MDM Golf Enterprises Improving the Quality of Public Golf in Connecticut
Matt Menchetti sits in the grille room of Gillette Ridge Golf Club in Bloomfield, the crowning jewel of MDM Golf Enterprises’ Connecticut golf empire.
His cell phone is buzzing and beeping almost constantly, as he fields calls from staff members about one or the other of the courses under the MDM umbrella. Menchetti isn’t annoyed by the interruptions, it’s all part of the job of running one of the Northeast’s fastest growing golf companies.
“It’s just crazy like this every day,” he says, as he holds his hand over the cell phone. It may get even busier in the near future for Menchetti, who founded the firm in 2000.
MDM Golf Enterprises owns as well as manages Gillette Ridge Golf Course, located on the property of the Cigna Corporation’s main headquarters. MDM also manages six other facilities, Laurel View Country Club in Hamden, Long Hill Country Club (formerly East Hartford Golf Club) in East Hartford, Minnechaug Golf Course in Glastonbury, Goodwin Park Golf Course in Hartford, Keeney Park Golf Course in Hartford, and the newest addition the cache, the formerly private Country Club of Woodbridge in Woodbridge.
Menchetti also owns On Course Construction, LLC, a construction firm that has provided renovations and new construction for the MDM courses, as well as some 45 other courses throughout the Tri-State area, including several high-profile properties.
Menchetti isn’t a guy to simply acquire properties or manages them to turn a buck. His company has invested millions of dollars into renovations and upgrades of the layouts it owns and manages, often taking a downtrodden course and bringing it back to a new vitality.
To wit, MDM has invested significant money into Long Hill Country Club and improves the playability and conditioning of the course. Minnechaug Golf Course, once a very average nine-hole layout, is now a finely-conditioned track. Keney Golf Course, designed by Devereux Emmet, who crafted famed Congressional Country Club, site of this year’s U.S. Open, is also receiving a facelift aimed at bringing this former jewel into the light. Ditto for the other Hartford layout, Goodwin Park. Menchetti’s firm spent around a million dollars making alterations to Gillette Ridge Golf Course to make it more player friendly and fair for a variety of golfers, including building one entirely new green complex on the fourth hole. The course features conditions that rival the best private clubs in the state.
Menchetti has added such amenities as brick oven pizza restaurants at Minnechaug and Long Hill, which have become very popular with golfers and non-golfers alike. It’s all about coming up with creative ways to drive business and increase traffic.
While MDM has grown considerably during the past decade, Menchetti is keeping his focus somewhat narrow, at least for now.
He says ,“Our focus is on Connecticut, that’s where we want to grow short term. We have five courses in Hartford County and two in New Haven County. We may look at Massachusetts, Long Island and possibly Rhode Island in the future.”
Menchetti attempts to make his courses accessible for the majority of golfers.
“We feel Gillette Ridge is the best value you can get. It’s $65 for 18 holes with a cart on the weekend and you get a Tour caliber course.”
Menchetti also instituted an MDM Player Card that entitles the holder to reduced rates at all MDM facilities. The card costs just $100.
“One of the biggest reasons we have been able to improve the courses we take over is the fact that we own a golf construction company,” says Menchetti. “That really gives us a leg up on the competition as it cuts down on cost and we don’t have to bring someone in from the outside to do the work.”
Menchetti believes in delegating responsibility. With so many courses under his purview, he simply has to empower his managers to make the right calls.
“I have good managers at all my facilities. It would just be too much for me to run everything on a daily basis. But I do make the final calls and am in communication with my staff at all times.”
Menchetti, a PGA member and former assistant pro at Clinton Country Club, says the current economic landscape places strains on owning and managing golf courses.
“The greens fees are the same as they were in 2006 but the costs are more. That’s why we have to continually improve our products. We were overbuilt with golf courses and we’re going through a cleansing process.”
He adds, “But I’m really pleased with the direction we are going in.”
Here’s a look at MDM owned or operated courses.
As mentioned above, Gillette Ridge Golf Course, an Arnold Palmer Signature layout that sits on property owned by the Cigna Corporation, has undergone alterations that have made the layout more player-friendly, while still retaining its original challenge.
The club has a great restaurant, with an outside dining area that overlooks the 18th hole, arguably the toughest finishing hole in the state, a pro shop and a comprehensive practice facility.
Gillette Ridge plays 7,191 yards from the tips with three other sets of tees. The conditions are impeccable, with tight and finely manicured fairways and greens that only get better and better with each season.
Keney Golf Course in Hartford is a fun track for players of all abilities. The layout plays just over 6,000 yards from the back markers and has a slope of 115. The fairways are somewhat rolling, but Keney is easy to walk and therefore a favorite of those who like to mix a little exercise in with their golf swings.
The 18-hole Goodwin Golf Course in Hartford plays 6,015 yards from the tips and is an ideal layout for mid-handicappers and beginners. It’s also very walkable. The course has a par rating of 68 and a slope rating of 116, which means that it isn’t a piece of cake even though its overall length is on the short side. Designed by Everett Pyle, the Goodwin course opened in 1910.
Nearby in Glastonbury, you will find one of the neatest little nine-hole tracks in the state, Minnechaug Golf Course.
The well-manicured layout is only 2,668 yards from the back markers and plays to a par of 35. But the fairways are narrow and the par-threes demanding. The course features a true island green, a 125-yarder that plays from an elevated tee box.
Long Hill County Club, formerly East Hartford Golf Club, has been taken over by new management and many changes have been made on this Greater Hartford favorite.
The Al Zikorus design plays around 6,000 yards from the tips and has a nice mix of short par-fours that can be attacked with driver, reachable-in-two par-fives and solid par-threes.
Laurel View Country Club in Hamden, Ct. continues to improve and regain its place among the better public layouts in the state. MDM has revitalized the classic Geoffrey Cornish track that is a stern test of playing ability.
The course can be stretched beyond 7,000 yards and features some of the toughest par-fours in the state, like the 479-yard fifth. There’s a pond guarding the right side of the green, which often must be attacked with a long iron or fairway wood. Number nine is 450 yards from the back markers, and climbs up a hill to the putting surface, making the hole play 20 to 30 yards longer than its listed yardage.
The par-fives are on the short side, but they are not pieces of cake. Take the 490-yard 14th, which plays even shorter because it’s downhill off the tee. However, there is a pond in front of the green that must be carried and bunkers guarding the putting surface. The hole is a superb example of a par-five that can be attacked on the second shot ,but bogey or worse waits if you don’t put your approach in the right spot.
The Country of Club of Woodbridge was a private facility that was opened to the public several years ago after the town of Woodbridge purchased the financially strapped property. The conditions are, quite naturally, equal to those found at private clubs. Woodbridge has been a favorite of some of the best players in the state because of its challenging shot values and unique layout.
Woodbridge was designed by Orrin Smith and opened in 1938. Brian Ault did some work on the track in 1986. The well-manicured course is routed over a somewhat hilly terrain and features tree-lined fairways and several water hazards.
For more information about MDM Golf Enterprises and the courses it owns and manages, visit www.MDMGolf.com.