It’s been a few years since southern New Englanders had some new golf holes to sink their teeth into.
So that’s why there was so much anticipation over the opening of the new nine holes at Blue Fox Run Golf Course in Avon, Connecticut this summer.
The new holes, designed by Stephan Kay and Doug Smith, were actually incorporated into two nine-hole routings at the now 27-hole facility. Five holes are on what is called the White Course and the other four on the Red Course. The unchanged back nine is known as the Blue Course. The operators juggle the nines around so as to create a new 18-hole layout several days each week.
The new holes are a pleasing mix of those that are open in nature and several that are lined by trees. There is ample bunkering in the fairways and around the modest-sized greens.
One of the best new holes is the 500-yard par-five fourth on the White Course. If you can steer clear of fairway bunkers to the left of the fairway and high grass on the right, you may be left with an opportunity to go for the large, oblong green in two.
Probably the best new par-four is the 400-yard seventh on the White Course. A pond guards the entire left side of the dogleg left hole and when the pin is tucked on the left side of the green near the water, the hole is just crying out for big numbers.
The 201-yard seventh hole on the Red Course is as good a par-three as you can get. A pond guards the right side of the green and bunkers are scattered around the putting surface. Par here is a quite noteworthy feat if played from the back markers.
The club had earlier received a facelift on its existing 18 holes in the form of new bunkering and a bit of tinkering with several greens and tee boxes. For instance, the fourth hole has been shortened to a 300-yard par-four that dares big hitters to try and reach or get near the putting surface with driver. But bunkers are littered about the landscape and the green is elevated. The overall renovations gave the existing holes more visual character and challenge.
Barry Wilson, brother of owner Lisa Wilson-Foley, said the new holes upgrade the facility and allow it to compete with other clubs in the area.
“We felt we needed to alter the course to add a new luster to it and put more challenge into the existing holes. There have been some great new public courses come on line in the last few years in the area and we needed to upgrade our facility to appeal to more golfers.”
“I think the new holes fit nicely into the existing 18,” said Wilson. “They are very playable off the tee but challenging if you step back to the tips. The first hole will be 486 yards from the back markers. Kay and Smith did a great job with the routing and the greens are fantastic. They have some slope to them but they aren’t gimmicky. We didn’t rush into this, but took time and had a vision for what we wanted this club to be.”
He added that the new holes will enhance the club as a site for charity tournaments and will free up tee times during busy weekends and holidays. There are hopes that the new holes and lengthening of some of the existing ones will also attract interest from professional and major amateur tournament organizers. The course hosted a women’s Futures Tour event for several years before the tourney was moved to Gillette Ridge.
Depending upon which nines are used, the track can be stretched to around 7,000 yards and be a true championship test.
Said Kay of the new holes, “I try to create a golf course that when played from the proper tees allows a higher-handicapper to break 100 and makes it difficult for a good player to break 75. I like to set up a hole strategically not just for the single digit handicapper but also for someone like my father, who is 86 and can still play. I want people to be able to see the hole unfold in front of them with no hidden tricks and be able to think their way to the green.
“There are several sets of criteria when we build a new course or renovate an existing one,” said Kay. “We talk about safety, functionality, strategic shot values and playability. By functionality I mean how the course drains and making big tee boxes, things that allow the superintendent to do the best job he can. Playability means creating a course that everyone can play, and that means seniors, juniors, women and the club champ.”
Kay thinks a good public course such as Blue Fox Run should also be memorable and leave the player wanting more.
“The greens, especially, should be memorable. I always try to incorporate a variety of greens into my golf courses so that people can remember them. You do that be creating different levels or by placing a ridge in the green. You can place the bunkers and mounding surrounding the greens in a strategic way.”
Smith, based in Eastchester, New York, has worked with Kay since 1990. He was largely responsible for the design of the new holes at Blue Fox Run and the extensive bunker renovations and upgrades at Timberlin Golf Club in Berlin, Ct. He said the new holes at Blue Fox Run were designed to create a homogeneous feel with the 18 existing holes.
“Because some of the new holes were going to be merged with holes on the existing course, we first undertook some bunker work on the old course so that there would be a seamless look and feel. Two of the new holes are tree-lined, one hole has a very large pond that affects how players approach it, and the other six holes are routed on an old farm field and therefore have a links feel to them.”
He added, “We looked at all the other golf courses in the Hartford area and we wanted to do something that was different and stood out. We decided to make a course that did not look old but also did not look brand new.”
Blue Fox Run Golf Course