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Golf Digest Logo Summer vacation

The 10 best New England golf trips you can take

October 27, 2023

Not all golf trips are equal. Weeklong buddies’ trips to Bandon Dunes or Streamsong, with 36 holes, beers and a firepit are great, but it can be tough to escape family obligations for so long. For those looking to spend quality family time and mix in a little golf, a trip to New England is a perfect compromise.

All six states, from Maine to Connecticut, have some great public golf near the outdoor destinations that make the Northeast one of the most popular summer getaways. Whether you’re heading to Acadia National Park, the White Mountains, Boston, Cape Cod or historic Newport, R.I., be sure to squeeze in a round … or two.

To help organize your itinerary, we’ve created this guide of the 9 best New England golf trips you can take, including options in each state. We focused these trips around the popular family destinations to help you make the most of your summer vacation.

We urge you to click through to each individual course page for bonus photography, drone footage and reviews from our course panelists. Plus, you can now leave your own ratings and reviews of the courses you’ve played. Which courses would you play on a trip to New England? Search for your favorites here.

Maine mountains

For some of the best courses with mountain views in New England, fly into Portland or Bangor and drive west to Sugarloaf and Sunday River, two top ski resorts with Best in State courses. Make sure to pack plenty of balls, as Sugarloaf is among the toughest ball-striking tests you’ll play. Round out the trip at Belgrade Lakes, where the clubhouse sits on a peak overlooking the surrounding lakes, giving perhaps the best view from a practice putting green in the state. Oh, and look out for Belgrade Lakes’ Lobster BLT special, which we named one of the best halfway house foods in America.

Sugarloaf Golf Club
Public
Sugarloaf Golf Club
Carrabassett Valley, ME
3.9
17 Panelists
Set in the Carrabassett Valley against the Appalachians, Sugarloaf is a demanding Robert Trent Jones Jr. mountain course. A past member of Golf Digest's 100 Greatest Public list, Sugarloaf is a true ball-striking test with narrow fairways guarded by dense forest and imposing rocks. The greens have significant undulations with numerous shelves, creating a variety of possible pin locations. Sugarloaf's signature holes—the 10th and 11th—offer stunning panoramic views of the Maine wilderness and feature dramatic dropoffs from tee to green. At the par-3 11th—aptly nicknamed "Precipice"—the small, two-tiered green is set 120 feet below the tee box. In the winter months, Sugarloaf is a renowned ski resort, and the trails can be seen from many holes.
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Sunday River Golf Club
Public
Sunday River Golf Club
Newry, ME, United States
3.8
27 Panelists
Overlooking a valley and set amongst the Appalachians, Sunday River is similar in aesthetics to Sugarloaf, another top Maine ski resort that offers a scenic mountain course. Yet Sunday River plays to more generous landing areas than the relentless Loaf, making it the gentler sibling that still delivers scenic mountain vistas. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. design is a bit of a trek from many popular coastal Maine destinations but consider the drive through the mountains and tiny villages part of the appeal. To play Sunday River in late September, with the foliage on full display, is one of the best mountain golf experiences in the Northeast.
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Belgrade Lakes Golf Club
Public
Belgrade Lakes Golf Club
Belgrade Lakes, ME, United States
4.1
49 Panelists
A past member of Golf Digest's 100 Greatest Public list, Belgrade Lakes is a picturesque Clive Clark design in central Maine. Considered by locals to have the most scenic practice putting green in the Pine Tree State, Belgrade's clubhouse and first tee sit high above the rest of the property, offering panoramic views of the surrounding lakes and forest. The layout is intriguing with numerous elevation changes, strategic doglegs, serene ponds and omnipresent boulders that often penalize—or reward—wayward shots. The back patio of the clubhouse offers a beautiful view of the property below, including the ninth and 18th holes, which share a massive, undulating double green.
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Boston

Though some other metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, New York and Chicago are more highly regarded for having great golf, Boston is still a fantastic option for a trip. There are tons of terrific options in the area, including Granite Links, which offers skyline views, and George Wright, which is among the best value courses in the county.

