just keep on coming for Connecticut and New England golfers.
Fast on the heels of the openings of the acclaimed Wintonbury Hills and Gillette Ridge golf courses, came the resort course at Lake of Isles in North Stonington this spring. Now a new gem is set to be open in Oxford, The Golf Club at Oxford Greens.
Designed by Mark Mungeum of Cornish, Silver and Mungeum, 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.
Mungeum was careful to not overwhelm the player with an undue amount of hazards. Yes, 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.
Mungeum also incorporated a large degree of risk-reward into Oxford Greens. A second play of the track will allow 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.
When myself and playing partner, Anthony Ponte, arrived at the course in late May the finishing touches were still being put to the clubhouse and course. We only had the opportunity to play the back nine, as the front side was being tidying up for an anticipated late June opening. But general manager Steve Keating (Billy Casper Golf is managing the club) allowed us to tour the font side and play the back.
Both sides are full of great holes, both visually and in shot value. Number two is a long par three that has a pond guarding the left and back sides of the green, which sits well below the teeing area.
Number three will the longest, and perhaps toughest, par-five in the state, said affable course superintendent, Brian Barrington, who was at Red Tail Golf Club in Ayer, Mass. for that layout’s grow-in. The hole stretches 630 yards from the tips and it will play even longer because it winds its way up the side of a hill.
The front side ends with another great par-three that will be 221 yards from the tips. The shot is across a ravine to a long, narrow putting surface.
Our playing round started with a 562-yard par five that tumbles down a hill to a large green protected by woods on both sides.
Number 11 is a nice little 374-yard par-four that calls for a strategically placed tee shot in front of fairway bunkers, which will set up a short iron to a sloping green. I was rewarded for smart play with birdie.
Again, the par-threes on the back side of Oxford Greens are a strength. Especially the 170-yard 16th, where the shot must be true to avoid bunkers right and a steep slope to the left side of the deep green.
Number 17 is a 525-yard par-five reachable in two by the big hitters (Tony is a five-handicapper and almost got onto the putting surface with two lusty shots). And the 458-yard par-four 18th is a super finishing hole. A bunker guards the middle of the fairway near the landing area, forcing the player to choose an aim left or right of the trap. The second shot is downhill to a large green.
Tony and I played from what will be called the “championship” tees, the second set down, and we had enough of a challenge to keep us interested while being able to play well enough to thoroughly enjoy our mini-round, shooting one-over and four-over respectively.
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.
The course, especially the side we played, was is amazingly good condition, especially given the fact that it was seeded only a year ago.
“We’re very pleased with the way the course has progressed,” said Barrington. “I think we have a wonderful layout here and Mungeum really did his best to make it a fun, playable course for all golfers.”
We agreed. The Golf Course at Oxford Greens is aesthetically and technology pleasing. The conditioning, we are sure, will be as good on the front side as it was on the back nine. The fairways are tight, allowing for significant roll on tee shots. The greens--unlike some new tracts where one must tolerate rock hard greens that reject even well placed shots--are very receptive to approach shots. There is some undulation on the putting surfaces, which will be kept medium to slightly fast in speed.
A clubhouse is in the process of being completed, and there will be a full driving range and teaching area as well as a 15,000-square foot practice green and chipping range.
The Golf Club at Oxford Greens will surely take its place among the great new layouts that have opened in New England in recent years.
Prices will be extremely reasonable for such a good layout, and the public will be able to take advantage of special twilight rates Monday through Thursday.
For further information,
call 203-888-1600 or