When Connecticut’s bipolar weather begins to turn to the warm side, golfers know the season has arrived. As slicers and duck hookers wait for warmer days: lonely tee boxes, fairways, and greens wait to take a beatdown. While preparing for daunting tee shots, impossible up-and-downs, and three-foot knee-knockers, I winter-demoed five of Central Connecticut’s best public golf courses that you need to play this season.
Goodwin Park Golf Course (Hartford)
Welcome to Goody Gardens, the perfect course for the golfer who lines up for a high draw and hits a hosel-rocket-squirt-fade off the planet. This course is wide open and you can play your ball from two fairways over. This is the perfect course for the above-average golfer who has been playing below-average golf and needs to get confidence back with a low-stress round. For just thirty-three dollars on weekdays and thirty-seven dollars on weekends, players can come play a fun, forgiving golf course. The conditions vary at Goodwin Park; but for the most part, the grass is mowed. You get what you pay for, here. The course opens up with a short par five where par feels like a bogey. Good luck on the second and seventh holes, tee shots end up wet here quite often. The 361-yard par-four second hole requires 200 yards of carry to get over the pond. Don’t come up short on the 147-yard par-three seventh hole, the only thing between the tee box and the green is water. The seventh is Goodwin’s signature hole. The pond is home to an estimated two million waterlogged golf balls and my best friend Hayden’s eight-iron. Goodwin Park is golf in its purest form: cheap, no dress code, friendly workers, a starter that doesn’t know how to look at a tee sheet, and the occasional deer or dog walker in the middle of the fairway.
Gillette Ridge Golf Club (Bloomfield)
In 1956, Arnold Palmer won his second PGA Tour event at Wethersfield Country Club. So, it was only right for him to design a course in the Nutmeg state. Welcome to Gillette Ridge, one of Connecticut’s hardest golf courses, and one of the best. If you are the type of golfer who lines up for a high draw and hits a hosel-rocket-squirt-fade off the planet, this course probably isn’t meant for you. If you’re a sucker for golf course architecture, this is a course you have got to experience. Just under 7200 yards, Gillette is long and tight. It perfectly defines target golf and is a challenge even to low-handicappers. Streams, lakes, elevation changes, and mature trees are all part of this tremendous golf experience. Prices change daily here due to weather, start times, and daylight; but you can usually play a round anywhere from thirty-five dollars up to sixty dollars. Truly a bang for your buck. Gillette Ridge is the type of golf course to make Hayden want to go home on hole seven, but then the next day in class he can’t stop thinking about the course. All he wants to do is go back and play it again. Gillette has no signature hole, as they are all that fascinating. Weekend players try your luck!
Keney Park Golf Course (Hartford)
Welcome to Keney Park, home of some of the most undulated greens in all of Connecticut. Golfers who struggle to putt on flat greens are really going to struggle at Keney. It is another course that golfers just have to experience. One of the most fun golf experiences around, Keney Park’s greens force you to be a creative shot-maker and a good green-reader on almost every hole. Located within Hartford’s Keney Park, when you’re on this golf course you feel completely secluded from the outside world. Surrounded by trees, it’s just you, the course, your buddies, and some brews. Keney Park was closed in August 2014 for a complete course restoration. It opened back up in 2016 and quickly reemerged as one of Connecticut’s best golf courses. USA Today ranked Keney Park Golf Course first among public golf courses in Connecticut. Since reopening, the course has played host to the Connecticut PGA Championship, Hartford Women’s Open, and the National Boy’s and Girl’s Junior PGA Championships. Residents can play the course for thirty-four dollars on weekdays and thirty-six dollars on weekends. Non-resident prices top off at forty-five dollars. A great price for one of the state’s best, most prestigious courses. The numbers speak for themselves. If you live around Central Connecticut, there is no excuse not to come to Keney Park, you won’t be disappointed.
Wintonbury Hills Golf Course (Bloomfield)
Golfweek’s 2018 and 2019 number one best course you can play in Connecticut. Although no longer the top track, this course is still one of the state’s best. Welcome to Wintonbury Hills, a Pete Dye beauty. Yes, that Pete Dye. Famous for creating TPC Sawgrass, TPC River Highlands, Whistling Straits, and many more of the world’s best golf courses, Dye’s Wintonbury Hills has some iconic siblings. A number of the holes here are just like other courses in the state. They’re lined with trees, separated from each other. What makes this course unique is its stretch of links-style holes that you see at just a handful of Connecticut’s courses. If you play on a cloudy day, for a second you may imagine yourself playing in Scotland. This public golf course gives a very private feel. Expect this course to always be in tip-top shape, as it has a pretty high standard to hold. You can play Wintonbury Hills for just thirty-eight dollars, an absolute bargain for a course designed by one of the game’s greatest architects. This course is truly one that you will never get tired of.
Stanley Golf Course (New Britain)
Welcome to Stanley Golf Course, home of my favorite tournament to play in every summer, The Odell Open. A day where if you aren’t in contention after six holes turns into cigars and bottomless Miller Lites. Stanley, much like Goodwin Park, is very accepting and open to all types of golfers and all types of outfits. College students from nearby Central Connecticut State University are known for not replacing their divots; but luckily, Stanley is a well-conditioned golf course. Fairways are mowed tight, and greens are rolled to run true. Stanley is home to twenty-seven holes. Each combination of eighteen holes is no better than the other. Stanley isn’t a very hard golf course, but it also isn’t very easy. Wind always plays a factor on this course; so, pay attention. Having twenty-seven holes, it is almost always available for walk-up play and has a great, newly renovated practice facility. For thirty-nine dollars, Stanley Golf Course is a great place to play eighteen holes at a good price.
Come walk nine, eighteen, or twenty-seven holes with your friends. Don’t blink at Stanley. Golfers never know what they’re going to see, from a golf cart smashed into a car to somebody trying to hit a moon-mistle flop-shot to the top of Costco (If Hayden tells you to blast a fifty-six-degree wedge on top of Costco, don’t do it. They need to put a “don’t hit balls at Costco” sign up). This is a great public golf course that offers great conditions and a really fun layout of holes.
Trevor Piecewicz is a staff writer at Blue Muse Magazine
Header image courtesy of Trevor Piecewicz