Stanley GC (a/k/a "Stashu" [it's a Polish thing], located in Hard Hittin' New Britain)
We've played Stashu a handful of times over the past decade, just often enough to see the slow and continuous erosion of it's old school Track Cred and Track Charm.
Based on our 4/23/09 review of the White Course, Stanley has lost its way and its standing as a preferred Track in the view of Goat-Track.com. As a result, it has been removed (demoted) from the CT GT (Connecticut Goat Tracks) page and placed in the "wannabe/usedtobe-CT" group on the More Tracks page. Some Goat Trackers, notably Rabbit Ears, argue that Stashu doesn't even deserve a spot on Goat-Track.com at all, since it falls into a category generally not reviewed on this site. Benchmark courses in that group include Tunxis and Rockledge, both of which are decent, but score too high on the b.s. meter for us to waste time with here. Since we originally reviewed Stanley when it still had some Track Cred, we're grandfathering it in.
The City of New Britain may be going straight down the crapper with an occasional courtesy flush, but Stanley, strategically located just off I-84 and Route 9, seems to have a different agenda. At some point, the end result of its "vast improvements" will probably include alienating a sizeable chunk of its dedicated base, while at the same time disappointing many of the newcomers it tries to draw, in a Clooney-esque "cloud of smug."
There was bad mojo afoot prior to our trek to Stashu. A puff piece placed in a made-up golf publication never bodes well for the course being fluffed.
We won't waste valuable web page space or reader interest here, but feel free to read about the nonsense that irked us about Stanley from the get go here.
Onto the review of the White Course at Stanley
This was our first time playing the course in a couple of years and we were glad that we weren't automatically sent out to the Blue Course, where the 9-holers usually get exiled (much like the Red Course at Tunxis, which drew rave reviews from GT Duke [not posted on the site, don't bother looking]). With a loudspeaker attached to the top of the starter's shack, it's safe to assume that Stanley doesn't mess around when it comes to corralling the lemmings waiting to tee off.
General Course Conditions: Pretty much free of dandelions and other "non-standard vegetation" that we'd expect to see this time of year. Bravo. We knew from the well-maintained cart barn and the manicured shrubs between the pro shop and the first tee on the red course, that Stanley puts far more emphasis on outward appearances than it used to.
Greens: Since Friar Tuck and Golfer Number Two got paired up with a couple of folks more accustomed to playing Stanley, it was good to hear one of them utter Mel's rant from the GT Open (4/16/09), "How can you figure out where the putt's going to go out of those craters?" How, indeed. Once Friar Tuck and Golfer Number Two pointed out to our newfound friends that Stanley's greens were like glass compared to those at Copper Hill, the whining stopped. On the other hand, Friar Tuck and Golfer Number Two both heard some nonsensical comments about "reading the break" from our tour guides, nodded in recognition of their ignorance of "the universal truth," i.e., "there is no break on a green at a public course" and watched with little surprise as their putts missed wide left and right, with the exception of a "blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while" birdie putt from 35 feet or so on #7.
The "lowlands" on the 4th and 5th are classically mushy, with skunk cabbage flourishing in the left o.b. area on #5. Based on prior experience, these are interesting holes to play in a scramble event, especially if you're playing with some similarly untalented folks. (pictured at left, encouragement to overthink one's tee shot)
Navigational Clusterama: The upside of getting paired up on the first tee at Stanley, if there is one, is that it greatly improves your chances of making it off the course by dusk without relying on the group ahead of you to leave a trail of empty beer cans to lead you back.
Once you move on from the fourth hole on either the Blue or White course (similar to working through the mixmaster in Waterbury or the I-84/I-91 interchange in Hartford), you may just hallucinate and see Rod Serling because you've entered the Twilight Zone. Foursomes have gotten lost here during charity tournaments. Enough said.
Kudos for the effort, but if the ball washers need to be color-coded (pictured above right) to let you know which 9 you're on, something may have gone awry on the layout.
Player Assistant Cart: An unfortunate misnomer. When this cart cruised up to the 6th tee, our curiosity was piqued; it was the "Player Assistant Cart" after all. Was it there to assist players in finding errant drives, possibly offer swing tips, or otherwise assist us with lowering our scores? Not so much. A ranger by any other name is still a ranger and still about as useless as tits on a bull.
19th: It couldn't have been made more apparent that we were light years away from the Schlitz bar bottle laden golden age of Stanley's historic 19th hole than when we saw...............the hostess station...and eventually the hostess. We have no problem with hostesses (in bar terms, a distant relative of the BCC), but once you've arrived at the point where you need to be seated in Stanley's clubhouse (which Goat Trackers used to be big fans of), the train has left the tracks, Elvis has left the building, i.e., it's pretty much over. This may have been the straw that broke the Goat's back.
What we took away from the Stashu Experience was a greater appreciation of Tracks that either have gone or have tried to go upscale, but still remain fun to play, such as (2008 Goat Track of the Year) Hawk's Landing and Simsbury Farms. (To that end, the good karma that "The Farms" has garnered with us over the last few years will be rewarded with an official review on the GT site this year. We're sure they'll be most appreciative.)
The Stanley Experience was best summed up by first-time visitor Friar Tuck, who said "If I don't come back here for ten years, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it."
We rate the Stanley Experience GT logos out of 4. Not too long ago, it earned a much higher GT rating.