(Drumroll please) ... The O'Neill top 5
Last week I gave you five of my top 10 personal favorites among the roster of golf courses in our fair state. My list, just like yours should be, is one of total individual preference based on my own subjective feelings about the golf experiences. I would love to hear from fellow golfers who have an opinion or two about their rankings or the deficiency of mine.
Anyway, here goes my top five:
5. Ridgewood CC-Danbury. I first saw the course when caddying for Kevin Shea in the Connecticut Open and my first thought was, “why don’t they let us take carts?”
But even huffing and puffing over the rolling hills of this up and down track couldn’t deter us from seeing the best of this Deveraux Emmett design. Emmett, by the way, was the architect for the formidable Wee Burn CC, No. 8 on my personal list, and for Congressional Country Club, the site of this year’s U.S. Open. Ridgewood holds up to the pedigree nicely with lots of shot values and green complexes that make the short game a top priority, especially when the greens feature speeds akin to the linoleum on your kitchen floor. It is a test, but fun to play and one I could play over and over again.
4. Shuttle Meadow CC-Kensington. About seven years ago, Wayne and I played a practice round at Shuttle Meadow under conditions that have yet to be replicated anywhere else.
The greens that day were the best I had ever played on anywhere. Ever. Period. They were smooth and lightning fast and when married to the interesting, short (6,329 from the tips) course designed by the great Willie Park nearly a century ago, well, it was the kind of golf I love to play and the course quickly became a favorite of mine.
The course lost some of its cachet when the greens went sour a few years later and while they have mostly recovered, they have never gotten back to where they were during that time. But the course is still terrific to play and the place has one other great advantage. The Head Professional at Shuttle Meadow is Tim Gavronski, formerly of the Black Hall Club, and currently the epitome of what a club professional should be. He is a true class act, and always adds to the pleasure of being at Shuttle Meadow.
3. Wampanoag CC-West Hartford. This Donald Ross jewel is just filled with diversity; elevation changes, contour, water, interesting green complexes, and the appropriate mixture of length and precision. There are some burly par fours here coupled with some of the more interesting short fours you could find. The five pars are different from one another and everything seems to flow naturally on the course, rather a typical and endearing feature of Ross designs. Wampy is generally well conditioned, although it can get wet at times but nothing can keep you from having an enjoyable day here, except for the inevitable three-jack at the most inopportune time. I love playing Wampy. So will you.
2. Wethersfield CC-Wethersfield. When I was a young boy in the 1950’s, my father would take me each year to the Insurance City Open which was staged annually at Wethersfield CC. The ICO, as it was called was the first of the PGA tournaments to make its way to New England and always drew big crowds who flocked to see the stars of the day attack the short course with the perfect greens.
Eventually even green speeds with jet propulsion couldn’t contain the worlds best and the event was moved to more modern venues, eventually settling in at TPC River Highlands. But I would be happy to play Wethersfield CC every golfing day I can because it suits me to a tee (no pun intended). It’s not overpowering and the par threes are very similar, but I really love playing here and not just for the nostalgia.
1. New London CC-Waterford Go ahead, call me a homer. A chauvinist. Provincial. Whatever. I don’t care. I love it here and I especially love the golf.
I grew up on this golf course and have seen it morph from a pitch-and-putt 12-holer to the modern venue that it is. Once seen as the poor relative of the area, it can stand on its own as a course that has grown into a stern test of golf with greens that will test your nerves and fescue that will test your patience.
Only 6,460 yards, it still plays long from the tips, mainly because the length is subtle and well placed. It has been brought to full flower by the deft hand of Superintendent Dan Rogers and each year it garners more and more compliments from the pros and top amateurs who play in the tournaments staged there. Try it. You’ll like it.
There they are, my top ten. Let me know yours.
Jim O’Neill is a member at New London Country Club.
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