Banner Country Club...and Resort, Moodus (home of the "Moodus Noises," course reviewed August, 2009)
Banner Country Club...and Resort was recommended to Goat-Track.com by one of our readers back in February. Steve's pitch was flawless, "Don't let the name fool you...it can be a real treat any time of year, but I recommend mid-July. No water on the course other than the greens. Tee boxes harder than the ground in Texas." How could we pass up such an opportunity?
The Goat-Track.com Review of Banner Country Club...and Resort
Signage: Nothing short of ridiculous to a seasoned Goat Tracker. Starting with the paired stone columns at the entrance, similar to what we saw at Goddard Park, (which we thought were pretty cool), just a bit more pretentious here. "Entering Banner Estates." Puhleezze. Using a football analogy, other than Stashu, and to a certain extent Blue Fox Run, we're hard-pressed to think of another course that's oukicked its coverage more than Banner.
Tee Boxes: An "unqualified disaster," i.e., displaying good Goat Track characteristics. That said, they were flat for the most part, which we didn't expect; with much more grass than expected (crabgrass counts); and not quite as "firm" as previously advertised. "Unqualified disaster" may seem to be a bit of a harsh assessment; anyone disputing the GT Review Panel is welcome to do their own field research. We verified that there is irrigation on some of the tee boxes, contrary to previous info gathered. On a fair number of holes, the challenge lay in finding a spot to tee up where the grass wasn't higher then the ball. Impressive.
The most amusing aspect of the tee boxes was that the ladies' tees seemed to be subject to random placement, since they were all on flat areas and the height of the grass on and around them seemed pretty much the same. Much like like pin placement, their location seems to be entirely dependent on what kind of mood the groundskeeper's in that morning, just a matter of moving the painted cedar markers. A brilliant course design feature, as far as we can tell.
Fairways/Rough: Good luck distinguishing between the two if you haven't honed this skill at another certified Goat Track. They're kind of a cross between Brooklyn CC and Keney in that regard. Friar Tuck made the observation on the first hole that we'd probably need to be open for some "creative interpretations" on preferred lies, even moreso than usual. The Banner aficionado definitely has an edge playing the course, if he can use his Track Acumen and familiarity with the course to run his shots into the dead spots, which are generally preferable to hit from. Banner earns the distinction for being the Track with the most plentiful crabgrass that we've played in 2009, possibly even eclipsing the efforts Goddard Park earlier this summer, The Tradiition-Windsor in 2008, and Airways in 2007. We didn't think it was possible, but as Rabbit Ears likes to say, "It's good to be surprised."
Bunkers: What one would generally expect at a Goat Track in terms of design, depth, placement, and number. Pretty much rock-free and they looked like they had been power-raked by the maintenance folk(s). It was nearly hypnotic looking into the uniformly grooved surfaces on some. Whoa... duuuuuude... Nice touch.
Greens: Not the most interesting we've played this year, but definitely in the conversation. A good, inconsistent mix of conditions, representative of the course in general. Some with well-cropped crabgrass, some with a fringe, some without, some spring-loaded, some with more grass than others, etc.; all in all, quintessential Goat Track putting conditions. Of course they were break-free, as "Universal Truth #1" dictates. We also appreciated the two-tiered green on #4.
Track Maintenance: Borrowing a term from Sherpa JB's review of Airways, "rustic shape" is the tip of the iceberg at Banner. The only reason we're commenting on it here is that the groundskeeper approached us in the parking lot after our round (trying to track down the "deer hunters" out on the course [more on that later]) and he seemed vexed. We were perplexed by his stress level, as it seemed that groundskeeper at Banner Country Club...and Resort was about as close to a "no show job" as one could hope to find.
Irrigation...or irritation: We've played through the sprinklers on numerous occasions, possibly hundreds, since most of our best Goat Tracking has often been done just before dark, if not under cover of darkness.
