Review: Lake of Isles (North Course)

Course Name: Lake of Isles (North Course)

Designer: Rees Jones/Bryce Swanson (2005)

Location: North Stonington, Connecticut

History: Lake of Isles’ public North Course opened in 2005 alongside its private South Course. Both courses are Rees Jones designs and owned by Foxwoods Resort Casino. Considered one of the best public courses in the area, Lake of Isles North has earned the following awards:

  • #182 Best Resort Course in America – Golfweek (2022)
  • #26 Best Casino Course in America – Golfweek (2021)
  • #21 Best Course in Connecticut – Top100golfcourses.com (2020)
  • #4 Best Public Course in Connecticut – Golfweek (2022)

Conditions: 8/10, Like its sister course, Lake of Isles North is in very strong shape with lush fairways, well-conditioned teeboxes, and smooth greens for the most part.

Value: 5/10, A relatively expensive course, Lake of Isles will put you back anywhere between $100 and $180 depending on the season and day of the week. Like any casino course, a round here is a better use of money than a few hours at the table.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       72           7279               76.7               147

Gold                         72           6757                73.4               138

Silver                      72           6005               70.2               132

Copper                   72          5387               72.4               135

Jade                       72          4895               68.9               126

Hole Descriptions: I played the South Course at Lake of Isles several years ago and came away fairly unimpressed. It was extremely difficult to the point of not being fun, lacked variety, and really wasn’t very memorable. This coupled with the fact that I am generally not a Rees Jones fan is probably the reason it took so long to play Lake of Isles’ public North Course. After playing the North Course, I realized I had made a mistake waiting so long. Although incredibly tough like its sister, the North Course is a fantastic public course with strong conditions, far more variety, better greens, and some very memorable holes. Both courses weave around a large lake and rocky terrain and are aesthetically pleasing. Having played the top 7 public courses in Connecticut according to Golfweek, I can say without hesitation Lake of Isles North is the best public course in the state by a large margin and is one of the best public courses in New England. It is well-worth a play if you’re in the area.

Lake of Isles North opens with an extremely difficult hole as a straightaway, uphill 416 yard par 4. With an immediate 180 yard forced carry and trees and bunkers down either side, this hole demands a good swing from the beginning. This approach then plays uphill at least a half club to a severely back-to-front sloped green lined by a false front short and several deep bunkers on the right. This would be the number 1 handicap at many courses and a par start goes a long way here.

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The tough par 4 1st – “Red Fox”
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The approach at 1

The South Course features some beautiful par threes and the North Course does as well beginning with one of the signature holes in the 184 yard 2nd. Another brutally difficult hole, this one-shotter is breathtakingly gorgeous with a downhill carry the entire way to a narrow, island green defended by a bunker right. While there’s some fairway short, there’s very little margin for error here.

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The gorgeous par 3 2nd – “Yellow Perch”

After surviving the first few holes, the 3rd offers a brief respite as a 507 yard downhill par 5. Featuring another lengthy forced carry over a valley, this teeshot plays severely downhill to a very narrow fairway lined by trees and a pair of bunkers down the right at 250 yards. Once in the fairway, this hole runs back uphill towards a shallow, wide green defended by three bunkers short right.

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Accuracy is key on the par 5 3rd – “American Kestrel”

At 357 yards, the par 4 4th is a shorter hole that I enjoy for the options it offers the golfer. A semi-blind dogleg left, this hole turns around 250 yards with bunkers on both sides of the dogleg. Longer hitters can definitely cut the corner over a mound here, but a long iron or hybrid lay-up is certainly acceptable. This approach plays towards a large, back-to-front sloped green defended by bunkers short, right, and left.

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The par 4 4th – “Wild Turkey”

The 5th hole is the shortest par 5 on the course at just 481 yards and is a bit of a goofy hole as a severe dogleg right. With the dogleg occurring at about 225 yards, this hole takes driver out of the golfer’s hand with OB left the entire way and penal bunkers on both corners of the dogleg. From here, the hole turns right at a 90 degree angle with a tight, right-to-left sloping fairway. Those laying up need to be aware of a trio of bunkers that jut into the right fairway about 60 yards short of a narrow green perched on a ledge defended by three bunkers left and another on the right.

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The tight par 5 5th – “Gray Fox”
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The approach at 5

At 460 yards, the 6th is the longest par 4 at Lake of Isles North and is a very memorable hole. A dogleg left, this hole plays severely downhill with views for miles from an elevated teebox. One of the toughest teeshots you’ll find anywhere, this hole requires a 235 yard carry just to reach the fairway! While there’s some room right, forest continues down the left the entire way with a trio of bunkers at 270 yards on the left as well. Compared to the teeshot, this approach is fairly tame to a relatively flat green guarded by a bunker short left.

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The truly terrifying teeshot at 6 – “Eastern Coyote”
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The approach at 6

The 7th hole is a nice par 3 at 196 yards. Featuring another brief forced carry, this hole contains a large, left-to-right sloping, diagonal green defended by bunkers on either side. The right bunker is especially deep and creates a tough recovery.

