Cart Valet: This was downright shocking. Wondered for a moment whether Sherpa JB would think he was playing Wampanoag. Close, but not quite.
Course Condition Minutiae
Sand: Plenty of it; not too many traps though; in fact we saw some that were "reclaimed." Just a lot of sand in the ones that are there, which makes sense, with O&G nearby to supply it. Bunkers are best defined as non-obnoxious and playable; almost an enjoyable experience, really.
Bombs Away (Layout part 1): There are some changes in elevation that may make some par 4's play shorter, but we checked the card...and did a double take. Despite being par 35, the back 9 of the Black Course is nearly as long as the original 9 at Bel Compo (Blue Fox Run, blue course), not a course for sissies. If you're not swingin' it and bringin' it, you may be in for a rough stretch on the back 9 at Ferris Bueller, since 5 of the 6 par 4's clock in at over 400 yards (correction, one is a mere 395).
Layout, continued: Just to refresh our memories that we were playing at a muni, we got a "Fore!" holler when we were on the 8th tee, from the 200+ yard, elevated, par-3 7th tee box. Not too surprising that errant shots would be fired from there. Relieved that there were far fewer shots fired at us on the other holes that would cause one to reflexively protect one's noggin and nutsack than at the Brennan Course in Stamford (as a Fairfield County frame of reference) or other "compact" munis. With all the blind shots on the Black Course (and there are many), one might think there would be an ambulance permanently on call at Ferris Bueller, but no.
... out of 4 GT logos.
Fairchild Wheeler/Ferris Bueller has been on the GT radar for a while. Golfer Number Two first played it back in 1992. "Hardest course I ever played, which shouldn't be confused with most difficult. You couldn't hold the greens there in July with a nerf ball." We got a heads up about ($2mil in) course improvements at "The New and Improved Wheel" from a GT site reader in August, 2009 and have been anxiously awaiting to return to the course ever since. Our frame of reference going into the review may have been biased based on playing the course mid-summer in the early '90's, when it was a true Goat Track and was as hard as an industrial diamond...and oddly enough, located less than a mile from the company, GE, that invented industrial diamonds. Coincidence?
In Summary, it was great to revisit Fairchild Wheeler for the first time in a long time and see for ourselves what the New and Improved Wheel was all about. Fairchild Wheeler seems to be Fairfield County's counterpart to the Hartford County Urban Goat Tracks, Keney and Goodwin, just with better conditions and less crack, which is fine by us.
Ferris Bueller scores very high on the "GT value proposition" scale (at least from Mon. - Thurs.) and the conditions and course design were better than we expected (Golfer Number Two was a little fuzzy on course design based on his last trip there, go figure). In a backhanded compliment/ringing endorsement, the 2008 Goat Tracker of the Year, Wink, offered," If things don't pan out elsewhere, I'll definitely come back here." Translation: "This was pretty darned good; right course, right place, right price." Good pace of play, challenging holes, great value; it somehow defies many GT grading criteria, especially at a muni, so we're rating the Ferris Bueller Black Course...
Hazards: Based on the Tracks we're used to playing, we're accustomed to seeing reed-filled marshes, swamps, overgrown brooks, etc, but Ferris Bueller puts a different spin on it, probably a Fairfield County/Gold Coast thing. These areas are all marked as "conservation easements" per the Town of Fairfield. Nice job of putting frosting on that piece of wood and calling it a cake. As crwelton noted, "conservation easement = free lift." We'll have to keep that in mind on the next trip.
As Sherpa JB noted, the Ferris Bueller course definitely has an "inner Track" screaming to get out. Keeping with the John Hughes theme/analogy, we're reminded of the Judd Nelson (Bender) "inner fat chick" line to Molly Ringwald (Claire) in "The Breakfast Club." The rough at Ferris Bueller has a Keney-like consistency to it (i.e. sparse and hardpan) and some of the tee boxes have the uneven footing we look for at a good Goat Track. Despite that, until we play this course in "hardpan season," we're hard-pressed to truly consider it Goat Track material. The greens were in far too good condition, to the point where there may have been too much commentary regarding "reading the break," which suggests that some in our group were convinced they weren't playing at a Goat Track or muni...or even a public course, which is high praise in itself.
D. Fairchild Wheeler Municipal Golf Course, Fairfield/Bridgeport, Connecticut, known locally as "The Wheel" (subsequently, "Fairchild Wheeler" has been dubbed "Ferris Bueller" by Sherpa JB; Black Course reviewed May, 2010).