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Tower Ridge CC (f/k/a Cliffside CC) reviewed November, 2008

Although Tower Ridge CC is in the backyard of the "Goat Track.com nerve center," it was historically off limits to those of a gentile persuasion in its original incarnation as Cliffside CC.  Cliffside (built in 1959) was built 35 years or so after Tumblebrook, a top-notch Country Club in this area, and provided an outlet for those not seeking membership at Tumblebrook.

The need to play and review Tower Ridge was mainly threefold:

  • It's been reported to be an exceptional course (Geoffrey Cornish design, Cornish being the pre-eminent designer of Northeastern golf courses)
  • Based on the "terms of transfer" to the current ownership group, Tower Ridge could not be developed into residential properties for ten years (and that clock has been ticking for a while).
  • "Relativity":  Forebears of Goat-Track.com's main contributor have been steeped in the tradition of Tower Ridge/Cliffside (mainly as landscapers and caddies) from the course's earliest days.  Based on their experience, playing on "caddy days" (Mondays), they offered ringing endorsements of the course.  We're glad to have an opportunity to play and review it.
 
As much as we'd like to consider Tower Ridge a Goat Track, and it definitely has the hilly terrain of one, in all fairness, we cannot for various reasons.  With that disclaimer, some Goat Tracker spin from the front nine:

Not one, but two ranges.  The fact that only one of them is a driving range (and the other is the Connecticut State Police Firearm Training Range adjacent to the course), is irrelevant.  From our viewpoint, Tower Ridge still has two ranges.  The downside of course, is that the "second range" may desensitize one to the sound of gunfire prior to a subsequent round at Keney, which may not be such a good thing.

First hole:  "road access" much closer to the left fairway tree line than on most courses we know.  Of course, when the course was built, Nod Road was much less heavily trafficked, so hitting back across the road wasn't as big a deal  These days, it requires a much better sense of timing and more intestinal fortitude to get a shot back across the road and through the trees on the other side.  Anyone who can play a shot across the road, off the roof of a passing SUV, and back into the fairway is Himalayan Sherpa material.

Second hole:  Across the road (familiar territory to some, depending on where their drives went on the first).   Two noteworthy and potentially Trackworthy aspects of the second hole:
  • One would never think that an arborvitae tree line two feet to the left of the tee box could be in play.  Au contraire, mon frere.  Protect your nuts or your noggin; take your pick and choose wisely,
  • Find the right green to approach.  Maybe if Friar Tuck hadn't scared the shit out of us by pinging his drive on #2 off the trunk of one of the arborvitaes near the tee box, we would've had better bearings here.  As it turned out, we were slow to recognize that the 2nd green was tucked to the left of.......the green we were aiming at, the 3rd.
The fifth hole is a double or triple bogey opportunity waiting to happen.  The best part of this hole, after you get to the "landing zone" is the "abyss" to the left front of the green.  Great change of elevation.

There is something to be said for the multi-million dollar house overlooking holes five through seven.  As Sherpa JB noted, "the pool is definitely in play on #6, it's just a matter of club selection."

#8 is probably the most frustrating par-3 we can recall playing recently and we'll leave it at that.

We like the 9th hole, the proverbial shot at redemption, at 335 yards downhill.  An "S" shaped fairway; a chance to let slices leak off into the driving range (and play a striped yellow ball as your approach shot [a savvy Tracker tees off with a range ball on this hole]); and a chance for great chip shots for those not skilled enough to hit the green in regulation.  There's a lot to like about this hole.

Goat Tracker spin from the back 9:

The 10th is a great start to the back 9.  After decompressing from the change in altitude on the 9th, one sees the sign for the women's tee on the 10th.  Those less affected by altitude sickness realize that the women's tee and men's tees are separated longitudinally by the Tower Ridge Tennis Courts.  Outstanding!

The 12th & 13th holes bring you back across Nod Road and onto the same flood plain near the Farmington River as the 2nd and 3rd holes (the main reason this parcel hasn't been developed).

#14 was a highlight; the hole closest to the "second range," otherwise known as the state police firing range.  The gunfire's a bit louder here than over the rest of the course and actually can function as a metronome.  As long as the folks on the range are firing in rhythm, it can be a great way to to get the timing of your swing back in sync....address (bang!), pivot (bang!), top of the backswing (bang!), contact (kaboom!); can't say enough good things about it.

As noted by some Stracka.com readers who saw the pic posted below on that site, the consensus, to paraphrase, was "take the drop; the risk/reward for playing from the woods isn't worth it."  Even the highly esteemed Tracker known as Ornery Bob chimed in to say, "I've dumped more than a few in there, never felt compelled to look for any of them though."


 

15, 16, and 17: all good golf holes, but the course had pretty much worn us out by this point.

Nice job with the layout on the 18th; similar to the 9th, downhill, just a bit longer with a pond in front or the green.  Definitely a good finishing hole.

Non Goat Track spin:

Greens:  The consensus was that these were light years away from what we're used to; smooth, good pace, good roll...playing greens like this once or twice a year is a real treat.  Playing them more often at Tower Ridge is probably :"challenging" and we like the fact that there appears to be a learning curve to putting these greens well (although in GTC;s case, it's a steep learning curve because he was bombing away early, often, and impressively, punctuating his round with an impressive 30-footer for bird on 18).

Bunkers: not as much sand as we might have expected, but still in good condition and in a variety of shapes and sizes to keep things interesting.

Most other aspects of the course are what one would expect from a decent course, with possibly more side hill lies than one may be accustomed to.

Of the courses with hilly terrain that Goat-Track.com has reviewed in 2008, we give an edge to Tower Ridge based on its layout.  It's not really Goat Track material, but is still fun to play.  The occasionally-discriminating Tracker known as Sherpa JB has endorsed Tower Ridge by considering it as an addition to his "non-Goat Track rotation" going forward, as a reasonable alternative to non-Tracks such as Rockledge and Tunxis, which will not be reviewed on this site.  Two Goat Horns Up!