Review: Fenwick Golf Course

Course Name: Fenwick Golf Course

Designer: Unknown (1896)

Location: Fenwick, Connecticut

History: Fenwick’s first three holes were laid out in 1894, making it the oldest public course in Connecticut and second oldest overall after Greenwich Country Club. Current day holes 5-7 were laid out in 1894 and the full course was completed by 1896. In 1979, the holes were rerouted for ease of access.

Conditions: 7/10, Fenwick doesn’t have an irrigation system so the course generally plays firm and fast, which is more than appropriate given its seaside setting. The greens roll true but are on the shaggier side.

Value: 6/10, By virtue of its location, Fenwick gets very little snow and is open year-round as cheap as $20 to walk in the winter. On peak summer weekends, it’s $35 to walk 9 and gets a bit pricey at $70 to walk 18.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                         35           2904               34.2               127

White                      34           2607               32.7                123

Red                          34           2378               33.7                117

Hole Descriptions: Public golf in New England is not very strong, but there are a surprising number of 9-hole gems worthy of architectural discussion. Among these are Raynor’s Hotchkiss, George Thomas’ Marion, Jamestown, and Fenwick. Of the above, Fenwick enjoys the finest setting, sitting on a beautiful peninsula at the entrance of the Connecticut River and offering tremendous views of Long Island and the Sound. Furthermore, Fenwick meanders through an upscale neighborhood full of mansions, so it doesn’t quite feel like you’re playing a muni.

Fenwick is an old-school course that hasn’t changed much over the last century and you really get a sense of this as you play. Although not a long course at 2900 yards from the Blue Tees, the greens are very small and well-bunkered, and the layout is simplistic but effective. I feel the opening few holes are the strongest and most memorable on the course beginning with the lengthy 433 yard par 4 opener. Although a telephone wire bisects the fairway, this teeshot is relatively generous and forgiving. The further right you venture, the more you’ll be blocked out by trees and a church on a long approach shot to a tiny green guarded by a bunker left. Par is a great score here and sets you up for a good round.

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The number 1 handicap par 4 1st – “Keeney”
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St. Mary’s by-the-Sea Church on the right side of 1 is a unique feature

After a quirky walk about a quarter mile down a residential neighborhood, you reach the par 3 2nd. At 200 yards, this is another challenging hole that makes you wonder if you’re playing an “easy” 2900 yard course. A true standout hole, the views here are fantastic with Katherine Hepburn’s old mansion and the Long Island Sound down the right and beautiful shingled houses to the left and long of this green. The green itself is rather difficult to hit and is guarded by bunkers long and on either side.

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The beautiful par 3 2nd – “Brainard”

The 3rd hole is another par 3 and another fantastic one at 155 yards. This hole features an extremely narrow back-to-front sloped green guarded by mounds on all sides and a bunker left. Apparently the Connecticut State Golf Association rated this hole the hardest in the state to get up-and-down in 1999, and I feel inclined to agree after short-siding myself in the greenside bunker and making triple.

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The short but difficult 3rd – “Davis”
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Another look at the minuscule 3rd green

From the Blue Tees, the 4th hole is an exhilarating Cape par 5 playing just 443 yards. With the teebox jutting out into South Cove, the golfer must choose their ideal line with the further right you go requiring an even greater carry over the water. Those who execute a risky teeshot will be rewarded with just an iron into a back-to-front sloped green guarded by three bunkers short.

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The par 5 4th features one of the most fun drives anywhere

After an epic start, the remaining holes are innocuous but fail to capture your excitement like the opening four. The par 4 5th is probably the least interesting hole on the course playing straightaway at 350 yards. A fairway bunker lines the right rough at 210 yards, while another guards short left of a very tiny green.

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The par 4 5th – “Hotel”

At 153 yards, the par 3 6th hole is the shortest at Fenwick and one of the more interesting. This hole plays flat, with a giant mound running just short of the green, completely obscuring everything but the flagstick. You can’t see bunkers lining either side of the green from the teebox. This green is the oldest on the course and one of the oldest in Connecticut. Katherine Hepburn made a hole-in-one here on the morning of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938!

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I love the old-school mounding short of the 6th green

The 7th hole is the first of back-to-back reachable par fours at 335 yards. Given the firm conditions and fact that this hole plays as a dogleg where you can cut the corner, this green is definitely in play for the longer hitters. Alternating crossbunkers begin with one down the left at 240 yards and make a lay-up the smart play for most golfers.

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The par 4 7th from the start of the fairway

At only 290 yards, the par 4 8th hole is in theory reachable, but this is not necessarily the best play. Playing uphill with a very tight fairway lined by trees, this hole rewards accuracy over mindless length. A deep bunker nicknamed “Jaws” looms just short of a small, undulating green and is to be avoided at all costs.

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The tight par 4 8th – “Riversea”
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A closer look at the “Jaws” bunker

The par 5 closer is the longest hole at Fenwick at a strong 545 yards. Golfers will want to rip driver here with a relatively generous fairway and a speed slot at about 230 yards that grants an extra 15-20 yards. Sporadic trees line the left side the entire way, while bunkers line the right rough at 225 and 365 yards, respectively. This green runs back-to-front and is guarded by a left bunker.

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The par 5 9th – “Westward Ho”

General Comments: Fenwick is extremely low-frills with a small starter hut instead of a traditional clubhouse. There’s a small practice green next to the hut, but no driving range available. My least favorite thing about Fenwick is the pace, which was obnoxiously long when I played and led to us being hit into multiple times by the inpatient teenagers behind.

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The practice green and starter’s hut

Verdict: Fenwick Golf Course is a beautiful 9-hole muni on the Connecticut coastline and yet another fine example of a historical 9-hole hidden gem in Southern New England. I recommend all interested in architecture or history check out Fenwick if you’re in the area.


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