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 »  Home  »  Regional Editorials  »  Northeast  »  Must Play Courses in Connecticut and Massachusetts
Must Play Courses in Connecticut and Massachusetts
By Tom Landers | Published  06/26/2007 | Northeast | Unrated
Must Plays
WINTONBURY HILLS G. C.
In Bloomfield, CT • 860-242-1401
www.wintonburyhillsgolf.com

Wintonbury Hills Golf Course, designed by Pete Dye, has won rave reviews from a number of golf publications, including a top ranking among Connecticut public courses by Golfweek, and the second best new course in America by Celebrated Living, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines.

Players of all abilities can enjoy this course, which is owned by the town of Bloomfield. Dye’s routing is a pleasant mix of what is commonly referred as “links style” and more traditional woodland holes. The conditions are superb and slight elevation changes enhance the pleasing visual effect of the layout, which plays to a par of 70 and measures 6,650 yards from the tips.

Dye incorporated over 100 bunkers, both fairway and green side, in his design. Like the greens, the grass around the bunkers is hand mown, a nice touch that adds luster to the overall appearance of the course. Fairway bunkers frame the ample fairways, presenting a clear target for the player on the tee box.

Also in evidence are chipping areas around the undulating greens, another Dye trademark. He is keen on short game ability. There is also room to run the ball up and into the green, as well as bailout areas on each hole.

Because of the wide, forgiving fairways and safe sides on each fairway, players can take out their drivers and let it rip at Wintonbury Hills. There are four sets of tees.

While there are a number of fine holes on the more open front side, Wintonbury Hills bares its teeth on the back side.
Number 14 is as technically challenging a par-four as you will find anywhere. The 440-yarder demands a steady drive to a landing area guarded by a steep hill to the left and wetlands to the right. The approach shot must thread the needle between a steep mound to the left, wetlands to the right and steer clear of woods to the rear of the small putting surface.


GILLETTE RIDGE G. C.
In Bloomfield, CT • 860-726-1430
www.gilletteridgegolf.com

Built on the rolling terrain and woods of Cigna Corporation property in Bloomfield, Ct., Gillette Ridge Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer Signature routing, poses a stiff and aesthetically pleasing test of golf.

Gillette Ridge offers customers a country club experience for a day. Palmer and his staff created a course that fits nicely into the existing natural landscape. Great care was taken to preserve the numerous trees that serve to frame fairways and greens, as well as the ample wetlands on the property.

The architects built a number of peninsula or island greens, using granite from the site to build walls near several greens and tee boxes. There are a number of forced carries at Gillette Ridge, both off the tee and on approach shots to the medium size, undulating putting surfaces, but nothing so daunting to scare away the average player. Bunkers are fairly numerous and ponds or wetlands come into play on almost half the holes. The fairway landing areas are ample. The shots into the greens seem intimidating, but there is always bailout area on one side or long.

There are four sets of tees at Gillette Ridge, making the course play anywhere from 7,191 yards at the tips to 5,582 from the forward markers. The course has been given a slope of 135 and a rating of slightly over 74 from the back markers.

The second hole is the course’s signature. The tee box affords a view of the Heublein Tower in the distance, and the 505-yard, par-five winds down to a peninsula green. This is a true risk-reward hole as a long drive will leave the player with an opportunity to go for the green in two. But a pond guards the right side of the putting surface and long is bad news. Even the lay-up shot must be struck with accuracy to a sliver of fairway with bunkers long and the water right.

The 18th hole at Gillette Ridge may be the best finishing hole in the state. It’s 478 yards from the tips, and the tee shot must be lusty. The approach will be made to a narrow green protected by a large pond to the right and bunkers.


BLISSFUL MEADOWS G. C.
In Uxbridge, MA • 508-278-6110
www.blissfulmeadows.com

This Cornish & Silva design is well-conditioned, interesting and playable for all levels of golfers.

Blissful Meadows, which plays to around 6,700 yards from the back markers, has won plaudits for its overall condition from a number of publications, and was voted the 2004 Golf Course of the Year by the New England Golf Course Owners Association.
Surrounded by woods and meadows, this is a truly unique and secluded golfing experience. The front nine is more open than the back, which features several dramatic elevation changes and two of the best par-threes you’ll find anywhere.

The first, a 353-yard par-four voted by Golfing Magazine as one of the best holes in Massachusetts, is called “Prelude” and demands a precise downhill tee shot to find a fairway that bends slightly to the left. The approach is to an elevated green with bunkers guarding the right side.

The nicest hole on the front side may be the par-four fourth, which measures a modest 363 yards from the tips. The hole bends slightly to the left, and the approach is to an elevated green that is surrounded by mature pine trees that give the green area a feeling of solitude.

Number 17, a 400-yard par-four, is a perfect set up to the finishing hole. The toughest shot is the approach, with a pond guarding the green to the left. When they tuck the pin close to the water they’re begging you to pull off a hero shot and risk making bogey or worse.

Blissful Meadow has a splendid finisher. The par-four measures 420 yards from the tips and calls for a nervy approach shot over a pond that guards the front left side of the putting surface.


RED TAIL G. C.
In Devens, MA  • 978-772-3273
www.redtailgolf.net

Named after the majestic red tail hawks that soar overhead, the 7,000-plus-yard, par-72 Red Tail Golf Club in Devens, Mass. was crafted from a site of great natural beauty. It flows over rolling wooded hills and meanders among numerous streams and ponds.
The terrain of this layout varies from classic New England landscapes of maples, birches, oaks and pines to tall grasses and sands reminiscent of coastal courses.

Red Tail Golf Club, a leader in sustainable golf course design and management, was designated as the first Audubon International Sanctuary golf course in New England. While the layout calls for some forced carries, there are none that will intimidate the average player. The fairways are ample and the greens large and accepting of a well-struck approach shot.

The first hole at Red Tail gets your round off in spectacular fashion. It’s a 410-yard par-four that demands a drive slightly uphill to a landing area framed by a gravel pit to the right and bunkers left.

The 11th is perhaps the course’s signature hole. It’s a 171-yard par-three that demands a nerves-of-steel tee shot to carry a massive bunker in front of the green.

The land upon which number 17, a 426-yard par-four, was built was formerly dotted with ammunition bunkers, several of which can still be seen to the right of the green. The drive must find a narrow fairway that is surrounded by a sea of sand.

Big hitters will be tempted to go for the green on the 543-yard, par-five finishing hole after a lusty drive. But there is a pond guarding the right side of the putting surface, so the wise choice will be to lay up and hit the narrow green with a wedge. Check out the waterfall to the right of the green on your way to the putting surface.