They aerated the greens at my home course on Monday, but through the good graces of reciprocal privileges, my golf pro at Hop Meadow in Simsbury, CT, was able to arrange for me to play at Farmington Woods in Farmington yesterday.
Farmington Woods is a gated, large condominium complex with a relatively few single-family homes that were added in recent years. Over its more than 25 years, the community has been largely favored by empty nesters who sold at a substantial profit the houses in which they had raised their children to move to a community that offered an affordable private golf club and a neighborhood of sociable sexagenarians. At a half hour from Hartford, CT, its location is just remote enough to give it a suburban feel but close enough to Hartford, and just two hours from both Boston and New York City, to provide plenty of entertainment options.
The course is not for everyone. It is relatively short but tight, yet those who prefer rolling fairways and undulating greens will find much to like. Spray hitters should stay away; I found myself hitting 3 wood and 5 wood more than I am used to, but neither ever put me too far from home, and it was a pleasant change of pace to leave the driver in the bag on most par 4s and 5s. The par-5s are mostly short, but severely doglegged, making cutting corners a perilous venture. Long hitters can hit as little as 5-irons on a few par 4s to put themselves in position for well-placed lay-ups. The par 3s, for the most part, feature well positioned bunkers in front and sometimes significantly contoured putting surfaces. The course was in terrific shape, with nary a bad lie in the fairways and greens that, although cross-cut days earlier, showed how good they must be when untouched by a machine other than lawn mower. The grass on the tees was the best I have played anywhere this year. (Sorry, I forgot the camera.)
Farmington Woods was designed in 1973 by the late Desmond Muirhead, who combined with Jack Nicklaus to produce Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Nicklaus-sponsored annual PGA tournament. Muirhead has scores of other courses to his credit, including both Boca West courses in Florida, the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills in California, and Desert Island in Rancho Mirage, CA. Clearly at Farmington Woods, Muirhead was not given a whole lot of land to work with, yet he acquitted himself admirably. There are a fair number of water hazards, but they are easily negotiable, and the sand bunkers are only a concern on the par 3s and in the landing areas of two other holes.
Only a couple of holes are lined with the ugly OB stakes that "protect" the backyards of residents. And the walk or cart drive between 15th green and 16th tee, at more than a quarter-mile, is the longest in my experience outside a resort. Farmington Woods would be a tough walk for all but the best conditioned 60-somethings, but these are small quibbles, more than made up for by the beautiful mountain vistas from a number of fairways and greens.
Golf and residence at Farmington Woods are bargains; initiation fees are well under $10,000 and real estate choices start in the $300s. The older homes, which were built with all wood exteriors, are starting to show their age, but the newer units are sparkling, and the landscaping throughout the community Is what you would expect in much-higher-end communities. Farmington Woods includes seven tennis courts and four separate pool areas. Although we saw a number of older couples out on the course, we also played through a group of 15-year-old boys who were having a grand old time. Mothers pushing strollers (prams for our British readers) and a 90ish woman with a cute but yappy Lhasa Apso rounded out the scene. Farmington Woods is an eclectic community.
For those New Englanders who want year round private-club golf but don't want to leave behind friends and family, a summer home at a place like Farmington Woods and a winter home in the southern U.S. would be wonderfully complementary, without breaking the bank.
Web site is FarmingtonWoods.com.
Farmington Woods Golf Club plays at 6,577 yards from the tips (Rating 72.6, Slope 129). The men's tees are 6,119 (70.7/125) and the women's 5,523 yards (72.1/121).