The Review of Goodwin Golf Course, a/k/a "Goody."  Known in some circles as “The Urban Goat Track - South” (Maple Ave., Hartford).  Yang to Keney’s yin.  Named 2007 Goat Track of the Year.  Review updated 2016, mixing in some of our first impressions with some more recent ones.

The first time we set foot on Goody, it was a truly moving experience.  If you’ve read any course reviews on the GT site, you know that we’re not sticklers for inane stuff like meticulous course maintenance, etc.  Our priorities lie elsewhere and Goody was a pleasant surprise.  (Since we’ve already sort of written this review once before, we’re going to take some creative license to shuffle the order of things this time around).

Logistics:  Apparently there’s a reason why we never played this course prior to 2007.  Getting to Goody from downtown Hartford is tedious at best and getting there from other points slightly north or west isn’t as easy as one may think/hope.  We’ve tried a variety of navigational paths.  If you’re on a pilgrimage to true Muni Nirvana in the South End from points west, take note of the following paths that we recommend avoiding (sure, we’re drilling down early on something that probably shouldn’t be given this much attention in the review, but get used to it, there’s more minutiae to follow, and getting to the course is important).

  • Picking up Park St. anywhere east of Prospect Ave. and taking it to the South End.  The experience is similar to sitting in midtown Manhattan traffic on a Thursday afternoon.
  • If you manage to get to Capitol Ave. from points west or from I-91 South, the trip further south on Washington St. to get to Maple Ave. is no picnic either.  This stretch is currently known as “the learning corridor” after some redevelopment.  It was previously known informally as “the hooker corridor.”

You get the general idea.  The least nerve-wracking/annoying suggestion we can come up with is to get on I-84 in either direction as quickly as possible, jump on I-91 South, jump off at Brainard Road, then it’s pretty much a predictable straight shot through a few traffic lights and stop signs to get to Maple Avenue, near Goody.

One option we haven’t tried yet is Prospect Ave. to New Park Ave. (near the Home Depot) to Flatbush Ave. (near the cash suck known as the CT fastrack stop) to Zion St., but as Rabbit Ears noted on the last trip while taking a slightly different route and trailing the lead car, “What the hell were you thinking, turning down Zion Street?”  It didn’t seem unreasonable during daylight hours.

Now that we’ve beaten the navigational minutiae to death, while painting a reasonable picture of the surrounding area, let’s move on.

You’ve arrived at the course.  Congratulate yourself and anyone you’re playing with as you take the sticks out of the trunk.  Congratulate anyone else in the parking lot who seems as equally surprised to have arrived, while you’re at it.

Pro Shop:  We’re still undecided as to how to grade the level of ineptitude here, but since it doesn’t impact the Tracking Experience that much, there’s no need to pound on it.  We’re just glad that we don’t have to yell to someone in the kitchen in order to pay our greens fees, which was sort of how it worked between 2012 and 2014.

The Wrinkle:  Back-to-back par 3’s on 7 & 8.  Not something that you run into often.  Want to press the bet on your match early?  This layout is one step ahead of you.  The pond is tight to the front edge of the 7th green, which makes things interesting, even if you go long from the tee and need to go up and down.  Take our word for it, at least one of us has managed to roll one into the pond on an “easy pitch” from behind the green.

If your Nassau on the front is still up for grabs after the 8th, we can’t think of a better way to wrap it up than going all red ass from the tee on the uphill par-4 9th.  If you have a tendency to go wide right off the tee, you should’ve pulled a yellow range ball from your bag a few holes prior and started playing it.  Why?  When you hammer one wide right off the 9th tee and into the net-free range, it’ll make your second shot more plausible and save everyone some time.  Side note:  on our last trip, we were surprised to see so many range balls in the 9th fairway.  Just a subtle reminder to keep your head on a swivel.

The 18th is just as good a finishing hole as the 9th, with a similar uphill par-4 layout, minus the opportunity to go wide right off the tee and claim a range ball as your own for the approach.

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After you par #10, you get to take a crack at the 210-ish par-3 11th.  Don't worry about going long, they put up a net behind the green to protect the Tracking Public from your imagined ability to to go long and over the green on this hole.  If reality hasn’t set in after that and you’re still feeling good about your swing, #12 should be right in your wheelhouse, especially if you’re a master of the art of shot shaping.

