We have to chuckle when someone tells us in late summer or early autumn that the golf season is over. Come again?
Heck, the best time of the year to play golf is autumn, when the temperatures have moderated, the crowds have to a large extent dissipated, the courses are in super condition because of the cooler weather, and greens fees have been adjusted downward.
The great thing about living in the state the size of Connecticut is that no golf course is more than a two-hour drive, no matter where you call home. So, please don’t put the sticks away. There are still at least two or three months left to enjoy these Nutmeg Nuggets.
Top Layouts in the Greater Hartford Area
Blue Fox Run Golf Course in Avon has 27 holes after a new nine was added a couple of years ago. 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
Down the road from Blue Fox about two well hit drivers is Tower Ridge Country Club in Simsbury. The course is one of the most unique layouts in the state, with a feel more like that of a northern New England track. The layout has several dramatic elevation changes as it winds up and down steep hills, with fabulous views and challenging shots.
The fourth hole is a scenic 385-yard par-four that demands an accurate tee shot to find a narrow landing area that sits between a pond and a wetland area. The approach is to an elevated green with the flag partially hidden from sight.
One of the best-conditioned, player-friendly tracks in Connecticut is Rockledge Golf Club in West Hartford.
The relatively flat layout that sits in a beautiful parkland setting is approachable for all levels of players, challenging for the better golfer.
Rockledge has a number of very good holes, ranging from short par-fours, like the 290-yard second and 317-yard 11th, where birdies await, to classic risk/reward par-fives. The par-five 14th measures 528 yards from the tips and big hitters can think about going for the green in two because the tee shot will tumble down a slight hill. The green is guarded by a lone tree and bunkers to the left and rear and a pond well below the putting surface to the right, which makes going for it in two a gamble.
The 27-hole Stanley Golf Course in New Britain has long been considered one of the premier daily fee facilities in Connecticut. With three distinct nines to select from and some of the best conditions in the Greater Hartford area, Stanley has a dedicated following among the state’s golfers.
The White Nine is a friendly track that has a nice mix of holes. The 330-yard par-four sixth hole and 123-yard par-three seventh conspire to offer wonderful back-to-back birdie opportunities.
The Red Course is as friendly as the White nine, with no par-four over 388 yards from the back markers and two par-fives that can be reached in two. But the 233-yard second hole is perhaps the toughest short hole on the course.
The Blue Course is a very fair, tougher routing that has two strong par-fives and one of the most demanding par-fours at the club, the 434-yard seventh that has a pond guarding the right side of the green.
Rolling Meadows Country Club in Ellington is only 15 years old and has become a favorite for its challenge, interesting routing and solid conditions. The course plays 6,818 yards from the tips and offers two distinct nines; the front side is open and rolling befitting its name, while the back side is a bit more tree-lined with uneven lies. This is a true shot maker’s course that has little water on it, with the exception of the 350-yard par-four second hole that has the wet stuff protecting the left side all the way to the green, the very good 195-yard par-three third that demands a tee shot across a pond, and the fourth hole, a 523-yard par-five that has a pond to the right of the fairway. By the way, the par-fives are all reachable in two for the big hitters.
Blackledge Country Club in Hebron is one of the state’s few 36-hole public facilities and is nestled in the scenic central Connecticut countryside.
The club features two distinct 18-hole layouts, Anderson’s Glen, known as “The Old Course,” which was designed by architect Geoffrey Cornish and opened in 1963, and Gilead Highlands, known by many as “The New Course,” designed by architect Mark Mungeam and opened in the spring of 2000. Both courses are consistently rated among the top choices by golfers in the Greater Hartford area.
Over the years, Blackledge has played host to a number of top tournaments, including the Connecticut State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Qualifier, the Connecticut Women’s Amateur Championship, the Southern New England Women’s Golf Association Tournament of Champions, and The U.S. Kids State Championship.
Manchester Country Club in Manchester opened in 1917 and was designed by two early 20th century course architects, Tom Bendelow and Devereux Emmett, the latter creating the famed Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
Manchester features superb conditions and bunkers placed strategically around the fairway landing areas and putting surfaces, which puts a premium on accuracy both off the tee and on approaches to the medium-sized greens.
The course plays only 6,339 yards from the tips and has a par of 72, but the slope of 128 gives you an idea about the challenge you will face here. There are some elevation changes and water comes into play on several holes.
Central Connecticut Gems
Quarry Ridge Golf Club, located on the slopes of the Connecticut River valley in Portland, offers some of the best vistas in Connecticut.
This is a true shot-maker’s delight, with dramatic elevation changes, an interesting mix of long and short holes and tricky greens. The course is regularly listed among the best in Connecticut and conditions are always top-notch.
