Connecticut golfers know a good course when they see one. What many probably don’t know is who the people are behind the product.
Billy Casper Golf, a management company that handles over 90 courses nationwide, strives to make sure visitors to their facilities have an enjoyable stay. The company, founded by the Hall of Famer Billy Casper along with Peter Hill and Robert Morris and headquartered in Virginia, has become renowned for its customer-oriented management style and commitment to quality golf operations and course conditions.
“All of our guests have choices of where to play,” said Brian O’Hare, regional vice president for Billy Casper Golf, which manages three properties in Connecticut--the two courses at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield, The Golf Course at Oxford Greens in Oxford and Wintonbury Hills Golf Course in Bloomfield. “The experience we provide our customers if crucial. A lot of our company’s training centers around that philosophy, developing a cutting edge guest experience and tailored service to each of our guests.”
Simply put, it all comes down to building relationships between the staff members at each facility and the paying customer. When you visit a Casper property you are treated like a friend who has stopped in for a visit.
“We hire the types of people who promote and foster a culture that brings the staff and the people they deal with closer on a personal basis,” said O’Hare. “We take that approach to everyone we deal with, from the golfers to the vendors.”
He added, “It’s who you hire, and we promote from within to enhance our staff’s ability to grow with us. We also can move resources around from club to club to the benefit of all our properties. That’s a powerful tool we have as a management company.”
The clubs and courses Casper manages in Connecticut are considered to be among the finest daily fee facilities in the state.
“Lyman Orchards is a very special property,” said O’Hare. “It’s a marriage of two great traditions, the family-run orchard and the two golf courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Gary Player. We have a very healthy business there.”
He added, “The town of Bloomfield is very lucky to have such a great golf course in Wintonbury Hills. It’s a championship routing with fantastic conditions. And I think Mark Mungeam would consider Oxford Greens one of the best designs. It’s a wonderfully conditioned layout aimed at more of the upper price range market. Our outing business has become very successful there.”
Lyman Orchards Golf Club annually is one of the busiest facilities in the state, hosting tens of thousands of rounds a year.
Lyman’s 7,011-yard, par-72 Jones Course is a relatively flat routing that has water coming into play on a number of holes. One of the most visually stunning holes in all of Connecticut is the 10th on the Jones Course. The 412-yard par-four starts from an elevated tee and there is a pond that lines the entire left side of the dogleg right hole. Bite off as much of the water as you dare to shorten up the second shot.
The 407-yard par-four is a other dogleg left that demands a well placed tee shot in order to leave a mid-iron approach across a stream to an undulating putting surface.
The 6,725-yard, par-71 Player Course is more of a shot-maker’s routing, with a number of forced carries and several blind shots. The view from the tee on the 219-yard par-three 12th is the best at the club and affords sights of the valley below and the orchards.
The 346-yard par-four 15th on the Player Course is a great example of a superb, short four par. You can get very close to the green with driver, but there is a pond to the left all the way to the green, which sits on something of a peninsula.
Designed by Mark Mungeam of Cornish, Silver and Mungeam, Inc. Oxford Greens is a throwback, “neo-classical” routing that attempts to recreate the natural feel of a New England layout laid out at the turn of the 20th Century.
The course was carved through more than 600 acres of woodlands and over a rolling topography. Mature elm, birch, maple and pine trees line the fairways, and meadows, old stonewalls and ponds impart a feeling of serenity.
Mungeam was careful to not overwhelm the player with an undue amount of hazards. There are some 70 bunkers scattered about the course. But they serve to frame holes off the tee and guard one side or the other of the large greens. Bailout room, both off the tee and around the greens, is provided.
Mungeam also incorporated a large degree of risk-reward into Oxford Greens. The track allows the golfer to think his or her way around the course, avoiding hazards that need not be flirted with to score par or even birdie. But the player is often tempted to risk a heroic shot. And therein lies the delightful quandary a well-planned golf hole should present to the player.
Oxford Greens has multiple sets of tees and stretches from 4,982 yards to a whopping 7,100 from the tips.
Most of the greens allow for run-up shots, much to the delight of seniors and high handicap golfers. There are basically no forced carries, although the 398-yard 15th demands a shot across a small wetland area about 60 yards from the green.
Pete Dye donated his services (as he does once each year) in the design of Wintonbury Hills Golf Course, owned by the town of Bloomfield.
Dye has lent his skills to other top golf courses in the country, including The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort, Harbour Town at Sea Pines Plantation, Oak Tree Golf Club, the Stadium Course at PGA West, the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, and Crooked Stick Golf Club. In Wintonbury, he created a course that is challenging for the best players, yet enjoyable for all skill levels.
Dye’s routing, a pleasant mix of what is commonly referred as “links style” and more traditional woodland holes, is always interesting. The conditions are superb.
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 master 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.
While there are a number of fine holes on the more open front side, Wintonbury Hills bares its pearly 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, the wetlands the right and not find woods to the rear of the smallish putting surface.
The three par-fives at Wintonbury Hills are all solid, although relatively short, especially from the forward tees. But number four and 13 both play uphill, adding beef to their overall yardage.
Wintonbury Hills has five par-threes and they are all good, ranging in distance from the 163-yard third to the monstrous 230-yard 17th. The back tees are rated 70.8 and have a slope of 125.