A group of writers had the chance recently to get the lowdown on what’s happening at the Mohegan Sun Golf Club in Baltic, Ct.
Robert McNeil of Rhode Island-based Northeast Golf Company was on hand to meet and greet. He was in charge of the redesign of the layout, formerly Pautipaug Country Club. McNeil imbued the course with a links feel on many holes, with mounded fairway and greenside bunkers and tall fescue grass in the rough areas. Five holes were totally rebuilt, bunkers redesigned, and all new greens installed.
McNeil said his intent with the bunker redesign on the course was to capture a natural feeling, with fescue framing some of the shouldering and giving the traps character in their perimeter. The style was carried through the course and is a defining element of the reworked layout.
McNeil worked smoothly with McFarland Johnson Engineers and NMP Golf Construction on the project. He said the main challenge during the reconstruction was efficiently moving excess dirt around the property. Crews were able to use much of the material from the upper ponds on several new holes and all of the dirt from the lower pond in the redesign of the routing. Additional material was transported throughout the property to create all new tee complexes and in the development of a new bunkering style.
The intent with the bunkers was to capture a very natural feeling with fescue framing on some of the shouldering along with great character in the perimeter shapes. Since the course was closed for 12 months, McNeil and his team were able to re-grass all of the greens to TI bentgrass, greatly improving the putting surfaces with a variety requiring less maintenance inputs.
An additional challenge was the management of the water once the ponds were constructed. McNeil and others worked closely with DAF Services to install a state-of-the-art water transfer system, resulting in complete control of the pond elevations as necessitated by irrigation needs.
He said the project was a “true team effort” led by Ron Winarick of Forewinds Hospitality, who unfortunately passed away before we completed the work, Sarkisian Irrigation Consulting, and the aforementioned NMP Golf Construction and McFarland Johnson.
Phil Krick, our host and Vice President Director of Golf for Mohegan Sun, told us that the public is indeed welcome at the course, and one does not need to stay at the casino to access the track. There are great rates for outings as well, and the casino is ramping up its stay and play offerings.
The course is a fun routing and was in superb condition when we played, even after an unusually dry spring. The track won’t beat you up, that is as long as you take what it gives you and keep your tee shots and approach shots away from danger.
Certainly one of the best holes, and most talked about after our rounds, is the sixth, a 495-yard par-five that starts from a severely elevated tee. There is water if your tee shot is hit too strong straightway, but big hitters can cut the corner on the right to shorten the approach, which is to an elevated green tucked into a hillside. A waterfall tumbles down toward a pond below. It’s a classic risk/reward hole that is extremely interesting to the eye.
The 10th hole is a nice little par-three, playing around 180 yards from the tips to a green that sits below. It has a large putting surface protected by bunkers.
The 11th is a demanding, 416-yard par-four that asks for a lusty drive up hill and past trees on the dogleg right hole to have a clear approach shot. Even a decent drive will leave you with a long iron or hybrid to a green that has a small pond lurking on the left and a bunker front left.
The 12th, a 370-yarder, is one of my favorite holes on the course, one of those great, short par-fours that can yield everything from a birdie to a double bogey. A strong drive will steer clear of a pond to the right and a bunker straightaway and tumble down a hill toward a wildly undulating green. Hitting the putting surface with your approach is certainly no guarantee of a par.
The 510-yard, par-five 13th is another risk-reward hole. A good tee shot will leave the player with the opportunity to go for the green in two but there are ponds stretching from 200 yards out to about 100 yards away from the putting surface and ample bunkers protecting the green.
The 18th is a solid finisher, a 537-yard par-five that moves up a hill and once again McNeil tempts you to play a risky shot, as the second must be it over a pond toward a slightly elevated green. A short drive will necessitate a layup, which must thread the needle between the aforementioned pond and another one to the right of a strip of fairway that passes between the two bodies of water. Pay attention to the location of two poles that are located on the sides of the ponds if you have a blind second shot, as they will give you an idea where the ball must go to avoid the wet stuff.