...out of 4 GT logo rating is still a bit of a mystery because it seemed to have some “grading criteria” working against it; mainly a steady diet of elevated greens. Maybe that’s part of what makes Stonybrook so enjoyable, “I don’t know why I enjoyed it, I just did.” A Sherpa Jedi mind trick? Maybe. A course we highly recommend? Absolutely.
In summary: Although Stonybrook was a blast to play, how it earned a...
After your dizziness subsides on the white tees, you can take note of and appreciate a great runoff prevention design feature; the telephone poles stacked into the bank to the left. Then again, you may choose the par-3 option your next time through.
Bunkers: Really? As noted previously, after getting a feel for the Stonybrook layout, bunkers should be the least of your concerns.
Greens: In the pro shop we were advised by the cashier/bartender that, although the greens are “usually in excellent condition,” they may not measure up on this day because they were aerated the previous day. Not that we’re cynical (well maybe just a bit), but usually "in excellent condition” isn’t something we run into often at a public 9-hole course (like there’s any other kind), so there had to be at least some level of skepticism. Moving on…these greens had two things working against them: 1) odd shapes and peculiar slopes that brought into question the “Universal Truth of Putting” and 2) elevation. Everyone has a least favorite Track Design attribute; GNT’s is a steady diet of elevated greens. That said, the recently-aerated greens at Stonybrook rolled faster and truer than any course in the Goat Track Minor Event rotation, with the possible exception of Grassmere GC. When Stonybrook's greens are at full speed, there's no doubt that “they’re quick and they’re spectacular,” to paraphrase Teri Hatcher from her appearance on Seinfeld.
Unfortunately, there isn't a pic of the 4th and 8th tee boxes to post here. In a nutshell, the 4th tee holds the high ground in close proximity to the 8th tee. If you can picture yourself as General Custer on the 8th and Chief Sitting Bull with a propensity to shank from the high ground on the 4th, you get the general idea.
Feel the burn: Favorite part of the layout, surprisingly. Hit into a pond, drop one. Hit into the woods, drop one. These are the easy ways out. Miss the green from a reasonable distance, however…and take your punishment. After some early griping, we concluded that this aspect of the course design was nothing short of brilliant. Negative reinforcement at its finest. If you don’t want to hoof thirty feet straight uphill to see where your greenside chip landed, try hitting the green on the approach shot. Sheer genius because if you’ve missed enough greens, as we’re all prone to do, somewhere the mental focus needed to hit one in regulation may just actually kick in, just to avoid another grinding greenside ascent.
Water: Brook in play on holes 5 and 7, pond (marginally) in play on 8, and a combination of the two in front of the 9th tee (shouldn’t be in play, but whatever). That’s all minutiae. What really struck a chord with Golfer Number Two as he approached the brook before the ascent to the 5th green was how clear the water was. If there were a tin cup attached to a string, dangling in the brook, like there used to be on #1 at Canton Public back in the day, no doubt there would’ve been a Pavlovian response; sampling some clean brook water and nostalgia….and hopefully not much else.
The pond in front of the par-3 9th is a great visual to set the right tone for the final hole: some marsh reeds, a fountain, and a bridge. What more can one ask for in such a small space? Not much.
Finer levels of minutiae
Uphill/ Downhill and Runoff: It’d be a shame not to mention the Matterhorn-esque ascent to the 6th tee. The climb to the 5th green, over the brook, with the Rockwellian statues to the pond at right, is all good, especially if you’ve played your approach well on #5 and are putting for bird, but that is where the adventure begins. To the first-time Stonybrook visitor, hoofing to the sixth seems harmless enough, the proverbial fork in the road; left to the par-4, right to the par-3. After playing the 6th at Stonybrook, it’s clear why there’s an option given.
The ascent to the “regulation tees” on the 6th, for those walking the course, borders on something of a religious experience. There’s a makeshift guardrail to keep carts out of the ravine. Come to think of it, maybe the rope is there to keep players carrying their bags from falling into it, too You may expect to see the Dalai Lama when you’ve reached this peak... or you may just lose your marbles. The best part of the course design here, as far as we can tell, is that although the blue tees are many feet below the summit, the white tees at the peak have a strategically-located water cooler near them, which is greatly appreciated.
If you approach Stonybrook from the greater Hartford area, the roller coaster ride up and down Route 202 through Torrington to Litchfield should give you a general idea of what lies ahead. When you take your bag out of the trunk and want to stand it up to check what’s in there before you head to the pro shop, just try to see if your bag with the kickstand will work. It's a 50/50-ish proposition whether it'll tip over, similar to the Indian Springs experience).
It’s best to appreciate/approach the layout of Stonybrook one hole at a time because if you take a look from the lofty perch on the first tee, across the ravine where the 8th is laid out, into the hills where holes 6 and 7 are nestled, you might think to yourself, “Man, hoofing that is gonna suck.” And you’d be right, but there’s no point taking up any unnecessary mindspace with those negative thoughts; better to just let it all unfold.
4th and 8th tee boxes: Two thoughts came to mind here: 1) if Stonybrook were a muni, there’s no doubt whatsoever that there’d be a net between these two tee boxes and 2) should I post a pic of Sherpa Jeff so that anyone teeing off on the 8th can first do a visual scan of the 4th tee to make sure that the driving force, pun intended, behind the “90-degree rule” isn’t in position to send a screamer headed to anyone’s noggin from the 4th tee?
Stonybrook Golf Course, Litchfield (Reviewed August, 2011)
At GoatTrackGolf.com, we try to dedicate at least one Tracking Excursion per season to exploring the courses of the Northwest Corner of Connecticut and soaking up their ambience. This year our attention was drawn to Stonybrook GC, tucked away in the non-New York-moneyed section of Litchfield. Nine, yes only nine, holes of Tracking enjoyment to be had and, since we’ve always been partial to 9-hole layouts, the attraction to this course was nothing short of irresistible. Stonybrook has no site to link to; apparently course management feels that the sibling course, Fairview Farm, deserves all the attention. All the more reason for us to review Stonybrook.