Sleeping Giant GC, Hamden (course reviewed October, 2010, write up finally posted March 2011)
A dedicated Goat-Track.com reader gave us a heads up about Sleeping Giant back in August, 2009. "This is definitely a 'GT' Course from start to finish. This was one of the strangest rounds of golf I'd played in years, starting in the .....clubhouse??? ...or maybe it was the family room in a 'double wide.' Cash only. Holes so close together we were ducking balls all day."
As if that weren't enough of a ringing endorsement, Golfer Number Two reached out to some folks in his "inner circle" whom he thought might have played SGGC back in the day. The Kam-Man offered, "Sleeping Giant could be the quintessential Goat Track golf course. It's almost an executive course, since it's so short. Nice view of Sleeping Giant Park/Mountain." Ornery Bob added, "My favorite part was the two holes that criss-crossed each other. We almost got hit twice there; once on another hole where some kid was playing green to tee."
Obviously, Sleeping Giant needed to be reviewed on Goat-Track.com.
Rumble into the unpaved portion of the parking lot, get a glimpse of the pro shop that hasn't quite achieved double-wide status and take a moment to ponder, "What the hell's hiding behind that fence?" Apparently, it takes a stockade fence to try to contain the kind of Goat Tracking to be had at Sleeping Giant GC. You can't stop it; you can only hope to contain it.
Signage: On the way to the single-wide clubhouse to pay your greens fees, you're expected to do some light reading (in a nutshell, you break it [another golfer's noggin], you bought it). Sleeping Giant may be the only Track we've been to where you may think you're missing something if you've left your contacts, reading glasses, or attorney behind. The pic provides only a small sample.
Although it's the most humble single-wide pro shop we've seen this side of Airways, we give the SGGC pro shop props for recreating the feel of the Canton Public GC pro shop (which is difficult to do without the fireplace and the cat).
Design/Layout: Long story short, there's a funnel aspect to SGGC, i.e., it gets a lot shorter and tighter after the 5th, almost as if the person at the drafting board had some second thoughts after the earth-moving equipment was already in full swing. The first par 4, #2, is among the most grip & rip friendly we've played. Its counterpart is the equally grip & rip friendly 9th coming the other way, with not many trees in between to knock down Trackers' attempts to play from the other fairway. It's fair to say that this freeway for errant shots backs up what we were told about SGGC. After a few holes, it became clear that SGGC might be best described as a cross between Westwoods (Farmington) and E. Gaynor Brennan (Stamford) as far as "best layout to take one in the noggin."
Our favorite "playability feature" of SGGC, bar none, is the yardage dots on either edge of the fairways. Finally, some course management folks who realize that their clientele may not be measuring distance to the pin from the middle of the fairway, or anything near it. This was sheer brilliance.
Greens: Looked like they'd been recently aerated, so we'll have to qualify our assessment, but they had the amount of break (none) and speed (you'll only have to swing from your heels occasionally to get it to the hole from 20 feet) that we'd expect a a fine Goat Track of the muni variety.
Traps: Harmless. There may have been some sand in them, not sure. Didn't spend enough time there to find out.
Schmeg Pit: Stretching across the 4th and 5th holes, a reed-filled expanse of muck that's potentially in play on both holes and appears to be a seasonal hazard, i.e., an opportunity for displays of Track Acumen when it dries up.
Cross-walk: From the 6th green, you have to walk in front of the 5th tee box to get to the 7th tee; would be a great opportunity to berate people one or two groups behind if the first few holes were lined up differently, so you could see their shots. We ran into something like this at Minnechaug, but it's a good example of how tight SGGC gets after the first four holes.
Tree Lines: You might think that Sleeping Giant would be heavily wooded, being at the base of the mountain, state park and all, but you'd be wrong. As George Costanza once said, "You need a buffer!" The open spaces between holes at SGGC just add to the errant shot free-for-all cluster that makes a round at Sleeping Giant memorable, provided you haven't been knocked unconscious. Our favorite tree line was on #5; some pines dotting a berm, leaving about 20 feet on the right before the o.b. stakes; then...it's all pasture, a/k/a Goat Tracking nirvana.
19th (in this case, the 10th): The single-wide set up at SGGC isn't conducive to letting people lounge around for a beer and we respect that at this fine old course (1924). There is another option though. What's not to like about Aunt Chilada's sitting across the parking lot from the single-wide pro shop? The specials are posted on the side of the building, just to make sure you know that they welcome folks from the course. Kam-man and Ornery Bob have vouched for the ambiance of this watering hole and we're not about to dispute that.
In Summary: Maybe we didn't catch Sleeping Giant GC at a time when it had its best or worst to offer, but we did find a playable course nestled into the base of the State Park that had some pretty good Track Cred, with some features that we rate highly. We still haven't quite figured out how to rate courses in New Haven
county, so we'll give it a standard out of 4 GT logo rating, with room for an upgrade. We'd like to take another crack at it, possibly while wearing a helmet to deflect cross-fairway traffic.