Conditions: Country Club Material, enough said; Six Sigma on the Constant Improvement Front. We played GCA on a Monday, maintenance day, so we were able to see, and unable to avoid, the maintenance activities going on all around us, which included the punching of the greens and countless yards of topsoil being moved around the course. We were informed that the partial logging of the course was due to a recent chemical application that killed a bunch of old oak trees, through no fault of the maintenance folks.
The Layout is Fantastic in an understated way and the yardage is respectable. Any combination of 9’s you choose to play on this 27-hole layout checks in at least 6,200 yards from the middle (non-senior) tees. The layout here isn’t overly cute (i.e. “tricked up”). If you’re not a fan of pot bunkers in weird places and other unnecessary new-school design quirks, you’ll probably enjoy the GCA.
We couldn’t agree on a signature hole, but we did agree on a signature approach shot: #7 on Red, a short iron into a seemingly harmless 350-ish par 4. Elevated green, with water and sand in play if you leave it short-right, followed by some great over-and-back opportunities if you do.
Fairways: When Sherpa JB said they were comparable to, if not better than, those at Wamp, that was high praise. Those of us who consider ourselves “excellent range players,” where every shot jumps off the mat, thought that the fairways at the GCA were the best possible place from which to hit an iron shot. The key is putting yourself in a spot where you can hit from them.
Greens: All agreed that they were awesome. Despite having Country Club speed, they ranked high on the puttability scale: no dopey, unreadable breaks 6” from the cup (see the Glastonbury Hills and/or Oxford Greens reviews on the GT site for more on that subject), just rolling quick and true. Since we played on maintenance day and the first few greens hadn’t been fully prepped for us non-members, we were able to notice the huge speed difference between wet and dry greens. We also noticed, while using some colorful language, that these greens were more difficult to hold on lofty approach shots than expected.
...out of 4 GT logo rating, using the Private Club Grading Criteria. The only thing holding it back from 3 ½ may be the aesthetic anomaly known as the Serengeti Pond between holes 5, 6, and 7 on Red. The pic doesn't do it justice.
Did we “Have a Great Day at the GCA?" Absolutely.
Despite the tree removal, the Blue Course is pretty heavily wooded and we appreciate that there's an old school lightning shed out there for the occasional “shit hits fan” situation, when a summer thunderstorm sneaks up on you while you’re out there clicking off pars and are so focused on the next birdie attempt that you don't realize that you need to seek cover.
The GCA layout boils golf down to its essence. If you can get off the tee, keep it in play, make a decent approach shot, and sink an occasional putt, you can score well here. Seems simple enough.
The GCA on-course experience: We’ll take a crack at not beating some obvious/predictable Country Club commentary to death while providing a Goat Tracker’s perspective.
Golf Club of Avon (a/k/a Avon Country Club); Country Club Road, Avon, Connecticut; reviewed October, 2015
In summary: The “Golf Excellence” portion of the GCA Experience started to sink in for GNT when he realized, while de-gunking his clubs after the round, that he had used every… single… club… in…his… bag…and that earned high marks. Not as cookie cutter a layout as expected at a private club, where keeping members’ handicaps artificially low is occasionally a priority. GCA earns a reasonably solid...
The consensus in this area has always been that "Farmington CC is old money and Avon CC is new money." Matters not to us. Free golf is free golf. Thanks go out to the Tracker now known as Type2Steps for making this review possible.
GCA has an interesting history, going back to the 1920's, in the once-obscure rural area between Farmington and Canton known as Avon. While we're fans of, and steeped in, local history, we were more interested in the Tracking Opportunity in front of us on this day.
Perfect tone setter: After we were done wasting time on the range, we noticed something outstanding about the white board outside the GCA pro shop. As if anything could put us in a better mood, the white board outside the pro shop at the GCA reinforced that we were going to enjoy this Country Club Experience. Maybe it was Pavlovian, but our group twitched a bit seeing a white board, since we had grown accustomed to the one outside the Copper Hill pro shop with “no five-somes allowed” written on it. Completely different scene here.
On-course Amenities: Since GCA is a country club and there’s no point in boring GT readers with describing how refined the clubhouse facilities are, we'll make note of the feature that most impressed us from a Goat Tracker’s perspective: The Snack Shack (if we’re even allowed to call it that) between #6 and #7 on Red or #1 and #2 on White. Seems like an odd place to put it, but here’s why we like it, aside from being suckers for inane detail:
Summer Shack Function: Beverage coolers; lemonade and iced tea side by side, so you can make your own “Arnold Palmer.” If you’ve ever seen the ESPN promo shot in the cafeteria with Arnold Palmer and Scott van Pelt, you get the general idea and may get a chuckle out of it. Of course you can grab some food or a beer here, but that’s less interesting.
Winter Shack Function: The fireplace; the GCA feature that really speaks to Goat Trackers. Who puts a fireplace in a golf course snack shack? The same folks who put in the winter provisional pins, knowing that members will want to stop in to thaw out for a bit. Maybe it’s not a big deal to some, but this was by far the most inspirational concession nook we’ve ever encountered.
Closing out the Nassau; Finishing hole (on Red): Let’s start off by saying that it’s aesthetically pleasing from the tee; looking at the clubhouse behind the green on this manageable par-5, with just enough trees on either side of the fairway to provide perspective and keep you focused, when your match may be riding on it. All good. Pretty much all that one could ask for, before hammering away, which is what you’re supposed to do here.