...out of 4 GT logos, with a possible upward revision pending a future review.
Observations on Course Management/Track Acumen:
Pro Shop/19th: Best way to sum it up is that it fits the course, regardless of whether or not it used to be a chicken coop.
In summary, Chanticlair was a bit of a surprise. If you've got some hang-ups about course layout aesthetics, this may not be the place for you, but it has a pretty good "Tracker feel" to it and the conditions are deceptively good for a Track that, to the casual passerby, has all the curb appeal of a building gutted by fire.
Water Hazards: Only one pond to speak of and that one is pretty well disguised, at least from the 4th tee, where it matters. It may look like there's a lot of greenery beyond the guardrail on the 4th hole, but it's not quite enough to hit from (plunk).
The "brooks" that run throughout the course are more accurately described as "runoff channels," a collection of French drains and 12" diameter pipe to unswampify the area. We like it. (for comparison purposes, check the Coventry Pines review)
The best example of Chanticlair's "tee box beautification program" was on the 8th (pictured above); probably the tee box with the most wear and tear, it was also the one with the most plants surrounding it. We respect that the maintenance folks at Chanticlair have recognized that maintaining grass on the tee boxes is an unwinnable battle and have focused their attention elsewhere.
The favorite tee box, hands down, was #5; elevated enough to afford those with Track Acumen an opportunity to hit with enough topspin to hit into the pond extending from the 4th in front of the 5th tee and skim out with three skips along the surface. Outstanding.
Fairways/Rough: Fairways at a Track so heavily billed as "deplorable" had no business having so much grass. As opposed to other Goat Tracks we play, there was some incentive to actually keep the ball in the fairway, for the sheer and unusual enjoyment of hitting an approach shot from a good lie.
There's not much to the rough at Chanticlair and we liked how the tree lines got a bit more dense over the middle holes. Overall, the tree lines are pretty manageable for those who prefer to hit their approach shots from the next fairway, which rewards the "grip & rip" approach many Goat Trackers favor.
Bunkers: Scattered and not numerous enough to be either annoying or problematic. One good aspect of Chanticlair's bunkers is that, because the course isn't loaded with them, you can truly appreciate the few you do see. The largest among them was probably the one at the right greenside at #7. They were classic GT bunkers, in the sense that they were fairly shallow. We didn't get to sample many, but in short, they were pleasantly surprising because: there was something vaguely resembling sand in them; it didn't take a lot of time to pick out the pebbles near one's ball before blasting out; and they were fairly easy to hit out of. Then again, the review of the bunkers may be somewhat tainted by recently watching "adventures in the sand" at the Open at Turnberry, i.e., "listen to the echo of your own profanity while you're in the trap," half expecting someone to yell down into the bunker, "it puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again."
Greens: For what it's worth, some truth in advertising. Chanticlair's website claims they're making improvments and these were easily in the top tier of greens played by the GT review folks this year in terms of "puttability." The exception was #8, with bare spots around the edges, but if you're putting from the fringe, you deserve what you get. The two-tiered green on #3 was impressive, but it did not...repeat not...refute the First Universal Truth of Goat Track Putting (if you need some clarification and/or perspective on this, you can check "The Costanza Constant" section of the GOAT TRAQ FAQ page or #6 on the front 9 of the Goat Tracker Survey).
For now, we'll rate Chanticlair a respectable...
Reeds on the walk to the first tee; reeds and cattails throughout the course; always a sign of good Goat Tracking terrain.
Boundaries: Chanticlair was much different than we expected, based on our experiences at other "East of the River" Tracks, mainly because it was pretty much boulder-free. We were surprised to find that this Track didn't have enough rocks on site to build a replica of The Great Wall of China, as did The Skunk, Triggs, and Brooklyn CC. The Lincoln Log-inspired buffer on the first hole distinguishes Chanticlair from other Tracks in eastern CT in that regard.
Tee Boxes: Hammered and beaten nearly to a pulp, just how we like 'em; then again, you don't have to hit off the grass, so no big deal. They were surprisingly level, which made things somewhat less challenging than we had hoped. One of the most noticeable features was the flower beds on the front corners of the red tees.
We weren't quite sure what to expect from Chanticlair, based on the "ringing endorsements" noted above, but fortunately after traveling about 20 miles from Hartford on Route 2 (which ultimately leads to the Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun casinos, the shore, etc), we were able to both develop and discard our preconceptions en route.
Chanticlair is a surprisingly easy course to find, thanks to some unexpected signage just off the exit on Route 2 (the course is about two miles from the exit). While we're fans of obscure, difficult to find, "where's Waldo?" Tracks like Fenwick and Airways, sometimes, after you've logged enough highway miles, you'd like the adventure to be on the course, as opposed to on the way to it. Chanticlair succeeds here. A partially-hidden rustic sign, the remnants of a paved parking lot...it just seems to say, "welcome home, Tracker, where have you been?" A great GT feel right off the bat.
General Layout: Chanticlair is a 9-hole course with tee box signs set up to make it look like an 18-hole course. As a change of pace, at the inaugural visit to this Track we decided not to ask where the first tee was before wandering out of the pro shop. After seeing tee signs for #1 and #10 posted at nearby tee boxes, it took a moment or two to realize that the white tees are the "front 9" and the blue tees are the "back 9" (for women, we think it's red on the "front," gold on the "back"). The effort to keep the 18-hole illusion alive with separate tee signs was impressive.
Chanticlair GC, Colchester (reviewed July, 2009)
Chanticlair was recommended to Goat-Track.com by one of our readers during the Tracking off season, which we greatly appreciated. Steve made an intriguing pitch, part of which was "the clubhouse used to be a chicken coop, back when the land was a farm." That definitely caught our attention and seemed to put the course squarely in the proverbial Goat Tracker wheelhouse. In an attempt to confirm Steve's assessment, we sought out an opinion from our "East of the River Tracking Expert," Ornery Bob, who in his uniquely succinct way offered, "I haven't played it, but I've heard that it's a steaming pile." That pretty much clinched it; Chanticlair had to be reviewed.