It’s a new era for Gillette Ridge Golf Club in Bloomfield, CT.
That is evident if you talk to owner Matt Menchetti, who also owns the bustling MDM Golf and On Course Construction companies based in Hamden, Ct. Menchetti’s eyes light up when he tells you about the changes he is making to Gillette Ridge, a superb Arnold Palmer Company-designed course that sits on land formerly owned by the nearby Cigna Corporation. With $1 million of a $2 million master plan in renovations in place, Gillette Ridge is more player-friendly, while still retaining the challenge that the routing was originally imbued with.
“The talk was always great course but too hard, said Menchetti, whose fast-rising company recently completed a stunning renovation of the private Patterson Club in Fairfield, Ct. “We listened to our customers and decided we had to make some changes. The ultimate goal is to keep the course challenging based upon its yardage and several forced carries, but to make it less penal and create bailout areas. We aren’t changing the original Palmer design that much, just tweaking things here and there to make it better for more players.”
Much if the work has already been completed, such as removing bunkers near the green on the 431-yard third hole to allow for run-up shots, removing bunkers to the rear of the 365-yard par-four sixth hole to make it easier for players to get up and down if they miss the putting surface, and removing bunkers in front of the 430-yard 10th hole that accomplished the same goal.
Bunkers have also been removed on the 447-yard par-four ninth to create a chipping area to the left of the green, and to the left front of the 431-yard 16th hole to create another chipping area. Tall trees to the right side of the 426-yard dogleg right first hole have been taken down, allowing players hitting their tee shots a bit short to still have a shot at the green.
In addition, a large chipping area is being constructed to the left rear portion of the 577-yard par-five 17th hole’s green to allow players to go for the putting surface in two and not be so severely penalized if they miss the target. Before, a shot slightly off line tumbled down into a wooded area.
One of the most dramatic changes the course is undergoing is on the 182-yard par-three fourth hole. A new, wider green has been constructed and the putting surface pushed away from a steep incline that leads to a wetlands area. The previous green was extremely narrow and shots that just missed the mark, or even hit the green on the left side, often bounced down into the wetlands.
“That was the worst of the problems,” said Menchetti. “People would basically make sure they hit the ball short if anything, chip it up and be happy with a four. That’s not the way a par-three should be played.” He spent $150,000 on the new green complex alone. The area was entirely sodded with bent grass.
Other changes are in store, such as a reworking of all the course’s bunkers and the removal of a few to create chipping areas near greens.
“The chipping areas make the course so much more playable for the higher-handicappers,” said Menchetti. “Now, if they miss the green they can use a putter to get the ball onto the green and make no worse than a bogey. Before, if they found the bunker they could put up big numbers.”
The changes have not only made the course more approachable but also speeded up the pace of play.
“We’re around 4:15 right now,” said Pat Aquaro, the affable director of golf for the club, which also offers a great restaurant and pro shop with a friendly staff and a comprehensive practice facility. “We have heard nothing but positive things about the changes we have made and the consumer is excited about coming here again.”
Tom Roden has been brought over from Minnechaug Golf Course in Glastonbury, Ct. to serve as superintendent and conditions promise to only be further enhanced with the talented groundskeeper’s arrival.
Menchetti said the money being spent on improvements to the course is worth it.
“Our rounds are already up over the same period a year ago. We have a lot of plans for the club. We want to make this a true golfing Mecca and a place where golfers of all abilities will want to come.”
Prices are being held firm, $55 for 18 with cart Monday through Thursday and $65 for 18 and cart on the weekends.
“We think those are very reasonable rates for the quality of golf course we have here,” said Menchetti.
Gillette Ridge plays 7,191 yards from the tips with three other sets of tees and another on the way. A visit to the course is more than just being able to play a great track.
“I always said that Gillette Ridge sits on one of the best pieces of property for a golf course in the state,” said Menchetti.
So, check this gem out. It’s one of the most unique and best tests of golf you’ll find in the region.
Gillette Ridge Golf Club