George Wright Golf Course
Public
George Wright Golf Course
Hyde Park, MA
3.9
12 Panelists
George Wright is consistently recognized as one of the best, most affordable public golf options anywhere. Much like The Country Club, "The Wright," as it’s known to locals, is routed through rocky outcroppings similar to Brookline and wild terrain that challenges the golfer with constant elevation changes, many blind shots and smallish greens. Donald Ross' routing through tree-lined corridors is bold and adventurous, but also highly walkable, with nearly every green just a few short steps away from the next tee. At $41 to walk for city residents ($50 for non-residents), you won't find a better deal in the state, which is probably why it's hard to secure a tee time. Plus, the course is always in good condition thanks to superintendent Leo Curtin and his crew, with our panelists reporting that George Wright’s greens are routinely on par with any of the high-end private courses operating with an exponentially higher budget. George Wright hosted the 2018 state amateur along with its sister course, William J. Devine.
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Granite Links: Milton/Quincy
Public
Granite Links: Milton/Quincy
Quincy, MA
2.8
38 Panelists
The semi-private, 27-hole facility is truly a part of the fabric of the city. As part of the 15-year, $24 billion road infrastructure project, nearly 900,000 truckloads of excavated dirt were deposited here. That afforded architect John Sanford the ability to use the 13 million tons of material to cap the site and mold some dramatic topography with the soil. With land sitting as high as 298 feet above sea level, the Milton, Quincy and Granite nines offer terrific views of downtown with impeccable conditions. The practice facilities are top-notch, and the tavern at Granite Links was named as one of Golf Digest’s best 19th holes.
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Red Tail Golf Club
Public
Red Tail Golf Club
Devens, MA
4.1
17 Panelists

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: Fort Devens in Massachusetts was an army facility dating back to 1917, once a city unto itself, housing 10,000 soldiers, with its own water and sewer systems, its own schools, its own airport. Just 35 miles west of Boston, it was both a training ground and stopping-off point for troops fighting in both World Wars. Before heading to Europe in 1942, General George Patton taught tank maneuvers there.


In the late 1980s, much of the soil beneath the fort's thousands of acres was found to be contaminated with the residue of war: arsenic, chromium, nickel, lead, asbestos, battery acid, waste oil and incinerator ash. It became the focus of an enormous (and enormously expensive) clean-up, first by the military and, after the fort was decommissioned in 1995, as a federal EPA Superfund project.

 

For our architecture editor's complete review, click here.

 

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William J. Devine Golf Course at Franklin Park
George Wright has always gotten love as the better of the two courses, but the other city-owned course—affectionately known as "The Park"—is as good as it's ever been. Thanks to some tree removal and an effort to improve drainage, William J. Devine usually plays firm and fast and can be a fun challenge for players of all skill levels. At just 6,000 yards from the tips, players will have lots of wedges for approach shots, but the bouncy turf and tiny, and sometimes severely sloping greens demand that those approach shots be precise or the bogeys can pile up fast. Much like George Wright, very few holes here lie on flat ground and there are plenty of blind tee shots, adding to the intrigue of the round. Unlike George Wright, the landscape here is wide open and much more forgiving for those who tend to get a little wild off the tee, while also providing for some lovely vistas from the high points on the property. Word is that Francis Ouimet prepping his game here before the 1913 U.S. Open. It’s also believed to be the second-oldest public course, having opened in 1896, just a year after Van Cortlandt Park in New York City debuted.
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White Mountains

New Hampshire is another great option for those looking to play with mountain views. The White Mountains are the backdrop for these three courses we’d play, though they play less like typical mountain courses. While in the area, consider driving up to the top of Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the Northeast.

