Sand: expansive, but blastable bunkers. Why bore GT readers with tales of trap minutiae? If you hit into them, you should know how to get out.
Greens: We read about some knucklehead on CTgolfer complaining about unfair pin placements on the front 9 and saying that the pro shop folks were kinda douchy/bragging about it when he made the turn. We didn't have any similar issues, as far as putting or being an a-hole were concerned. They rolled well and we didn't have to putt through the clown's mouth to finish a hole. Fine by us.
Onto the layout, finally…
Blind tee shot right out of the chute on #1. Downhill. Not uncharted territory, but PGC isn’t exactly welcoming you with open arms.
“Eisenhower Trees” run amok: The first tree in the middle of a fairway is fine; we appreciate the novelty of it (#2 at Goody and #14 at Simsbury Farms are prime examples). After that, it’s like Rocky sequels and gets tired/overdone quickly. It’s fun on #7 at PGC, less amusing on #12, and wherever else they may have popped up; seemed like there were more than there actually were.
Fairways: pretty impressive visually and a sure sign that PGC is well-maintained, but take our word for it, you don’t want to imitate the pros and take sweeping divots from them. Pick it clean. As great as they look above ground, it’s still heavy Connecticut River Valley muck underneath your feet, which means that either your club or your back will grind to a halt while digging below the surface.
There was a tournament on the course the day we played, complete with a shiny red car as a hole-in-one prize. In what by anyone’s guess must’ve been an upscale tournament, we found one of the hole sponsors (a bail bond firm) a bit surprising, although we probably shouldn’t have. It’s tough to get a feel for PGC’s target demographic based on that combination.
Making the turn, a cruel twist on the refreshment front: We played PGC on a Friday and there was no BCC (beer cart chick). No big deal. But, when that option's not available, the pavilion near the 10th tee box, with shiny beer taps…that were non-operational...that stung a bit. Since there was no BCC at PGC, this should’ve been a perfect place to grab something on the turn, but no…wasn’t going to happen. Just continue tripping over your tongue on the way to the 10th tee.
... out of 4 GT logos based on what it actually does
Portland GC seemed like a good review opportunity to us, based on the GT Value Proposition (i.e. found a great rate online). The Tracker known as Rabbit Ears played PGC as part of his golf team years ago and wanted to return. Why not put some fresh eyes and divots on this track?
If you’re departing from the greater Hartford area, the trip to PGC is at least 15 minutes shorter than heading to Lyman and there’s nothing wrong with minimizing the time to get the sticks out of the trunk and getting your “grip and rip” on.
The Kelly family has its fingerprints all over PGC, from the original course design to the ongoing maintenance. No management company involved here. If you like “locally-sourced” golf, you’re in the right place.
Pace of play
We're not grading harshly when we say that anything in the neighborhood of 4:45+ to play 18 should be an “F-minus.” It didn’t feel that slow (even though we knew it wasn't a quick pace), which may have been part of the problem. When the father/son duo we were paired with bailed on the 15th, it was probably a good pace of play indicator. They were apparently trying to keep a schedule and had somewhere else to go. They couldn't have hated playing with us that much. Wasn't our fault. Really.
On some level, the pace of play must've been getting to everyone. Even though we were in an elastic band mode of trying to speed up, only to slow down all day, the group behind us hit into us at least three times, which provoked a confrontation from the elder statesman in our group, and we paid it forward, after they bailed out, with some GT Style Points added....
You’d think that we could all be like Charlie Watts and count to 4 with some consistency, but the group in front of us made that difficult, popping into and out of tree lines, blind spots, etc. It was like “where’s Waldo” with two golf carts. Counting four golfers was difficult at best, when none of them were in the fairway. Golfer Number Two air-mailed a 3-iron from a blind spot over them and Rabbit Ears hit a brilliantly-shaped fade that the weak link in the foursome ahead almost walked into while it curved and rolled in front him as he was walking towards the green. The pace of play seemed to improve after that.
In summary: PGC can be enjoyable to play, but the layout was more of a fistfight than anticipated and the pace of play brought some players close to a dark place. Other than that, it was great. The Portland GC website is one of the best we're run across. On the way out, the same guy with the clipboard that greeted us by name on the way in greeted us on the way out... five hours later; the type of thing that makes some golfers feel all warm and fuzzy, on the “they really seem to care” front. We can’t knock it, it’s a nice touch, but it was five hours later and he probably really didn’t give a shit by then. Five hours. Not even close to pace of play friendly and certainly not his fault.
As much as we’d like to give PGC a higher rating based on all the things it tries to do well, we’re stuck giving it...
“If you don’t like all the overkill at the Lyman Meadows Golf Complex, maybe Portland GC is more your speed.” The GoatTrackGolf.com review of Portland Golf Course, June, 2016.
Getting a feel for PGC…from the pre-tee experience…
On the walk from the parking lot to the pro shop, there’s a guy with a clipboard checking players in, lining up carts, etc. Very professional-ish. Looks like everything will run like a Swiss watch (for those unfamiliar with the concept, once upon a time, people didn’t use their phones to check the time).
Then there’s the Pro Shop (a Chris Cote Pro Shop, complete with club-fitting and other value added stuff). Generally speaking, we try not to dump on pro shop ineptitude because it’s not that important and doesn’t reflect well on us if we do. Most of the time we appreciate a cranky old dude who hates that we’re intruding on him and wants to get us out of there as quickly as possible. In this case, the aspiring club pro working there couldn’t chew gum and process a credit card (or cash) at the same time.