Recreational golfers will love the changes being made at Gillette Ridge Golf Club in Bloomfield, Connecticut.
While retaining much of the challenge of the Palmer Design layout, the new manager of the layout, Matt Manchetti and MDM Golf, LLC, has made a number of holes more approachable for a wider range of skill levels.
“I wouldn’t say we necessarily softened or made the course easier,” said Pat Aquaro, director of golf at the facility. “What the changes have done to the course is make it more playable for all golfers. The skilled player will still be supremely challenged because you can’t get around the fact that it plays 7,191 yards from the tips. But the average player now has options on playing some of the toughest holes on the course.”
Take the third hole for instance. Bunkers in front and to the immediate right of the par-four’s peninsula green, as well as a large tree on the right side of the putting surface, were removed and a chipping area created. The hole still plays like a beast from the tips and the second shot remains tough, with water left and back of the green. But players hitting short on their second shot can now get up and down or at least make no worse than bogey.
Bunkers to the rear of the par-four fifth hole were removed to create another chipping area, and a large bunker was removed from the front left side of number nine, a long par-four.
High grass that guards a wetland area on the par-four 16th hole was cut down to give the player who hit a good drive that was a tad too long to hold the fairway a chance to reach the green from what is now rough. The fairway was extended in front of the green to give players a chipping area.
More changes are in the offing, including the removal of additional bunkers on several holes. The roundly criticized, overly penal, narrow par-three fourth hole is also being eyed for major changes.
Sure, some forced carries remain at Gillette Ridge, both off the tee and on approach shots to the medium size, undulating putting surfaces. But this imbues Gillette with its challenge, and most of the carries will be hit with a short iron. The fairway landing areas are ample.
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 a slope of 135 and a rating of slightly over 74 from the back markers. Heed this advice; play up if it’s your first time. You’ll enjoy your round to a far greater degree.
The club is also offering extremely reasonable greens fees--$50 for 18 and a cart weekdays, $65 for the same deal on weekends.www.gilletteridgegolf.com