Omni Mount Washington Hotel & Resort
Public
Omni Mount Washington Hotel & Resort
Bretton Woods, NH
3.9
29 Panelists
This turn-of-the-century Donald Ross design sits in an outstanding setting. Despite being the flattest “mountain” course you will ever play, nearly every hole has a view of mountains (in every direction) or the spectacular 19th century mountain resort hotel. The course has many of the classic Ross elements: plateau greens with roll-offs in all directions, optical illusions of greenside bunkers that are actually 30-40 yards in front of greens, bunkers canted to face the direction of play, etc.
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Owl's Nest
Public
Owl's Nest
Campton, NH
Even though much of the course is situated in a housing development, Owl’s Nest makes terrific use of the landscape, with satisfying elevation changes creating vistas of the White Mountains. The Nicklaus Design course tips out around 6,700 yards and is best enjoyed in the fall when the colorful foliage lights up the mountain backdrop.
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North Conway Country Club
Public
North Conway Country Club
North Conway, NH
Perched in the Mt. Washington Valley, North Conway Country Club has terrific views of the tallest peak in New England. The club dates to 1895 when the first nine holes were laid out—the second nine was added in 1975. Though the course has a mountain backdrop, the terrain is relatively flat. Accuracy off the tee is essential, as stands of trees line the fairways and block shots into the greens.
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Providence, R.I.

In addition to having fantastic food and a fun downtown, Providence has some great public golf options, including the Donald Ross-designed Triggs Memorial, which hosts the Providence Open. Take a day to head down to historic Newport. In addition to a round at Newport National, we recommend a tour of The Breakers, a Gilded Age mansion that was home to the Vanderbilts.

Triggs Memorial Golf Course
Public
Triggs Memorial Golf Course
Providence, RI

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: Authenticity is what golf architecture fans (and architecture writers) seek first and foremost when searching out a Donald Ross design. In my opinion, Triggs Memorial Golf Course in Providence, R.I. is a very pleasant, very authentic Donald Ross product, with the added bonus of being a public layout, available for all to study and enjoy.

 

The original hole-by-hole diagrams hanging in the grill room (minus the 18th hole, presumably now gracing the wall of some golfer’s mancave) verify that almost every hole and every bunker are still as Ross first envisioned them. This is one of those courses that Ross actually visited, according to newspaper reports of the day. His summer office was in Little Compton, in the southeast corner of Rhode Island, just a couple of hours away. Ross walked the land on at least two occasions, once before making a routing, then again while designing particular holes.

 

For our architecture editor's complete review, click here.

 

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Newport National Golf Club: Orchard Course
Public
Newport National Golf Club: Orchard Course
Middletown, RI, United States
3.9
36 Panelists
In a state filled with excellent private clubs—including Newport CC, Shelter Harbor, Wannamoisett and Misquamicut—Newport National is the best public option in Rhode Island. The Arthur Hills design is fairly flat and given the course is about a mile from the ocean, wind can play a significant factor. Holes are lined with thick, gnarly fescue which create links-style visuals at Newport National.
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Connecticut National Golf Club
Public
Connecticut National Golf Club
Putnam, CT
Tucked in the rural northeast corner of Connecticut, Connecticut National is one of the better public courses in the state and is a great option if you’re in the Providence, R.I., or Worcester, Mass., area. The course can tip out at nearly 7,000 yards and has plenty of elevation changes, including at the uphill par-5 opener and the long downhill par-5 closing hole, both giving good opportunities to start and end well. Connecticut National has hosted USGA qualifiers and top regional amateur events.
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Vermont

Yet another option for mountain golf enthusiasts, Vermont is tough to get to if you’re flying, but these Best in State courses make the trip worth it. If you’re flying into Albany, N.Y., we’d also recommend Saratoga National, which is on the drive from Albany to Rutland, Vt.

