Mapping the Courses: Methodology

Mapping Connecticut's Golf Courses

In 1934, Connecticut conducted an aerial survey of the state; the first of its kind in the United States. For hickory golfers in Connecticut the timing was incredibly fortuitous. The Society of Hickory Golfers sets December 31, 1934 as the the end of the hickory era; any wood-shafted clubs made on or before that date are legal in hickory tournaments that follow SOHG guidelines. This aerial survey photographed every golf course in the state of Connecticut as it appeared at the end of the hickory golf era. By comparing these 1934 images to today's satellite imagery, we are able to figure out which holes on every course in the state are original to the hickory golf era.

The process of comparing every course in Connecticut to the 1934 aerials was a daunting task (nearly 1,200 holes were mapped for this project), but one that has been made considerably easier thanks to the Connecticut State Library and especially the University of Connecticut Library Map and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC). The Connecticut State Library has digitized the entire 1934 aerial survey, as well as 1938 and 1965 aerial surveys and made them available online. UConn's MAGIC has gone a step further by creating a tool that compares the 1934 aerials side-by-side with Google Maps data from 2019, 2004, and 1990.

Before going any deeper into the process of mapping these courses, I want to cite this terrific resource and encourage you to try it out for yourself.

University of Connecticut Library Map and Geographic Information Center - MAGIC. (2018).Neighborhood Change in Connecticut, 1934 to Present.

The Process

Using various online course listings I compiled a list of every golf course in the state of Connecticut that is open as of January 1, 2020. I used UConn MAGIC's mapping tool to find the current location of every golf course and looked for golf course features in the associated aerial composite. I used GolfAdvisor and BlueGolf's course layouts to determine current hole locations and routing to compare each course hole-by-hole. The result is a complete listing of holes of golf in Connecticut that are open for play that were also playable in 1934.

Terminology and Definitions

For each hole I have assigned a label of Original, Probable, Possible, Modified, or New.

  • Original: These holes are substantially similar to the way they appeared in 1934. Bunkering and green size/shape may have changed, and tees may have been added. Fairway sizes may have changed and trees, hazards, and other objects may have changed, but the hole plays roughly the same routing to greens at their original 1934 locations.

  • Probable: Portions of the 1934 holes were difficult to see, but there are indications of features to suggest that a hole was there in a route that is roughly similar to today.

  • Possible: All or many features of the hole are difficult to discern, particularly the green. There is not enough evidence to say that a hole was definitely there and/or was the same layout as the current one, but there is also not enough evidence to discount that possibility.

  • Modified: Portions of the current hole were clearly in existence in 1934, but something has changed. This could be that the routing has changed so that the green or landing area is approached from a different location (most common), that two or more holes were combined, that a hole was substantially lengthened or shortened, etc. But generally at least one feature is clearly present and in common between the 1934 aerials and modern satellite imagery.

  • Possible modified and Probable modified: These holes are probably/possibly present in the 1934 aerials, but the landscape suggests that they have changed (forested areas where the current tee boxes are located, ponds replacing 1934 fairways, etc.)

  • New: A hole that is entirely new without using any portion of an original 1934 hole.

Caveats and Disclaimers

I am not (and do not pretend to be) an expert on golf architecture or history, nor do I know the history of any of these courses individually. The 1934 aerial photos can sometimes be very clear, and other times distorted depending on the location and the flying/lighting conditions. It is completely possible that I have missed a golf course or made a mistake (or many, many mistakes). I undertook this endeavor for my personal use and decided after I finished the project to make it available to other hobbyists and golf enthusiasts. If you have a correction, please contact me and I will be happy to make changes wherever I can!