The course plays just 6,369 yards from the back tees but it’s all about proper club selection and accurate shots at Quarry Ridge. Perhaps the best long hole on the course is the 509-yard, par-five fourth. The green is reachable in two, but there’s a hazard down the left side and a pond behind the putting surface.
Pine Valley Golf Club in Southington, an Orrin E. Smith designed track, is a course that won’t beat you up and is only a little over 6,300 yards from the tips. But a number of the holes are tree-lined and dogleg either right or left, which places a premium on accuracy off the tee.
One of the best risk-reward holes you will find anywhere is the 311-yard par-four sixth. You have a decision to make on the tee box; whether to take a mid-iron and lay up in front of a pond or take driver out and attempt to work the ball along a small portion of the fairway to the left of the water.
Timberlin Golf Club in Berlin has been long appreciated for its pleasant, park-like routing and playability for all levels of golfers.
It was given a facelift three years ago in the form of new bunker complexes, fairway and green complex work, an effort led by noted golf course architects Stephen Kay and Doug Smith. The course is kept in immaculate condition and the renovations added a few more teeth to this scenic track, originally designed by Al Zikorus.
The course stretches to 6,722 yards from the back markers and has water that comes into play on a number of holes, mostly on the back nine. While not overly long (there are seven par-fours under 400 yards in length), Timberlin demands proper placement of the ball off the tee and accuracy to hit the medium-sized greens. A number of the greens are elevated, which further complicates matters.
A Coastal Nugget
Orange Hills Country Club in Orange is one of the toughest and best-conditioned public courses around. It’s is also a stringent test of playing ability.
The 6,409-yard track may be on the short side but it has plenty of bite. The front nine is rather flat, while the back side owns up to the course’s name, with a number of elevated tees and greens and rolling fairways that test a player’s shot making and club selection. The greens can be tough.
Head East for Great Golf
North Windham’s The University Club of Connecticut is a haven for present UConn students, athletes, coaches and officials as well as alumni. The club is semi-private and has tee times available to the general public certain times of the week.
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. Thus, the conditions are very good for a daily fee facility and well worth the modest greens fees. 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 that somewhat punishes wayward tee shots but still allows you to advance the ball to the greens with a good swing.
The course demands precision off the tee, as mature trees line many of the holes. There is a pleasing mix of holes, ranging from short to long par-fours, reachable par-fives and demanding par-threes, the latter perhaps the strength of the track.
Connecticut National Golf Club in Putnam is an 18-hole, par-71, course located in what is described as “The Quiet Corner” of the state.
The original 6,169-yard design opened in 1994 as Putnam Country Club. In 2007 the club was purchased by Jim Dandeneau and Brad Rabitor, and since has gone through a complete redesign by golf architect Mark Mungeam, which added over 700 yards to its length. There are 44 bunkers, a complete dual row irrigation system, new drainage, five acres of additional fairway and rough and extensive earth movement, which created an entirely new look and feel. The course now offers an enjoyable challenge from 5,800 to over 6,900 yards.
Elmridge Golf Club in Pawcatuck is solid public golf. The prices are affordable and the three nines are eminently playable for golfers of all abilities.
The par-fours are on the short side, most measuring between 340 and 370 yards from the middle tees, but a number of them are dogleg designs, which complicate matters off the tee. The par-threes are good of the layout and several measure close to or over 200 yards. One of the best par-fives on the course is the 525-yard (back tees) seventh on the Blue Course. The hole bends slightly to the right and a good drive will leave you with a shot to go for the green in two. But there are bunkers guarding the putting surface and the green is elevated.
The only par-five on the Red, the 501-yard fourth, is reachable in two for big hitters, and the ninth hole, a 278-yard par-four, has a green attainable with a lusty drive.
Designed in 1958 by the late Wendell Ross, Pequot Golf Club in Stonington has been played by such greats of the game as Jack Nicklaus, who in 1966 set the “official” course record of 65 that still stands today.
Pequot’s par 70, 18-hole layout challenges players of all skill levels and is an enjoyable track routed through mature woodlands The semi-private course measures 5,903 yards from the longest tees, has a slope rating of 118 and a 68.7 USGA rating. The course features two sets of tees for different skill levels.
Blackledge Country Club
Blue Fox Golf Course
Connecticut National Golf Club Putnam, www.CtNationalGolf.com
Elmridge Golf Club
Manchester Country Club Manchester,
Orange Hills Country Club
Pequot Golf Club
Pine Valley Golf Course
Quarry Ridge Golf Club
Rockledge Country Club
West Hartford, www.GolfRockledge.com
Rolling Meadows Country Club
Stanley Golf Course
New Britain, www.StanleyGolf.com
Timberlin Golf Club
The University Club of Connecticut
North Windham, www.UClubCt.com
Tower Ridge Country Club