Review: Fox Hopyard Golf Club

Course Name: Fox Hopyard Golf Club

Designer: Roger Rulewich (2001)

Location: East Haddam, Connecticut

History: Located just off the Connecticut coastline, Fox Hopyard is a semi-private club designed by Roger Rulewich. The course opened in 2001 and followed in the footsteps of its sister course, Crumpin-Fox in Bernardston, Massachusetts. Fox Hopyard is considered one of the better courses in Connecticut and has earned the following accolades:

  • #3 Best Public Course in Connecticut – Golf Magazine (2016)
  • #7 Best Public Course in Connecticut – Golfweek (2019)

Conditions: 8/10, Fox Hopyard is in very good shape for a public course with lightning fast bentgrass greens, thick rough, and well-manicured fairways and teeboxes.

Value: 3/10, Fox Hopyard runs a bit on the expensive side with prices ranging from $119-$129 depending on the day of the week. Recently, the club switched to a more flexible tee-time system based on demand (great idea by the way), so I was able to find a much better deal.

Scorecard:

Tee                                 Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                             71            6912              74.1               136

Blue                               71           6512               72.6              131

White                             71          6109               70.7               124

Gold                                71          5657              68.5               119

Red                                  71          5164              71.1               132

Alternate Red               71          5002              70.5               126

Hole Descriptions: Fox Hopyard is the third Roger Rulewich design I’ve played (after Ballyowen and Meadow Brook), and I again found his work enjoyable here. While his courses haven’t quite reached national acclaim yet, he’s shown a knack for creating upscale public courses in the Northeast that are highly respected and rank among the state’s best.

Fox Hopyard is the most difficult of his courses I’ve played and is certainly one of the more difficult courses in Connecticut with an impressive 74.1/136 rating from the Tips. This is due to dramatic elevation changes and the fact that the majority of these holes are lined by unforgiving dense forests that gladly accept poorly struck teeshots.

The opening hole eases you into the round as a 374 yard slight dogleg right par 4. Although relatively straightforward, this hole features a tight fairway lined by thick woods. The most difficult aspect of this hole is the approach to an elevated and wildly undulating green lined by a bunker right and a steep drop-off short left.

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The 1st hole
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The opening approach

The 2nd hole ramps up the difficulty quickly with a 383 yard par 4 that plays much longer as it runs uphill the entire way. This hole requires an immediate forced carry of 150 yards over a hazard, enhancing the intimidation. This fairway is more generous than most, but slopes severely right-to-left, leaving an even further uphill approach. This shallow back-to-front green requires at least one club extra and is guarded by two bunkers short.

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The difficult par 4 2nd is one of my favorite holes at Fox Hopyard

Although it runs parallel to the 2nd, the par 5 3rd again runs straight uphill at 504 yards. Featuring another forced carry of 140 yards, this fairway is rather tight and lined by dense forest. You can’t see the green here until about 150 yards short, and this green is shallow, back-to-front sloped and sandwiched by bunkers short and long.

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The par 5 3rd features another intimidating teeshot

The signature hole at Fox Hopyard is undoubtedly the 184 yard par 3 4th, a stunning one-shotter that drops almost 100 feet from an elevated teebox. Although the three-tiered green is large, club selection is challenging and any miss is devastating, as 4 deep bunkers await short on either side.

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The gorgeous par 3 4th

At 486 yards, the par 5 5th also plays downhill and places a premium more on accuracy than length. This is a tight dogleg right with a bunker on the left at 285 yards and thick forests lining both sides the entire way. This is a true risk-reward hole that is certainly reachable in two, but features a creek golfers must navigate about 50 yards short of the green. I chose to lay-up short of the creek and was able to make birdie the traditional way on this three-tiered back-to-front sloping green.

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The downhill par 5 5th
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The approach at 5

The strong holes continue with the 6th, an interesting 345 yard Cape hole that’s absolutely drivable for longer hitters. This hole features an immediate carry over marshland to a diagonally angled fairway that gives the golfer many options off the tee. The further left you go, the longer the forced carry. A well-placed bunker sits short left of this large and relatively flat green.

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I really enjoyed the endless possibilities on the 6th

The opening six holes are tremendous and really grab your attention, but the 7th is easily my least favorite hole at Fox Hopyard. The number 1 handicap hole, this 384 yard par 4 is overly convoluted and pure, unadulterated target golf. This hole plays as a severe dogleg left with two distinct fairways. Due to trees directly left of the teebox, the second portion of fairway isn’t reachable, so you’re forced to hit at most 200 yards to avoid running through the fairway into the trees right or worse water left. By virtue of the forced lay-up off the tee, golfers are left with at least 150 yards into a very narrow two-tiered green lined by bunkers on either side and water down the entire left side. Unlike the preceding holes, the golfer has virtually no options here.