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The par 3 7th – “Gray Tree Frog”

The 8th hole is a shorter par 4 at 349 yards and provides a chance to get a shot back. A fairly uneventful hole, this straightaway narrow fairway is guarded by bunkers on the right at 210 yards and left at 255 yards. This approach runs slightly downhill to a wide green defended by large bunkers left and short.

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You only need an iron on the par 4 8th – “Whippoorwill”
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The approach at 8

The 9th hole is another tough par 4 as a 435 yard dogleg right. Featuring a tight fairway turning hard right at 245 yards, this hole is defended by trees down both sides the entire way and a bunker right at 220 yards. This approach plays slightly uphill to a perched green defended by a bunker short left and hill long. Par here is a nice way to close a difficult front side.

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The par 4 9th – “Ribbon Snake”
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The approach at 9

At a lengthy 575 yards, the former 1st hole is now the 10th as a straightaway, uphill par 5. I can see why this hole is no longer the opener, as it requires a 210 yard carry just to reach a narrow fairway lined by trees on either side and a bunker down the left at 275 yards. Additional bunkers line both sides of the lay-up area and this approach plays at least one club uphill to an elevated, back-to-front sloped green defended by bunkers to the right and steep slopes short and left. This is a three-shot hole for most.

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The par 5 10th – “Spadefoot Toad”
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The approach at 10

The 11th hole is another pretty par 3 at 184 yards playing downhill over water. While not as severe as the 2nd, this hole still commands your attention with a carry needed the entire way. Three bunkers guard long of this back-to-front sloped, wide green. Although the holes are not similar architecturally, this hole has a somewhat similar appearance to nearby Yale’s famous 9th.

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The par 3 11th – “Chain Pickerel”

The 12th is an interesting hole and one that feels a bit out of place on the course. At 334 yards, this straightaway hole is the shortest par 4 at Lake of Isles North, but isn’t really reachable playing blind and uphill over a plateau. Despite being a short hole, the golfer doesn’t really have many options off this teebox, with an uphill 180 yard carry required to reach the fairway. From here, the approach is relatively straightforward to a front-to-back sloped green defended by a strangely placed long left bunker. This hole should have more hazards near the green to better defend itself.

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The blind par 4 12th – “Red Tailed Hawk”

Although not flashy, the 13th hole is one of the best holes at Lake of Isles North as a strong 428 yard par 4. Playing straightaway and slightly downhill to an undulating fairway, the main danger on this teeshot is a large bunker down the left stretching between 230 and 290 yards. This approach runs slightly uphill towards a very tricky green defended by slopes left and two bunkers right. There’s a plateau on the back of this green that makes for very difficult pins, as seen in the picture below.

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The par 4 13th – “American Woodcock”
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The approach at 13

The 14th hole is another solid par 4 playing as a semi-blind 415 yard dogleg right. This fairway slopes left-to-right the entire way and begins to turn at around 230 yards with a pair of bunkers down the right at this point. There’s more room to the left than it appears and balls that don’t carom into the fairway usually yield level lies. This approach plays towards a large, back-to-front sloped green defended by bunkers on either side.

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The par 4 14th – “Redback Salemander”

At 523 yards, the 15th hole is the final par 5 on the course as another mild dogleg right. Although it features a wide fairway, this is an unforgiving driving hole with an immediate 190 yard forced carry over a chasm, thick forest on either side, and a bunker down the left at 260 yards. Golfers are given options on their second shot, as this fairway ends about 90 yards short of the green and several bunkers guard down the left side. This approach invariably must be aerial as this back-to-front sloped green sits on the other side of a hazard defended further by bunkers on either side.

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The intimidating teeshot at 15 – “Brown Bat”
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The 15th green

The 16th hole is the final par 3 playing severely downhill at 181 yards. Glimpses of the lake in the background provide strong aesthetic value and build excitement for the excellent closing stretch. This large green is defended by bunkers on either side.

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The par 3 16th – “Black Crappie”

The 17th hole is another picturesque and memorable hole as a 375 yard par 4. Again, despite its modest length, golfers are not left many options on this teebox with a 230 yard forced carry over water to a tiny fairway. Bunkers run down the left side the entire way towards an elevated green defended by bunkers left and a hill to the right. While this hole isn’t terribly interesting architecturally (golfers will either have a wedge in or be wet), it is quite unique and stunning.

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The par 4 17th “Raven” almost appears as a par 3 from the teebox

With several really memorable holes under its belt, it’s fitting Lake of Isles North closes with a great finisher as a 363 yard par 4. With its teebox jutting into the lake, this hole plays as a true Cape with a slender dogleg left fairway inviting you to flirt with water the further left you venture. From the fairway, this approach must be aerial over a hazard to a giant green defended by two bunkers left.

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The gorgeous par 4 18th – “Golden Shiner”
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The closing approach

General Comments: Lake of Isles’ practice facilities are above average with a large grass range and practice green near the 1st tee. The clubhouse is cozy and blends Native American influence just like the interior of the casino. Unlike the South Course, it seems the North Course gets a lot of play and this was definitely the case when we played. It is not recommended and may be impossible to walk this massive property.

Verdict: Better than its private sister, Lake of Isles North is a difficult and beautiful test of golf featuring several memorable holes. It is the best public option in Connecticut and one of my highest recommendations in New England.


2 thoughts on “Review: Lake of Isles (North Course)

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