...out of 4 GT logos. That said, if we were aware of this course during our UCONN days, we would’ve played it regularly; it's conveniently located, reasonably priced, etc.
Windham Club (North Windham, Connecticut), f/k/a University Club of Connecticut, p/k/a Willimantic Country Club (re-re-reviewed following our round September, 2015)
When the highly-esteemed Tracker known as Ornery Bob gave us a heads up during sim season that some serious work had been done on the course, Windham Club was back on our radar. We liked it before, maybe we’d love it now.
We originally reviewed Windham Club when it was known as Willimantic CC (the signature line from that review was, “To anyone who attended UCONN, “Willimantic” and “Country Club” belong in the same sentence about as much as “jungle cafeteria” and “fine dining”). We revisited the course when it was known as The University Club of Connecticut, after it was purchased by Donny Marshall, Kevin Ollie, Ray Allen, and probably with some assistance from a loan officer with an affinity for kissing ass and no common sense. The most noticeable improvement during that time was probably the faux wrought iron fence and signage at the entrance….or possibly the upgraded 19th. And that brings us to the refurbished Windham Club that was played/reviewed September, 2015.
The point is that we know this course reasonably well. Golfnow.com gave us an opportunity to review it, but we’d rather provide an unfiltered review.
The pro shop…still consistent; friendly, all about function over form; hasn’t changed much. We like that. While we were there, we were informed that about 300 trees were removed during the “course refurbishment.” Our best guess is that most of them were taken out in the effort to move a couple of tee boxes and reshape the new 17th hole. The old tree lines are still intact…and they’re still majestic.
In summary: Maybe we set the bar too high, but Windham Club overpromised and underdelivered; the course isn’t noticeably improved compared to our other loops. It’s getting downgraded, based mainly on the disappointment factor.
Windham Club earns an extremely tepid...
Worst re-design feature, bar none: The hole that WC thinks should be the signature hole, #17. This is where Train and Wreck meet, forging a solid relationship. As a frame of reference, we've noted that teeing off across the road from the elevated box on #1 is great. Teeing off from flat ground on #17, across the road on a short corner to oncoming traffic, not fun at all. It takes swing tempo and personal liability to places it shouldn't need to go. The tee box is jammed in close to the 16th green to add yardage; close enough that anyone leaking one left on 16 has a decent shot at cleaning your clock on 17th tee. On a muni, they’d put up a net to prevent that from happening. First thought upon seeing this “layout improvement” was that they may as well have put the 17th tee box in the middle of the 16th green; less of a chance of getting hit. There were better ways to design a new signature hole (tightening up the dogleg was an option). The new 17th green doesn’t fit in with any other on the course, so...simply put, it's a tee-to-green cluster, which probably makes it the signature hole in the wrong way.
Greens: We caught them when they were “sliced” as opposed to being “fully aerated/punched” and they were quicker than expected, given their appearance. On the flip side, the speed was inconsistent, especially on the back 9. A true GT Sherpa would of course make the adjustment, but it’s not an easy one to make.
Onto the Parkland Layout:
Best re-design feature: Removing the practice green from within shank distance of the first tee box. We kind of liked it when it was there, but any time we played there, we expected to hear sirens and/or a LifeStar helicopter in the background at some point. Probably better that it was relocated. Hitting across the road on #1 is still a great way to kick things off.
What grated on our GT sensibilities
Parkland Layout…loosely defined here; look it up for yourself and determine whether Windham Club meets the criteria. The Windham Club site sells this thing hard with some flowery prose. Bottom line is that when you see the terms “parkland layout,” “private enclave,” and “azalea garden worthy of Augusta,” you know that someone is overworking the site verbiage.
Renumbering of the holes: Windham Club got a lot more walking-unfriendly after the re-design. The old layout had a function/purpose; avoid long walks from green to tee when possible. It’s a classic “forced march” feature that Old School Trackers appreciate as a pace of play enhancement. We’ve seen the same mistake made at Stashu and CCW; seeing it happen here was disappointing.
What used to be the 18th was possibly the best finishing par-3 we’ve played, right up there with the one at Blue Fox Run (which was better when it was a par-4). It’s a difficult club selection at 205 yards from the highly-elevated tee box. Now it’s just the 16th.