Review: Sleeping Giant Golf Course

Course Name: Sleeping Giant Golf Course

Designer: Ralph Barton (1924), William F. Mitchell (1951, Redesign)

Location: Hamden, Connecticut

History: Sleeping Giant opened as a 9-hole course in 1924 designed by Ralph Barton. Barton, a former schoolteacher and Seth Raynor’s associate, almost certainly built the course in his spare time when he wasn’t working on nearby Yale Golf Course. Sleeping Giant has apparently undergone several changes over the last century including a 1951 redesign by William F. Mitchell.

Conditions: 5/10, While the greens roll true and teeboxes are well-maintained, the fairways and rough are fairly burnt out and dry with barren patches.

Value: 5/10, At $22 to walk, Sleeping Giant is a bit expensive for what you get as a short 9-holer but certainly not the worst deal around.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                        35           2671               32.7               103

White                      35          2572               32.0               102

Red                         37          2216               32.3               104

Hole Descriptions: The Nutmeg State is home to several historic 9-hole courses I’ve already chronicled (Fenwick, Hotchkiss) and Sleeping Giant is yet another one being built almost a century ago. With that being said, I don’t think the design at Sleeping Giant is nearly as appealing as the aforementioned courses with a bizarre set-up including a par 3 opener and back-to-back par fours at 7 and 8 that are basically glorified par threes. It also seems as if the design has been tinkered with over the years with the 1st, 4th, and 5th holes being added to accommodate the range leading to an awkward routing.

Sleeping Giant does have some merits, however, with a gorgeous setting at the base of the very popular Sleeping Giant State Park and some strong individual holes with classic small, undulating greens. This is an excellent course for beginners and seniors with an easily walkable layout and short yardage. My friend who went to nearby Quinnipiac University also described Sleeping Giant as the “perfect Sunday morning hungover round” which I think is a compliment, but not entirely sure.

The opening hole is an 130 yard par 3 that feels very out of place tucked on the left side of the clubhouse. While not a bad hole by any means, it’s not common to have a wedge on the first swing of the day. This hole plays over a valley to a kidney-shaped, back-to-front sloped green defended by a bunker left and false front short.

The par 3 1st

At 407 yards, the 2nd hole is by far the longest par 4 at Sleeping Giant and the hardest. This is an excellent straightaway hole featuring a sweeping generous fairway lined by OB left and trees down the right. Potentially blind, this approach runs back uphill to a small, back-to-front sloped green lined by bunkers on either side. A par here sets you up for a good round.

The par 4 2nd with Sleeping Giant in the background
The approach at 2

The 3rd hole is somehow the last par 3 on this very short course (more on that to come) at 179 yards downhill. This is actually another fairly difficult hole with a carry over a creek, OB left, and mounds on either side short of the green. This back-to-front sloped green is receptive to a well-struck mid-iron.

The par 3 3rd

Although apparently not part of the original layout, the 4th and 5th holes run parallel to each other on the east side of the course and are decent holes. At 374 yards, the 4th hole is quite visually appealing with a downhill teeshot over a diagonal creek to a narrow fairway lined by a hill of rough on the left and forest right. This large green slopes predominantly left-to-right with a bunker short right. 

The par 4 4th
A better look at the beautiful 4th from the Red Tees

The lone par 5 at Sleeping Giant, the 5th hole is a risk-reward three-shotter at just 459 yards. From the Blue Tees, this teeshot is completely blind downhill with OB right the entire way. If you catch the speed slot here, this green is well within reach playing back uphill sitting on a pedestal with a creek short. This green slopes back-to-front with steep hills of rough short and on either side.

The blind par 5 5th
The risky approach at 5

The 6th hole is the only true dogleg on the course as a 345 yard par 4 that turns right. With OB lining the left the entire way, this hole turns right at about 215 yards with a steep hill on the right. Aggressive golfers can carry the dogleg and leave just a pitch into this large, undulating green. 

The par 4 6th

Sleeping Giant seems to lose its way for the next few holes with two of the worst par fours I’ve ever encountered. At just 207 yards from the Blue Tees, the par 4 (?) 7th plays downhill over a valley to a green tucked on the left defended by two bunkers short. Perhaps Sleeping Giant management is trying to desperately conserve its par 35, but there’s no way this is a par 4. There’s not really even any fairway! I will concede that this would be a very challenging par 3, but maybe they could move the tees up? As it stands, it’s a real mess.

The par 4 7th

The 8th hole is barely better at just 227 yards this time around. While playing uphill and longer than the 7th, I think this is actually the easier hole playing straightaway with ample fairway and no danger by the green besides bunkers on either side. Again, the tees should be moved up to make this a par 3.

The par 4 8th

The closing hole is a better hole as a 343 yard uphill par 4. With the driving range down the left and rough down the right, this hole features a giant plateau at about 200 yards that leaves a much more appealing approach for those that reach it. This narrow, back-to-front sloped green lies to the left with bunkers on either side. 

The par 4 9th

General Comments: At the expense of some original holes, Sleeping Giant boasts fairly impressive practice facilities for a 9-hole public course. With a large range that contains both grass and mats and a nice short game area by the clubhouse, this is one of the better public practice areas in the New Haven area. Pace of play was slow on a summer weekday, but multiple groups let me pass through as a single which is always appreciated.

Verdict: Although located in a beautiful setting at the base of Sleeping Giant National Park, Sleeping Giant Golf Course leaves a lot to be desired in terms of challenge, layout, and conditions. This is a good 9-hole public course for beginners but not one I’d go out of my way for. 


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