When the sprinklers get turned on, it just goes with the territory, but this was the first time we've ever been on a tee box when the maintenance guru stepped up to turn on the sprinklers while we were teeing off (#12). "Don't worry about it, just relieving some water pressure." As we were finishing up on the 14th, the pressure was still being relieved. Something of a WTF moment. It was good to play Banner Country Club...and Resort if for no other reason than because it allowed us to update Steve's original reporting on the irrigation situation. We especially liked that the sprinkler heads kept the greenside bunkers at #16 exceptionally moist. Well done. (pictured at right, the "pump house" near the 16th; generally we, as Goat Trackers, prefer a pump house that we can ping a shot off of, but no such luck here; another clever course design feature.
"The Deer Hunter": Friar Tuck insisted that we include something about this episode in the review and he was right in doing so. It all started on #12, when after we made our way off the freshly-watered tee box, we noticed a doe munching away in the woods at the turn in the dogleg. The doe, possibly sensing our Track Cred, seemingly gave us a thumbs up (or it would have, if hooves had thumbs), as we peacefully coexisted on our way to double bogey. As we started to circle back on #16, we nocited that the doe, feeling comfortable that there were Sherpa-esque Goat Trackers on the course, brought her fawns out for a jaunt, crossing in front of the 16th green and behind the 17th tee. Apparently that caught the attention of the group ahead of us, as they went "off road" chasing the three deer into parts unknown. As Goat Trackers, we have all prided ourselves on the stupid things we've done with golf carts at one time or another, but this just didn't sit right. Not good Goat Tracker form from our perspective.
We don't want to give the wrong impression or appear callous, but the groundskeeper's concern (when he ran into us in the parking lot, as noted above) that the "deer hunters," with their "reckless cart abandon," were going to undo any major improvements on the course, was kind of funny, at a minimum. If we noticed that they had driven on a green, we'd be the first to club them. We'd also have eagerly clubbed them if there were a wounded deer on the course.
Pro Shop: "Screw the course, it's all about the pro shop," or so the mantra appears to be at Banner Country Club...and Resort. We gained a newfound respect for Brooklyn CC and Chanticlair after walking into this impeccable facility; the proverbial "frosting on a piece of wood (that doesn't make it a cake)," as one of the founding fathers of the GHO (Greater Hick Open) has often said. Apparently the pro shop at Banner CC needed to maintain a certain appearance to blend in with the fairly new housing development at the bottom of the hill, which as Friar Tuck noted, was quasi-southern plantation in appearance, at least based on the slightly shaded regal columns facing the course on the 10th. The pro shop, in addition to the stone columns at the entrance and the new split rail fence along the roadside approaching the parking lot, may lead or mislead one to think he's not on the verge of a quintessential Goat Tracking experience. Guess again.
Gazebo? After putting the whole pro shop thing into context, this was somewhat predictable and/or understandable, but still... Who in their right mind would want to host a function in the landing zone in the pond on the 10th hole (aside from some Trackers with a 55-gallon drum of mosquito repellent and a 30-pack or two at their disposal)? The placement of the gazebo, near the "Banner Estates" bordering the course made sense, but just barely. We didn't get close enough to check, but we're pretty sure this thing gets pinged pretty frequently on weekends, possibly intentionally ("flip me another ball, I think that one missed it, this is definitely not a mulligan"); we're surprised that the ornamental parts of the gazebo haven't been completely wrecked by "errant" Top Flites. This aspect of the course set-up went a long way to explaining the m.o. that makes Banner Country Club...and Resort tick.
In Summary, Banner Country Club...and Resort gets a rating of out of four GT logos. Unless you're trying to justify your drive time to the scenic southeastern portion of Connecticut, there's no real need to play more than 9 holes on any single Tracking excursion here; if you're trying to spend a couple of extra hours "off the marital grid," that's another story, entirely.
While it most definitely possesses the "playability attributes" that we look for in a Goat Track, there are some odd Track characteristics that somewhat detract from Banner's overall "Track Charm." We do; however, appreciate the Spackler-esque approach to maintenance; just a loose cannon with a cart, chasing down kids chasing deer. You just can't beat that for sheer Goat Tracking Entertainment Value.