Rutland Country Club
Rutland Country Club
Rutland, VT
3.8
22 Panelists
For years, Rutland Country Club has been known throughout the state for its greens. Small, quick and true, they defend the course against its modest yardage of 6,185. Originally a nine-hole design set on farmland, it was converted into an 18-hole course in 1927 by Stiles and Van Kleek. RCC catches you by surprise. Just as you’ve settled into a sense of security after the short par-5 fourth, you realize that security was false. No. 5 is a 223-yard par 3, all carry, with a sloping green that will cause headaches if you’re unfortunate enough to be above the hole. After you make the turn, you start climbing. The back nine is built into the hillside, demanding well-placed tee balls and confident approaches into several elevated greens, all while delivering striking mountain views. No. 14 boasts unobstructed, panoramic views of the mountains in the distance. During foliage season, it’s a special spot to be.
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Green Mountain National
Public
Green Mountain National
Killington, VT
3.4
13 Panelists
One of the best public courses in the state shines during the fall when the colors are off the charts. The back nine is routed through the highest points of the property, revealing some incredible vistas. Some shorter par 4s and five par 3s, along with some longer holes and approaches to elevated greens, give Green Mountain National a strong layout variety.
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The Golf Club at Equinox
Public
The Golf Club at Equinox
Manchester Village, VT
3.4
23 Panelists
The Golf Club at Equinox was designed by U.S. Amateur champion Walter Travis, who was known for creating contoured greens that demand a deft short game. The course was significantly redesigned by Rees Jones in 1992. Situated in a valley and framed by the Green Mountains, Equinox has terrific views, especially in the fall when the leaves are in their full color. The course is fairly shot, tipping out around 6,400 yards, but small greens require solid iron play to avoid tricky chip shots.
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Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine is one of the most popular summer travel destinations in the country. This Mainer editor recommends popovers and lemonade at the Jordan Pond House, the Beehive Trail, and dinner on the water in Bar Harbor. As for the golf, Kebo Valley is the most convenient option, just minutes from Bar Harbor, and has terrific views of Cadillac Mountain. The tiny, sloped greens are usually in impeccable shape. The semi-private Northeast Harbor is open for public play during shoulder months and is a must play. If you’re flying into Bangor, stop for a round at nearby Penobscot Valley, a Donald Ross design.

Kebo Valley Club
Public
Kebo Valley Club
Bar Harbor, ME
3.8
26 Panelists
Established in 1888 with play starting 1891, Kebo Valley is one of the oldest golf clubs in the country. The course is situated on Mount Desert Island, bordering Acadia National Park and just five minutes from downtown Bar Harbor. Throughout its long history, notable names including Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen and President Willliam Taft have all played the track. In 1911, President Taft played Kebo and carded a 27 on the 17th hole, which is now affectionately known as the "Taft" hole. In 1922, Walter Hagen played Kebo twice, first carding an even-par 70 before firing a three-under 67, which stood as the course record for 50 years. By modern standards, Kebo is a short course, but it is protected by very small, undulating greens that often roll true and fast. With beautiful views of nearby Cadillac and Dorr Mountain, Kebo is an enjoyable walk and pairs well with a visit to Acadia National Park.
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Northeast Harbor Golf Club
Public
Northeast Harbor Golf Club
Northeast Harbor, ME
Northeast Harbor makes terrific use of the idyllic setting in the Maine woods near the ocean on Mount Desert Island. The course is short by modern standards, but don’t let that fool you—the small, devilish greens have some severe movement, demanding that you stay below the hole to score. The club is private during the summer months but is open for public play during the spring and fall. Along with Kebo Valley near Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor GC is the best option on Mount Desert Island. Consider playing both on a trip to Acadia National Park.
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Penobscot Valley Country Club
0
7 Panelists
One of the country's northernmost Donald Ross designs, Penobscot Valley dates back to 1924. The layout has an open, links-style feel with nearly every hole visible from all parts of the property. Not overly long, the course defends itself with thick rough, deep bunkers and daunting Ross greens. Penoby, as the locals call it, has a strong set of par 3s, including the fourth and 14th, the latter of which is only 150 yards but has a tiny green that slopes off on all sides into deep-faced bunkers. Over the years, the course has hosted Hall of Famers Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Patty Berg.
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Cape Cod

If you’re heading to Cape Cod for a summer trip, consider these quality public courses in southern Massachusetts and on the Cape. The two courses at Pinehills are two of the better public courses in the state. After the round, head to the nearby historic Plymouth, which was founded in 1620 as the first Pilgrim settlement.

