Best Overall – Country Club of Vermont (Waterbury Center)
Playing the Country Club of Vermont is a tale of two nines. The front side is more open than the back, playing as a links-like course. After the turn, the environment changes completely. Each of the holes are narrow and lined with trees. While the front might reward power, the back rewards accuracy and a methodical approach.
When playing the Country Club of Vermont, it’s just you and the golf course. The only noise you will hear is that of nature. All of the land between the course and closest town is owned by the Vermont Land Trust and cannot be developed.
The Country Club of Vermont does a great job making members of all playing abilities feel welcome on the course. There are six sets of tees, with the longest playing almost 6,800 yards. From the shortest tees, the course is just 4,800 yards.
To hone their skills members have access to a practice facility that includes a driving range, a chipping green and two putting greens. With practices areas of this caliber, it’s not out of the ordinary for a member to spend more time there than on the course.
Best Private Course – Ekwanok Country Club (Manchester)
Set at the foot of the Green Mountains, Ekwanok Country Club is the perfect place to escape reality and enjoy the company of a 120-year-old golf course.
Ekwanok can trace its roots back to 1899, with the first rounds played in 1900. During its history, there have been quite a few notable figures to walk the grounds. The son of Abraham Lincoln was the third president of the club, and shortly after Horace Rawlins became the pro. During Robert Lincoln’s tenure, Francis Ouimet and Bobby Jones played the course.
Today’s course has undergone a renovation to restore the original bunkers and greens. Off the tee, you see wide open fairways protected on both sides by bunkers and fescue. Once you get to the greens is when the real trouble starts. While they fall in the middle of the size spectrum, their speed and sizable breaks have humbled even the best of golfers.
Ekwanok Country Club is a mecca of leisure activities. In addition to golf, the club is set up for tennis and croquet. When weather forces golfers off the course, bridge keeps the masses occupied.
Best Value Course – The Golf Club at Equinox (Manchester)
Located in an area with a few other country clubs, The Golf Club at Equinox provides the conditions and atmosphere of a private club at the price of your average daily-fee course. Whether you’re a local resident or only in town for a brief stay, Equinox is a welcoming spot.
The golf side of operations work directly with the Equinox Resort to provide a top-notch experience. Combining facilities and resources has helped to elevate the conditions of The Golf Club at Equinox, all the while keeping it affordable and accessible. Should you stay at the resort, you will get a discount on golf.
Hilly terrain makes up for a lack of distance, even from the back tees. The Golf Course at Equinox offers a variety of tees ranging from 5,000 to 6,400 yards. Rather than clearing the entire landscape, many trees have been left on the interior of the course, adding to the difficulty. Around the borders of the course and beyond, spectacular views of the nearby Green Mountains can be seen.
Most Challenging Course – Vermont National Country Club (South Burlington)
Founded in 1998, Vermont National Country Club is a Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II design. The collaborative effort provides unique challenges on every hole. The front 9 is more spacious and is the best opportunity for players to score. The back 9 offers a change of pace with more elevation changes than the front side.
Just because Vermont National Country Club is our most challenging course in the state, it does not mean only the best golfers should play there. While the tips measure more than 7,000 yards, six shorter sets of tees are also available. At its shortest, Vermont National plays about 4,000 yards. To put the difference into perspective, the par-5 11th hole measures 607 yards from the back tees, but only 332 yards from the most forward tees.
When playing from the longer half of the tee sets, there are many forced carries. Some people actually consider this a mark of which tees you should be playing—if you can’t get it comfortably into the fairway, move up a tee.
The greens at Vermont National are on the larger side and roll fast. Placement plays a huge role in measuring the success of approach shots, though making it on is a good benchmark. Many of the greens are elevated, while others have deep bunkers that make it difficult to get out of from the edges. From tee to green, Vermont National will play tough.
Most Scenic Course – The Quechee Club – Lakeland and Highland courses (Quechee)
The Quechee Club is a 36-hole facility that has two very different golf courses on its grounds. For those that do not wish to play golf and simply want to enjoy nature, visitors can also fish or play tennis at Quechee.
Though an unfortunate event, in 2012, Hurricane Irene provided an opportunity for restoration and renovation. The hurricane and subsequent flooding destroyed all but nine holes. As an added bonus, clearing some trees provided for even better views of surrounding nature.
The Highland Course plays more difficult than the Lakeland Course. From the tips, Highland is over 6,800 yards. From the front tees, it plays 4,800 yards. As you make your way through this 18, you’ll be exploring hilly and mountainous terrain, though a tamer experience than if you were to hike any of the nearby mountains. With the layout firmly ingrained into the wooded area, holes are spaced out.
The Lakeland Course is built around, you guessed it, a large lake that plays as a central hazard for several holes. This set of 18 is significantly flatter and you’re never far from the next hole. Tees on Lakeland are spread anywhere between 6,600 and 4,900 yards.
A panoramic mountain backdrop is one thing that is consistent throughout the entire Quechee Club. While the course is carved out of the Vermont woods, the area that surrounds it showcases the natural landscape.