It’s been a great summer at The University Club in Willimantic, Ct., with steady play and the club hosting a number of outings and events at a dining and banquet facility.
The club is in its second existence, as it as transitions nicely from the Willimantic Country Club to The University Club after former University of Connecticut star and National Basketball Association player Donnie Marshall, along with business partners Chuck and Joe Grodovich, bought the facility in 2009.The club has become a haven for UConn alumni, staff and student-athletes, as well as daily fee golfers who enjoy the friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
The new owners are attempting to pattern their club after the University Club in Kentucky, where staff, coaches, players and alumni of that school enjoy two fabulous courses called The Wildcat and Big Blue.
The Connecticut club currently has over 200 members, although it remains semi-private and has tee times available to the general public certain times of the week. Individuals do not have to be UConn alumni or affiliated with the school to purchase a membership.
There’s a renovated clubhouse on premises and course conditions have improved dramatically with the addition of superintendent John LaBrie, formerly of Gillette Ridge Golf Club in Bloomfield, Ct., and his staff.
The club first opened in 1922 and was maintained as a private facility until only a few years ago when it was opened to the public. The putting surfaces are medium in size with some undulation. They roll true and reward good approach shots with makeable birdie opportunities. The rough areas are kept at a height to punish wayward tee shots but still allow players to advance the ball to the greens with a good swing.
The course calls for crisp tee shots in order to find fairways that are often lined with mature trees, some hanging over the edges of fairways and complicating approach shots to the greens.
The University Club has a nice mix of holes, ranging from short to long par-fours, reachable par-fives and demanding par-threes, the latter being a strength of the track.
The first hole is a 376-yard par-four that plays uphill from the fairway landing area to a green protected by bunkers.
The second hole is a fun, 287-yard par-four that offers several options off the tee. Big hitters can try and reach the putting surface but the wise play is a long iron to set up a wedge into a green protected by high-faced bunkers left and right.
The back nine is a true shot maker’s paradise. There’s the little 120-yard par-three 10th that plays uphill to a green hidden from view, the 292-yard par-four 12th that has water guarding the front of the green, which makes going for the putting surface with a driver risky, and the really tough 433-yard 14th.
The 17th hole is another long par-four, measuring 430 yards from the tips and a four here is a good score indeed. The back nine ends with a 220-yard par-three that plays downhill. When the wind blows in your face, you might even pull driver from the bag to reach the green on the finisher.
The University Club
North Windham, Ct.