Review: The Orchards Golf Course

Course Name: The Orchards Golf Course

Designer: John R. Casey Sr. (1997)

Location: Milford, Connecticut

History: Built on a former farm, The Orchards was built in 1997 by local engineer John R. Casey and is operated by the city of Milford.

Conditions: 7/10, The conditioning is by far the best thing about The Orchards with nicely maintained fairways and teeboxes and lush rough. The greens are on the slower side but roll true.

Value: 6/10, At $16 to $19 for nonresidents depending on time, The Orchards offers very fair value with even better discounts for residents and juniors.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

White                       32           1625              N/A               N/A

Red                           32           1433             N/A              N/A

Hole Descriptions: Every once in a while I play a course that packs either too many holes or too long of holes into its property, resulting in a cramped and messy layout. The Orchards is a 9 hole, par 32 that operates on the absolute worst end of this spectrum. At just 1625 yards, the architect somehow found a way to fit five par fours into the design all under 266 yards. The majority of these weak holes are reachable for even modestly long players and take space away from the par threes as well, leaving two sub-100-yard throwaways. I can count exactly two decent holes on the course in the 6th and 7th, but even these would be forgettable on an average course.

The opening hole begins the atrocities with a sharp dogleg left 242 yard par 4. The green is only about 200 yards from the teebox here, but cannot be seen as tall trees down the left obscure it and make it inaccessible. The only real play is to lay-up to the dogleg at 150 yards, leaving a wedge into a large, back-to-front sloped green.  Not only does this hole take driver out of the player’s hand, it also eliminates mid- to long-iron as well. Sadly, this is not the worst dogleg on the course.

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The dogleg left 1st

The 2nd hole is one of the easiest and most boring golf holes I’ve ever seen. At 93 yards, this par 3 plays dead level with no hazards and a giant back-to-front sloped green directly in front of you. It would take a serious mishit to miss this target.

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The par 3 2nd

The 3rd hole is essentially a long par 3 that plays as a straightaway 222 yard par 4. Featuring a mildly elevated, large, back-to-front sloped green defended by a bunker short left, this hole is another great birdie opportunity for straight hitters.

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The par “4” 3rd

The 4th hole plays similarly to the 3rd but is slightly more difficult with a more elevated, smaller green at 207 yards. Deep bunkers guard short on either side and a large tree down the right obscures part of the putting surface.

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The 4th is another reachable par 4

The par 4 5th hole officially plays 217 yards on the scorecard but is easily reachable with wedge for most players. How is this possible, you might ask? The abomination that is this hole is another severe dogleg left that forces you to lay-up well out to the right or risk “being asked to leave the property.” A direct route to the green would fly over the 7th green, which is an understandable risk but this hole never should have been created in the first place. Instead, you’re forced to hit wedge over a bunker at 100 yards at the corner of the dogleg. It’s a shame that this green is actually a fantastic design playing elevated, front-to-back and defended by a bunker short right and collection area long right.

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A direct route to the 5th green is tempting but strictly forbidden

The 6th hole is the first legitimate golf hole at The Orchards as a 120 yard par 3. This hole features a circular, back-to-front sloped green defended by a large crossbunker short.

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The par 3 6th

The 7th hole is the best hole on the course as a solid 167 yard par 3 playing slightly uphill. It takes a nice mid- to long-iron to find this green surrounded by rough.

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The par 3 7th

At 91 yards, the 8th hole is the shortest hole on a very short course and feels like another afterthought. This hole is slightly more difficult than the 2nd due to a bunker short and smaller green.

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The par 3 8th

The finishing hole is somewhat of a signature hole for The Orchards and the longest at 266 yards. This par 4 is still reachable with driver, but requires an accurate shot to navigate a field goal of tall trees on either side at 200 yards. Once past these trees, you face two bunkers short of a large, elevated, and tricky green.

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The par 4 9th featuring the clubhouse

As you can see, the architect wasn’t given the best property to build a course, but forcing the issue and creating par fours when there isn’t room was not the solution. There’s nothing wrong with a good par 3 course!

General Comments: For a very small property, The Orchards actually features a large practice green to warm up with as well as a net to hit balls into. Pace of play was strong here and the course is flat and very easy to walk.

Verdict: Potentially a good course for novices to learn the game, the short and well-conditioned Orchards is a course experienced golfers will want to avoid with its cramped and disastrous layout.


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