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The blind view from the 7th teebox
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The difficult 7th approach

The 165 yard par 3 8th must be Roger Rulewich’s favorite template: a medium-length par 3 over water to a wide, shallow green sandwich by bunkers. This same exact hole exists at both Meadow Brook and Ballyowen.

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The par 3 8th

At 383 yards, the par 4 9th is a nice hole playing back towards the clubhouse. This hole features a wide fairway for the first 250 yards that becomes extremely narrow after this with three bunkers on the right and a hazard down the left. The real difficulty here comes on the approach to an elevated three-tiered green guarded by a large, deep bunker short left. The driving range lines the right side of this hole so beware of slicers!

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The par 4 9th

At 400 yards, the 10th is a narrow, straightaway par 4 lined by tall trees on either side. This rather bland hole features a slight downhill approach to a large green guarded by a bunker short left.

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The par 4 10th

The 11th begins a difficult stretch of holes as an 170 yard par 3. This intimidating hole requires a forced carry the entire way to a bunkerless two-tiered green that runs hard both back-to-front and left-to-right.

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The par 3 11th

The number 2 handicap 12th hole is another very difficult hole as a 388 yard par 4. Requiring a forced carry of 135 yards, this hole actually features a wide fairway initially for the first 260 yards. At this point, the fairway narrows to almost nothing with a hazard down the right extending all the way to a shallow green guarded by a bunker short and tucked to the right.

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The par 4 12th

At 429 yards, the 13th is a long, challenging par 4 playing as a slight dogleg right. Featuring yet another forced carry of almost 200 yards, this hole calls for a left-to-right ballflight to avoid running through the fairway. This approach plays slightly uphill to a large severely back-to-front sloped green guarded by a bunker short left.

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Not an inviting teeshot for someone who plays a draw…

The 14th hole is a long, difficult par 3 at 199 yards with an elevated green. There’s not much danger on this hole, but a well-struck long iron or hybrid is needed to find this putting surface and avoid a steep bunker short. An easy bogey, but hard par.

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The par 3 14th

On what’s already a long back nine, the 15th is the longest hole at Fox Hopyard as a 534 yard par 5. This dogleg right is almost certainly a three-shot hole with a very narrow teeshot to a small landing area. This dogleg occurs at only about 230 yards, and this is your ideal drive; anything further right is dangerous and not worth the risk. From here, the hole meanders to the right with a notable creek about 50 yards short of the green. This large, undulating green is also guarded by a bunker short.

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The view from the 15th teebox
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From just short of the 15th creek

After a good front nine, my scorecard was already hemorrhaging by the time I reached the 220 yard par 3 16th. This long one-shotter features a teeshot through a chute of trees to an almost 50-yard long narrow green guarded by bunkers on either side.

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The par 3 16th

While the closing two holes are fine holes, they are much more open with no trees and fit in with a course like Ballyowen more than the first sixteen holes at Fox Hopyard. The 17th is the longest par 4 on the course at 436 yards. Featuring a blind teeshot, this dogleg right plays slightly uphill with a hidden bunker on the left at 260 yards. This approach plays uphill to a large green guarded by a bunker short and a large crossbunker about 60 yards short for those who require a lay-up.

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The par 4 17th is much less intimidating off the tee

The closing hole is a long, straightaway 528 yard par 5 with another generous fairway. The only danger on the drive comes in the form of bunkers on the left at 220 yards and right at 275 yards. Water lines the right side of a very narrow fairway for the final 160 yards, leading to some interesting decisions on the lay-up. This fairway is additionally constricted by large bunkers on the left 75 yards short and one just short of this narrow green.

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The par 5 18th
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The closing approach
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The clubhouse patio offers a great look at the 18th green

General Comments: Fox Hopyard boasts a wonderful grass driving range with unlimited balls and plenty of room to hit every club in the bag. The clubhouse is also private-club caliber with great views overlooking the course and timeless New England architecture. Pace of play was average when I played, but marshalls arranged for us to play through a slow group, which was appreciated.

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Fox Hopyard’s driving range
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The classic clubhouse overlooking the practice green

Verdict: Located just off the Connecticut coastline, Fox Hopyard is another upscale Roger Rulewich design featuring dramatic elevation changes, good conditioning, and strong variety. Although not an elite course, Fox Hopyard is certainly one of the best public options in Connecticut and worth a play.


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