Where fantasy meets reality:  We’ve tried to shine a positive light on Goody, describing what we like about the layout, the Tracking Vibe, etc., but here’s where it takes a turn to negative town, borrowing a term from Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers.

We’ve always enjoyed playing Goody, but when local “print” media started blowing smoke up our backsides, it started to become too much to bear.  We won’t post links to that puffery, but in a nutshell, the “improvements” to Goody have been largely oversold.  Sure, they put some sand in the traps and resumed normal course maintenance by punching the greens twice a year and mowing the rest of the course occasionally, but it’s still pretty much the Goody we’ve come to know.

We’re fans of letting the market decide what the greens fees should be and, while Goody seems to generate a lot of traffic (other than on our last trip), we don’t see why any of it should come from outside of Hartford/Newington/Rocky Hill.  As much as we hate to say it, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between conditions as described elsewhere, conditions as they are, and pricing.

Although it’s still one of our all-time favorite muni’s, based on the current GT Value Proposition, we’re downgrading Goody to...

After you’ve soaked up the view as you approach the first tee, it doesn’t get much better than bail and wail from an elevated tee on a par-5 to kick things off.  After you cut it loose here, you'll be in attack mode all day, which is where you should be.  The driving range to your left and tree line to your right are easily navigable.  If you screw up your tee shot, just keep hammering away until you need to go into finesse mode near the green.

What we like about the front 9

Great way to start…again…on #10

Soak up the pre-tee ambience:  Sometimes it’s just general milling, but over the years, while waiting to tee off, we’ve run across several local old-timers, some of whom hadn’t been back to the old neighborhood in decades, just hanging out near the pro shop and appreciating the vistas behind the first tee as much as we do.  There’s something to be said for that.  The area near the first tee provides a great view of the Connecticut River Valley and we like that some folks return to that spot just to enjoy it.  If groups ahead of you are slow getting off the box, you may actually get a chance to learn something about local history from someone who knows it, which is an opportunity not to be missed.

...out of 4 GT logos

Take a muni-licious pause before you tee off on #16.  If you didn’t take the opportunity to appreciate all the muni goodness near the pond in front of #2 and behind #7, where there’s fishing, which is great, and an unexpected amount of cell phone yapping in what may be your second language around the tee boxes, which is not, the 16th may be a great experience.  On our first trip here, there was a couple on the walking path waiting for us to tee off.  Almost felt like being at an obscure hole at the old GHO with an attentive gallery.  Of course, the walking path serves various purposes, such as a convenient path for police vans, cross-country runners in training, local residents taking a walk, and during the off season, a vehicle path through the park for Holiday Light Fantasia.

Usually “dog leg right” has some downside attached to it, like “tree line right” or “water hazard right.”  No such issues here.  On the other hand, if you manage to stitch yourself behind the lone, unimposing tree in the right “rough,” you pretty much deserve what you get.  This hole presents all kinds of scrambling opportunities to start the back 9 with a par.

The 12th hole is a dogleg left par-5 with a huge tree inside the left corner.  Since trees are 90% air in April and November and 85% air May through October, you have opportunities to be creative.

If you can hit a draw, this is a great place to use it and it will most certainly impress the rest of your group.  If you slice like crazy, this is a great place to make it look like you know what you’re doing.  If you can aim left of the tree and get your drive to veer around it into the fairway, you’re a master of shot shaping and course management.

Once you get around the corner on #12 and card nothing worse than a bogey, you have three solid scoring opportunities in front of you and can really get things rolling to go low.

Moving onto the Urban Goat Track-South layout...

The Eisenhower Tree:  There used to be a loblolly pine on Nandina (#17) at Augusta National with this name, but it’s no longer there (a new one is being grafted/cloned, you can read about that elsewhere).  The sturdy oak on #2 at Goody that we refer to as the Eisenhower Tree is still intact and it serves a similar purpose.  Setting the shot placement scene on #2, it’s a long carry from the tee over the pond; the further left you go to avoid the tree, the longer a carry it is.  Brilliant.  When the Tracker known as 2Steps drilled the Eisenhower Tree head-on in the 2015 Urban Goat Track Open and it ricocheted 75 yards back into the pond, it was an instantly-historic shot.  When a venerable Tracker whom we know asked whether the “Eisenhower Tree” was still there, he mentioned that he used to drive over the tree, which, even though the tree was smaller back then, is still a shot to hang one’s hat on.  Gripping and ripping at its finest.  The point is that this tree has been a signature part of Goody’s layout for decades.