairway about 275 yards off the tee.

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The approach on the par 4 4th – “Klondyke”

It’s interesting that the 5th hole is named “Long” even though there are two longer par fours on the same side. At 428 yards, however, the 5th is a strong tree-lined hole that slides gently to the right. This hole is notable for a dip in its fairway for the final 100 yards that leaves some awkward pitches into an elevated green.

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The approach shot to the par 4 5th – “Long”

The par 3 6th is no doubt “Short” from the Forward tees, but plays a modest 152 yards from the Tips. Despite its length, this hole plays difficult with deep, classic bunkering surrounding a heavily undulating green.

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The tough 6th green leads to many disappointing bogeys

At a stout 455 yards, I was excited to play the 7th nicknamed “Biarritz.” However, this is one of the blandest holes on the course as a straightaway tree-lined par 4. After topping my drive here, my enthusiasm waned and I failed to notice many significant Biarritz characteristics on this narrow green.

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The tight par 4 7th – “Biarritz”

The 407 yard 8th is another strong par 4 that runs parallel between the 7th and 9th. Also tree-lined, this hole features fantastic church-pew bunkering for about 60 yards near the right side of this green. Getting up-and-down from these narrow bunkers becomes much tougher when you consider the hump that splits this green in two. These bunkers are penal, fair, and also incredibly visually appealing – a combination modern golf design struggles to balance.

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The par 4 8th from the teebox
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The church-pew bunkering on the 8th

At a beastly 457 yards, the 9th is the last of a relentless string of long par fours. Although this dogleg left’s fairway is generous, misses too far on either side will find the trees. This diagonal green is one of the longest on the course with a small, deep bunker on the right side. Par is a great score on this strong finishing hole.

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The par 4 9th from the teebox

I’m a huge fan of the 533 yard par 5 10th. This is a great driving hole, running downhill to a wide fairway. From here, the hole runs straight uphill to a severe back-to-front sloped green. The 10th is also notable for a giant waste bunker reminiscent of “Hell’s half acre” at Pine Valley on the left side of the lay-up area about 115 yards short of this green.

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My approach on 10

Without a doubt the most difficult par 3 at Keney Park, the 11th hole plays a long 237 yards downhill. A large bunker can be found along the left side of the fairway and a small one guards just right of this green. You can’t really tell from the teebox, but a creek lines the back third of the green. This putting surface slopes more back-to-front than it appears.

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The downhill par 3 11th – “Dell”

At just 323 yards from the Tips, the par 4 12th is the shortest par 4 on the course. The back tees are elevated, but those playing the middle or forward tees will have a legitimate chance to drive this green. This hole is narrow, and lined by a stonewall and cemetery on the right side for its entire length. I really enjoyed this hole until I reached the green, which my playing partners remarked “looks like it belonged in mini-golf.” The false front on this green is massive and leaves only a small plateau on the back. I hit this green in regulation and then proceeded to five-putt. My playing partners couldn’t finish the hole. Just too tricked out in my opinion.

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The 12th teebox provides the golfer one of the best views of the day

I liked all the par threes at Keney Park, but the 188 yard 13th stood out to me as the type of hole that would be found on an elite classic course. This hole has everything: deep bunkers, a carry over a creek, and an inviting false front turning into a Redan green. And even with all these elements, the hole is right there in front of you and appears almost cut from the land.

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The picturesque par 3 13th – “Peninsula”

Don’t let the scorecard fool you. There’s no way the 513 yard par 5 14th is deserving of its number 2 handicap. This medium length three-shotter is rather narrow with OB along the right side in the form of a cemetery. About 120 yards short of the green, the fairway slides to the right towards a large green. Besides the cemetery, the biggest danger on this hole is a long, blind bunker on the left side of the lay-up area.

At 409 yards, the par 4 15th is one of the strongest holes at Keney Park. This teeshot is wide open downhill to a sloping fairway. A creek crosses the fairway diagonally about 100 yards short of this green, but shouldn’t be in play. This approach runs straight uphill to a perched green that slopes hard back-to-front. Golfers who come up short here will face an extremely difficult pitch up the slope.

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Your view from the 15th tee – “Camels Back”

In contrast to the preceding hole, the 397 yard 16th is a narrow par 4 with a lateral hazard running down the entire left side. While you can bail out right into the 15th fairway, a tall tree on the right side 120 yards short of this green may block your approach.

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The tight par 4 16th – “Meadow Brook”

The 369 yard 17th is yet again another strong par 4 that plays as an uphill dogleg left. This teeshot is intimidating with a hazard to the left and giant cross bunker on the left side of the fairway prominently in view. The approach to this two-tiered giant green is fairly benign except for a devastating trio of deep “Principal’s Nose” bunkers just short of the green.

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The par 4 17th from the teebox – “Round-the-Bend”
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The classic Principal’s Nose bunker

Most of the holes at Keney Park are teeming with character, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for the weak 18th. It’s always a little bit of a letdown when the closing hole is a par 3, but especially so at Keney because the other par threes are so strong. This 197 yard par 3 is semi-blind from the Tips to a giant, sloping green. Despite these swales, the moniker “Punch Bowl” is a bit of a misnomer as well.

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The bland closing hole

General Comments: Apparently there were no practice facilities at the old Keney Park, but you’d never know because they’re strong now. A full grass driving range, chipping green, and putting green are found within walking distance of the 1st tee. I don’t know if this is always the case, but pace of play was solid (about 4 hours) when I played on a weekday morning.

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The beautiful range on a tranquil morning

Verdict: Although the conditioning still needs some work, the recently renovated Keney Park stands out in a rather robust Hartford golf scene. At a great price, you’ll be able to appreciate some of the finest examples of classic golf architecture. In more ways than one, this course reminded me very much of a lite version of Bethpage. Hartford should be proud of their work here.


3 thoughts on “Review: Keney Park Golf Course

  1. I love this course redesign. Played often over the years as it was deteriorating. The conditions have improved yearly since the reopening. Some of the soggy barren spots you mention were a result of a drought and hot first year of turf growing but have filled in mostly. The greens undulation and design are the strong point of this course, true and fast for the most part. The value is great and I look forward to playing more this year.

    Like

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