Pinehills Golf Club: Nicklaus Course
One of our panelists calls the courses at Pinehills the best options within an hour of Boston. For avid golfers who live in and around the city, this is a go-to spot for many. The Nicklaus and Jones courses are always in good shape and present architecturally interesting designs. Even for those coming from Cape Cod, it’s worth the drive.
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Pinehills Golf Club: Jones Course
Public
Pinehills Golf Club: Jones Course
Plymouth, MA
One of our panelists calls the courses at Pinehills the best options within an hour of Boston. For avid golfers who live in and around the city, this is a go-to spot for many. The Nicklaus and Jones courses are always in good shape and present architecturally interesting designs. Even for those coming from Cape Cod, it’s worth the drive.
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Waverly Oaks Golf Club
Public
Waverly Oaks Golf Club
Plymouth, MA
Waverly Oaks is another stellar public design from Boston native Brian Silva. Routed through 240 acres of rolling topography and up to 100 feet of elevation change, Waverly Oaks also features some bold greens that are reminiscent of Seth Raynor designs.
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The Brookside Club
Public
The Brookside Club
Bourne, MA
The Brookside Club’s motto is “a public golf course with a private club feeling,” and they deliver on that with a captivating Dr. Michael Hurdzan design that capitalizes on the tumbling terrain. Located just minutes on to Cape Cod, Brookside is not overly challenging, but many fairways are significantly canted, creating some tricky uneven lies. Brookside is a great option for those visiting Cape Cod, as well as trips to Providence, R.I., and Boston.
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Hartford, Conn./Springfield, Mass.

Harford and Springfield have several courses with great value, making this one of the most affordable trips in this guide. If you start in the Hartford area, be sure to play Keney Park and Wintonbury Hills, two of the Connecticut’s best public courses. As you drive north, stop at The Ranch and continue up to Crumpin-Fox, a challenging and scenic layout that often hosts a U.S. Open local qualifier.

Keney Park Golf Course
Public
Keney Park Golf Course
Hartford, CT
If affordable and quality public golf is becoming increasingly harder to find, Keney Park in Hartford, Conn., stands out as an exception. With resident rates under $40 and non-resident around $50, it’s an excellent value for a course with classical architecture. Devereux Emmet designed the front nine in 1927 and Robert “Jack” Ross laid out the back in 1931. There are some template holes, including Redan and Road holes, as well as Church Pew bunkers. The property has plenty of elevation changes, and the greens are exciting with tumbling ridges allowing for creativity. The City of Hartford has invested close to six million dollars into the course since 2016, when the course underwent a renovation.
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Wintonbury Hills Golf Course
Public
Wintonbury Hills Golf Course
Bloomfield, CT
Just north of Hartford, Conn., Wintonbury Hills is one of few Pete Dye designs in New England. The 6,700-yard course doesn’t have the bite of many Dye designs, though several holes on the back nine play very tight with trees and hazards lining both sides of fairways. The front nine is wide open, with big, bold fairways and a good amount of elevation change. With rates under $50, it’s tough to find better value than Wintonbury Hills.
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Crumpin-Fox Club
Public
Crumpin-Fox Club
Bernardston, MA
4.1
25 Panelists
Crumpin-Fox is a challenging tree-lined layout in western Massachusetts that plays through the rolling hills. It’s a stern ball-striking test, with holes weaving through dense forest and lots of elevation change. The greens are tricky as well, with tongues and knobs demanding precise distance control. One note of advice: On the tough par-4 18th, play the blind tee shot farther right than you think, as the tee box deceptively aims you too far left.
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The Ranch Golf Club
Public
The Ranch Golf Club
Southwick, MA
3.6
15 Panelists
Situated just over the Massachusetts border—between Hartford, Conn., and Springfield, Mass.—The Ranch is a solid public course that blends narrow tree-lined holes with more exposed ones. Combined with some steep elevation changes, there is nice layout variety at The Ranch, which is best enjoyed in the fall when the coloful leaves light up the foothills of the Berkshires. The reachable par-5 opener is particularly exciting, with a split fairway tempting players to take a gamble on the first shot of the day.
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Portsmouth, N.H.

