St. Anne Country Club; Feeding Hills, Massachusetts (front 9 reviewed October, 2011)
Our thanks go out to the Goat Tracker known as Ornery Bob, for putting St. Anne Country Club on our radar. There’s something that just feels right about playing a Pioneer Valley course after Labor Day.
A Tracking Excursion to St. Anne CC is just far enough away to feel remote; yet once you hit the parking lot and open the trunk to grab your clubs and put on your spikes… it feels like a place you’ve known forever. (it may have something to do with the “Big Bat at Yankee Stadium” replica on the outskirts of the parking lot; which I’m sure was not intended in the “land o’chowdah”)
Navigation: No one ever said that a trip to mine this Nugget of Tracking Goodness would be easy; just figured/hoped that it might work out that way. Not so much. If you’ve ever played the nearby Airways GC (a cornerstone of the GT Minor Event rotation) on the Connecticut side of the border and based on that, assumed that you could easily find your way to St. Anne CC from there on the first attempt (a mere 10 min. drive, per mapquest) by taking a back road or two, it can be done, but...
The first and worst mistake you can make is to let The Garmin Chick ride shotgun on your trip. The words “trial separation” sprung to mind after letting her take a crack at it. Her easy manner may encourage you to ignore any semblance of navigational logic that you have. You’re better off leaving/locking her in the glove compartment.
The Garmin Chick makes every effort to guide you to I-91 north, which is fine, but her stubborn resistance to taking Route 187 from West Suffield (Airways) suggests that she has some issues to deal with, which she will of course take out on you to lengthen your travel time.
Golf in the Pioneer Valley
Going back to the earliest days of South Park and channeling Stan Marsh, “I learned something today.” Nothing profound, of course; just that there is an east/west divide among the four Pioneer Valley public courses with which we’re familiar (Edgewood and Shaker Farms to the west; St. Anne and Oak Ridge to the east). None of the four is much more than a 10 minute drive from the others, but there are some distinct…and subtle… east/west differences that most Goat Trackers should be able to appreciate.
The St. Anne Country Club Layout (front):
It’s impossible not to love the first hole. If the fear of hitting your second shot from a decent lie in a gulley/ravine, after you force/block/slice it right, is what keeps you from bombing away from the first tee, put your clubs back in the trunk; you probably won’t enjoy all that St. Anne Country Club has to offer. The front nine implores you to blow out every elbow/shoulder/knee/hip/vertebrae joint possible to take some big swings off the tee and put yourself into prime scoring position on this fine layout.
After getting your Tracker Groove on and hammering away for a few holes, as St. Anne CC practically begs you to do, the last 3 holes on the front 9 are really fun to play, with some much-appreciated layout wrinkles. We can’t figure out why #5 is the #1 hdcp. hole, but that doesn’t matter.
Bunkers: Smooth sailing here, no significant fairway traps to distract you from hammering away. All good. Greenside? Don’t lose any sleep over that, either.
Greens: Extraordinarily puttable! Maybe the yardstick we use, and it’s sure as hell not a Stimpmeter, offends some golfers and “course critics,” but it’s usually spot on. Roll, slope, makeability; they were all good, maybe too good. These were among the favorite greens we jabbed at with a putter during the fall Tracking season. There was a false front on the elevated 9th green, which seemed pretty fair and made things interesting. Some are inclined to bitch about par-3 finishing holes. Not gonna happen here. This one gets 2 GT thumbs up! Can’t compliment that enough.
The 19th at St. Anne CC is nearly too majestic a finishing hole to enter, or at least that’s the premise we’re going with here. It’s impressive in stature and hosts "gala events," or so we’ve been told. Still, it provides a great old-school perch to have a beer or two and ridicule others on the course after playing a round.
In summary: From what we can tell, there’s not much not to enjoy about St. Anne Country Club. If you enjoy a reasonably well-maintained course, with a layout that gives you a chance to score…and score well, you may have found a new home. If St. Anne CC doesn’t give you enough of a thrill, you can always go down the street and catch a thrill ride at the nearby Six Flags amusement park.
That said, we give St. Anne Country Club a modest and reasonable out of 4 GT logo rating. It was enjoyable, just not impressive enough to earn a higher GT rating. We look forward to playing the back 9.