There is no question that the course at Milford’s Great River Golf Club is among the best in the region.
The Tommy Fazio design has won numerous plaudits for its routing and challenge. But Great River is more than a championship golf course. It is a multi-faceted, recreational and dining destination that is skillfully directed and managed by committed and talented professionals. Success in the golf business doesn’t come easy or by chance.
The club’s tagline is “Escape to the River,” and the staff here does everything in its power to make sure visitors truly do escape their cares and worries for an afternoon or an entire day. This is first class daily fee golf.
There is an exacting attention to detail at Great River, from the superb course conditions and majestic practice facility to the well-appointed dinning room where fabulous meals are offered. Whether it’s the friendly attendants who whisk your clubs away with a smile to the first tee area upon your arrival or the hostess who cheerfully welcomes you to the restaurant and takes your drink order, you can see that attention at work.
“Everything we do here is geared toward exceeding the expectations of our guests, …” said Gary Sciarrillo, general manager of the seven-year old club that was recently rated as one of the top public facilities in the country and second best in the state among both public and private facilities by Golf Digest Magazine.
Gary was sitting in the dinning area that has beautiful overlooks of the Housatonic River. “… whether that’s on the golf course, the practice facility, in the pro shop or our food and beverage operation. The goal is to impress.”
“The challenge at Great River is our guests expect the very best when they come here and we try to deliver. As our rating indicates Great River rivals many public and private facilities in the country.” Sciarrillo said there is a rather simple formula that spells continued success for Great River, even in these times when many daily fee clubs and private clubs are seeing diminished play and increasing dues and fees. “It’s four things really - safety, cleanliness, friendliness and attractions. We have a budget like everybody else. But our ownership is very supportive when we need to make things happen. The ownership allows me to manage the facility the way I see fit with input from members, the public and staff. It has worked well.”
Having a great course that people are eager to play is nice. But the staff at Great River Golf Club doesn’t take your patronage for granted.
“Sometime it’s the other things the staff does around the golf course that make this a special place,” said Sciarrillo, Those “little things” include course rangers bringing cold wet towels and freezer-pops out to golfers on hot days. A little different than being told to ‘pick-up you ball and move along!’” Said the GM, “We’ve gotten away from the image of the big, stuffy, formal property to a place where people come to have fun. I think this separates Great River from other clubs in the area and keeps people coming back.”
Sciarrillo praised his staff that includes senior manager Sheryl Fischer, executive chef Dan Scinto, director of golf Tom Rosati, superintendent Sean Flynn, pro shop manager Karen Attolino, member services and outing director Kevin Ferrarotti, and food and beverage manager Jennifer O’Flynn
“We have great senior leadership who know how to do their jobs,” said Sciarrillo.
Indeed. The club’s restaurant, known as Monty’s River Grille, attracts a strong and loyal following for its extensive menu, good quality, affordability and ambiance. About 70 percent of the club’s dinning business is from non-golfers. The club offers banquet facilities and business conference rooms. O’Flynn says “One of the things that makes Great River and Monty’s so appealing is the number of special events we have on a regular basis. As an example, we had over 180 people at our Cinco de Mayo celebration in May and our Jazz Night in August is shaping up to be a lot of fun.”
Great River Golf Club offers a variety of individual and business memberships. “Our memberships are unlike any other in the area – Once you or your business become a member, there are no other fees. No cart rentals, no locker fees, no bag storage fees, and no minimums. I don’t know of another club that offers fully transferable tee-times to their business members.” Fischer says. “As a business member you are able to send important clients to enjoy the club as your guest. That’s quite a benefit.”
Ferrarotti has increased the club’s outing business significantly within the last year or so with many small, mid-sized and large organizations with a special emphasis on charity events.
Great River is just a 45-minute drive south of Hartford and about an hour from New York City. The club takes its name from the fact that it runs along the banks of the Housatonic River, a waterway that comes into play in only marginal ways.
The course has five tee options, so only the mid- or high-handicapper with masochistic tendencies would chose to play the tips, which measure 7,191 yards and has a slope rating of 150. We suggest playing shorter tees; say the blue or white, which are 6,901 and 6,475 yards in distance, respectively.
Tommy Fazio, Tom Fazio’s nephew, routed the course over rolling terrain common to New England, with elevation changes, trees and water--everything that makes good course management essential. If you play the blue or white tees distance is not as important as accuracy and club selection.
The par-four, 419-yard third hole is an example. It’s not long but your approach requires a shot over a valley that contains multiple bunkers. This is one of the most scenic holes on the course, but don’t let that disrupt your focus or you can easily select the wrong club and find yourself in Great River’s “Death Valley.” Number six is a signature hole with elevated tees and a green that’s bordered by the river.
The consensus among locals is that the hardest hole is the par-four, 441-yard 16th. It demands both distance and accuracy off the tee. The fairway has water on the right and a marsh on the left. Your second shot will be with a long-iron or fairway wood into the green. Number 18 is a nice finishing hole, not brutal, but one that asks for a good drive to leave a mid iron to a green protected by wetlands to the front and right. Call 877-478-7470, or visit www.greatrivergolfclub.com