About an hour north of Boston and 45 minutes south of Portland, the courses around Portsmouth are convenient options for a variety of itineraries. On the Maine side of the border, check out Maine’s top-ranked course, the old-school Cape Arundel Golf Club, the home course of the Bush family. Also check out the scenic Ledges Golf Club, which tests the region’s best amateur players each year in a U.S. Amateur qualifier.

Cape Arundel Golf Club
Public
Cape Arundel Golf Club
Kennebunkport, ME
4.4
41 Panelists
Despite a length of just 5,859 yards long, Cape Arundel packs plenty of punch to both challenge and engage golfers of all skill levels. Designed by Walter Travis in 1921, Cape Arundel is at its best around the greens. The green complexes are small, yet undulating and provide plenty of opportunities to putt off them. Golfers must be precise with their wedges in order to have an opportunity to get close to the flag. The pin locations dictate the strategy from the tee as different pins may demand different strategies meaning the course doesn’t play the same from one day to the next. Low-handicappers who are looking to score are not granted the luxury of hitting driver on every hole as they must think their way around the golf course. While many courses that were built in the Golden Age of course design have been forced to become bigger and longer to adapt to the modern game, Cape Arundel has stayed true to itself and has remained one of the most unique and enjoyable courses in golf.
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Breakfast Hill Golf Club
Public
Breakfast Hill Golf Club
Greenland, NH
Breakfast Hill is a Brian Silva design conveniently located just off I-95 a few miles south of Portsmouth. Like many New England layouts, the course is not long but it demands accuracy off the tee, with thick stands of trees lining most fairways. Large rock outcroppings on several holes give the course a distinctly New England feel and are penal hazards as well.
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The Ledges Golf Club
Public
The Ledges Golf Club
York, ME
3.5
11 Panelists
The Ledges is a thoroughly physical test: From the dramatic ups and downs on hillsides to the tight landing areas, you’ll want to bring fresh legs and a couple fresh sleeves of balls. The course holds up well when some of the region’s best amateurs tee it up at the annual U.S. Amateur qualifier, as often just a few under par makes it through. The course has hosted the Monday qualifier for Maine’s Korn Ferry Tour event as well. The Ledges traverses the Maine woods, just over the border from Portsmouth, N.H., and features bold rock outcroppings, dramatically downhill tee shots and large multi-tiered greens.
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Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun

If your ideal golf trip features as much off-course entertainment as it does tee times, then consider heading to either Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, two of New England’s most popular casinos. Each have their own public golf courses (Foxwoods also has a private member course) that are among the best in the area.

Lake of Isles: North Course
Public
Lake of Isles: North Course
North Stonington, CT
3.4
40 Panelists
There are two Rees Jones-designed courses at Foxwoods Resort Casino—the South course is a private members’ course while the North is open for public play and one of the best courses you can play in Connecticut. The 90-acre Lake of Isles property sits adjacent to the casino, making it a convenient option for resort guests. The North course is a stern test from the start, as the par-3 second hole plays downhill to an island green. The course winds through the Connecticut woods and has plenty of water hazards, putting a premium on solid ball-striking.
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Mohegan Sun Golf Club
Public
Mohegan Sun Golf Club
Baltic, CT
Situated about 20 minutes north of the Mohegan Sun Casino, the Mohegan Sun Golf Club has undergone a recent bunker renovation to bring the course conditions up to the standard of one of the most popular casinos in the Northeast. The course has some intriguing holes, including the par-5 sixth, where players can try to cut the dogleg in order to set up a second-shot approach to a narrow green that sits diagonally and falls off short and left into a pond.
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