...out of 4 GT logos, mainly because it surprised us and made us repeat customers.
The Tradition Golf Club at Oak Lane; Woodbridge, Connecticut. Initially reviewed June, 2016. (unfortunately, the pics aren’t good enough to post)
The trip to Oak Lane was sort of a leap of faith for us because The Tradition Management Group didn’t inspire much confidence based on comments made years ago by a trusted source (the venerable Tracker known as Ornery Bob) about the Tradition at Wallingford, in addition to the Goat Track Minor Event Experience at the Tradition GC - Windsor, which kicked our lowered expectations down a few notches. The point is that, through no fault of its own, Oak Lane didn’t start with a clean slate on the GT Review front.
On the other hand, “formerly private” is the GoatTrackGolf.com reviewer’s equivalent of catnip. Irresistible…and gets us really wound up.
Scene setting: One doesn’t expect to find a kindred spirit in the parking lot of a golf course, but this was where it all started to come together; a brief conversation with an old-timer about the weather on the walk to the pro shop.
“What’s your tee time?”
“We’re behind your group.”
“I don’t think it’ll rain on us,” while it was still drizzling at the time. The old-timer knew it would work out. Positive Tracking Attitude. We love that.
We read some stuff online about friendly staff, but c’mon…that’s useless...
What got our attention: The first thing you see, before you enter the pro shop to pay your greens fees, is an aspiring club pro (high school kid) with a clipboard, getting players and carts organized before a mini-cluster develops. Fantastic. Probably one of the last remnants of Oak Lane’s days as a private course. Sets a great tone, in a “we’re trying to get you out as quickly as possible for an enjoyable round” sort of way. Channeling a thought from Sherpa JB, “It’s almost like they want you to be here!”
As Mark, our tour guide for our first round noted, “Don’t let the blue tees throw you off. You’re better off playing from the blues than the whites. White plays kind of short.” We concur.
Some people complain about excessive doglegs and blind shots, we’re occasionally among them, but what we liked here:
Thank you red, white, and blue: as our tour guide Mark pointed out to us, any goofy tee shot you may need to hit to work around a corner, lay up, or carry a water hazard, is pretty well-marked by the 200/150/100 stakes to give you an opportunity to tap into your Track Acumen and execute a useful shot of your choosing. Your ability to tap into the simple golf yardage arithmetic necessary to execute said shot may be a different issue.
The #1 and #2 handicap holes are #1 and #10. We didn’t notice this at first, but the more we think about it, the more we like it from a match/wagering perspective; making things interesting right out of the chute and on the turn. Outstanding.
Layout minutiae: don’t need to, but will anyway.
Bunkers: Best described as firm. Works great on the fairway bunkers, if you want a chance to recover and hit a GIR from long-iron range; more challenging on the ones greenside. The true bunker minutiae is that they’re grainy enough that, if you’re putting from the edge of a green near a bunker, it may be a bumpy ride because the sand that was splashed into your line isn’t fine enough to settle in underneath the grass. Minutiae of a finer granular quality than the sand.
Greens: Great, in an understated way. If you enjoy putting through the clown’s mouth or trying to make four reads on a green mogul field, Oak Lane may not be for you. They’re challenging enough, roll well, and have decent speed, but what we liked best was that you could line one up from 30 feet and at least think you had a chance to sink it, even if you couldn’t. They mix in a few false fronts to assist you with your Track Management skills and iron play.
Fantastic finishing hole: Received enthusiastic comments from all in our group. There are a lot of other finishing holes that we like, but the 18th at Oak Lane ranks among the most fun we’ve played. It’s what a finishing hole should be, an opportunity to nut up and finish the match strong. In this case, it’s a 445-yard par-4. Let that sink in for a moment. Sometimes 445 is a tricked-up par-5 or a tee shot from an elevated box to let you think you’re airing it out on a par-4. Not on #18 at Oak Lane. If you’re on either side of a tight match, there’s no playing conservatively (wussing it up) here. You need to jump all over it off the tee, do your best to keep it in the short grass, then go into attack mode on the approach, before the real fun starts on and around the green.
Pace of play: Worked for us. We’ve read mixed reviews elsewhere, but overall, we can’t see how it can go horribly wrong here. From what we could gather, people playing Oak Lane weren’t just excited to be there, they also knew that f’ing up the pace of play was Bad Tracking Karma. Private Club Mentality at work.
19th: Some impressions stick. Seems to us that every clubhouse in the greater New Haven area has a similar design from a Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture School reject, even the muni, Alling Memorial (but not Sleeping Giant GC in nearby Hamden, which last time we checked, was still operating from a single-wide trailer, which is classic). The 19th at Oak Lane is similar to the course layout; it gives you multiple options: sit on a railed-in patio facing the practice green, range, or the course; sit inside at a table on the lower tier; or sit inside on the upper tier, otherwise known as the bar, which is set up pretty well, by the way. The point is that it’s a decent set up with “brilliant acoustic management” so you don’t have to scream in order to carry on a conversation or hear yourself think. You may find this feature helpful if you slightly impaired your hearing after hammering some drives on the course with some hollowed out titanium. What? Who said that?
In summary: Although it has some of the layout quirks that one would expect at a course that used to be private, where one needs to “know the course” in order to score well, we thought Oak Lane was a good layout to play, with opportunities to score. A steady diet of this course may not suit some Trackers, but it’s a great chance to branch out and play something different with good conditions.
With timing so predictable that we should probably refer to him as Big Ben, the friendly old-timer whom GNT ran across on the way from the parking lot to the pro shop reminded us from every tee box within shouting distance of the green we were on that, “I told you it wouldn’t rain!” He was excited to golf at Oak Lane and why wouldn’t he be? Who wasn’t? Someone from another group who gave a shit about our enjoyment of the course. No better way to describe the Oak Lane experience than that.
We enjoyed it even more on our second trip. We’re giving The Tradition at Oak Lane...