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V. Kmetz

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It's funny; now 31 years later, I've played, visited, talked about, studied and read over SO many of the great golf courses of the world.  I work part-time at Winged Foot, snuck onto Augusta National, been a public speaker at places like Baltusrol and Sleepy Hollow and had so 100x many "champagne taste" experiences with the game and its great venues than my perpetual "beer pockets" could have ever dreamed...

But it all starts (and sorta ends) here for me...Sunset Hill, the scrubby goat pasture in Brookfield, Ct where I played my first actual round of golf in April 1982 at age 14.  Brookfield was my hometown then and though I had been caddying for a season and hit many golf balls at a range and on the defunct "West" course of the Old Oaks Country Club, I had never played an actual round.  My friend Joe, who's father belonged to to the former Lakeover Country Club in Bedford (now 180 degrees different as ultra bucks Glen Arbor) was a season or two ahead of me and suggested we played.  I'd lived in Brookfield for three years at this point and didn't even know there was a golf course.




Sunset Hills is the kind of place that is joked about, laughed about, reviled by the "serious" golfers.  I think most everyone who is on our board knows a place like it where they lived or grew up. Mention it and eyes roll, invective comes out and phrases like "goat hill" "shit hole" and worse come out.  If it has any reputation, it is as a dangerous place, where the tight confines and instances of crossing play and blind targets make shouts of "Fore" a regular occurrence and some injuries a season-to-season report.  That of course, was when golf options were fewer and farther between and the place saw 18-25,000 rounds a year.  Now it almost a ghost town, except for some weekend play and Dusty Leagues on the occasional weeknight in the summer.  I'd bet they barely reached 8,000 18 hole rounds in recent years.

The first picture was from a year ago, this one is the same perspective in late august 2010...(you can just about make out a topo from the green areas, the brownest of the turf is a slope of some sort)


And here is one with a line drawing, showing you the routing:


Par 35 2355 yards
#1 - Par 5 445 yards
#2 - Par 3 145 yards
#3 - Par 3 100 yards * range mat tee in use most of the time
#4 - Par 4 260 yards
#5 - Par 4 290 yards
#6 - Par 4 270 yards (also has a Par 3 tee which plays 185)
#7 - Par 5 430 yards
#8 - Par 4 275 yards
#9 - Par 3 125 yards * range mat tee in use 1/2 of the time.

Sunset does have something of unique history though. Many know Gene Sarazen's reputation as "the Country Squire."  Wel lhe acquired that moniker, owing to his time (late 1930s - early 1950s) owning and living on a dairy farm in...Brookfield, CT.  (Sarazen's home and farm is about 1 mile south of these first three photos on Whisconier Hill Road.  My high school friend Stacy B. lived in the Sarazen farmhouse in those years [*she was Joe's prom date in 1985])  As you might have inferred, the thing called "sunset Hill" was Sarazen's rudimentary "practice course" for use in the months he was in Brookfield.  Brookfield was truly "in the sticks" then and there wasn't a golf course for 15-20 miles.  Sarazen's older Met haunts in Bridgeport and further Southwest in Westchester Co are about an hour away (probably 2.5 in those days) and so...there wasn't much in the way of the Squire's baileywick available, even to knock about for the odd pleasure.  Most accounts say Sarzen happened upon a farmer's, John Urkiel (Urkiel family still owns the property) emptyish land and worked out an agreement to build a rudimentary course in an around this sharp and hilly property. 

Sarazen's course was pretty much the same, with a few exceptions which I'll detail after you look at this photo - which is a legend for a some of the exploits over the links over time:


1. The crudely painted B at the bottom center is the area of the putting green (think large area rug) where Brookfield High used to assemble for our home matches.  Our coach, and HS business teacher, Bob Sweeney used to bet us on chips, pitches and putts and con us out of our precious silver treasury then.  All members of the team owed Sweeney cartons of orange juice the next day, sometimes a full-on slice of pizza.  Now the modern kids complains about it, but back then we loved it and knew it was the single greatest home course advantage in the whole state.  Everyone hated it, complained about it, and rued themselves right into huge scores, because it is so impossible to score well.

2 The White circle, near the 2nd green in the top right center of the photo is where, on that first April '82 round, I made my very first birdie...putting from over 10 yards right of the green.  Yes, I putted through several yards of clover onto a few yards of green and right in for a 2 on the 2nd official hole I ever played...I looked at Joe as if I had done something wrong...asking, "Is that a birdie?"  When he confirmed it ruefully...I shouted over the hills and dales "Birdie" and like the proverbial trout...was hooked forever more. BTW: Joe has never been "even" with me again...poor fellow.

My god, we had NO idea what we were doing...we hit 3-irons for just about every shot.  Look at the next hole the drop-shot 100 yard par 3 third.  It tumbles about 35 feet over its 98 yards (off a driving mat).  We both blistered our traditional 3-irons sailing over the green, the woods and a few Ct towns and looked at each other after each hit, commenting: "I guess that's what these other clubs are for."  Those balls are still in flight.  The Green square to the left of that green (top right corner) is a spot we lovingly refer to as "the Magnet."  So many rounds, you couldn't help but pull the shot into a grassy meadow.

3.  the two blue circles in the area of the approach and 1st Green...the one labeled 1960 shows an area that was not part of the Sarazen course and didn't come into the picture until well after the Squire was not a local.  HIS first green was a rough Punchbowl at the extreme blind bottom of the first fairway (blue circle with #1).  You can still see the last archaeological vestiges of it today but it is more commonly the area where many golfers play their 90 yard third shots for the current 1st green

4.  I failed to mark-up that corner property that is between the 4th green and top of the 1st fairway...that is where Cujo lived.  Because of its locations, that private property was a hot spot for pushes or sliced second shots off #1 and hooked approaches on #4.  Golf balls were at an absolute premium then and though you never saw him, as soon as your foot crossed the stone wall onto that parcel, out he came - from a different and unexpected place every time...jaws snapping, fiercesome barks and many was the time that me and my golfing companions were seen crashing back through the woods in a somersault or dive.  once in a while you were able to get your ball. 

Also not noted on  this legend is back by the 4th tee...Tees were ALSO at a premium back then and one time, Joe and I were stuck after finishing 3 without a tee between us.  The teeing grounds at Sunset are absolute hardpan, and you had to hammer in a tee with the heel of your long irons.  A tee was an absolute necessity.  so we started hunting around, but for 10, 20 minutes NOTHING...then a single golfer came down the third, some business man with black socks and wheeling a pull cart.  He barely said two words to us...and we were too socially intimadated as youths to ask him for one.  He putted out on #3, walked to #4 and hit an trudged up the 4th fairway (THE steepest hill on the course).  It was few moments before we realized that he left his tee i nthe ground...we both lovingly cleaned it up and used it for our shots...we still refer to the anonymous stranger as "Tee Man" and associate mythic value with his unwitting gift.

4.  the two (2) lime green "Xs" indicate where drives might go on #1 (Before the horrible stand of seven pines were planted between #1 and #5 in the mid 1990s. ) When its really baked out, you can hook a ball that will tumble almost all the way to #7 (the left most lime green X) 
Here's a 1991 aerial that shows the area without the pines. It's the same North orientated perspective of the first three photos.



5.  The RED/BLUE X o nthe 5th fairway shows the place where I came the closest to death in the mid-1980s...that portion is on a broad flat hill top... I was playing #1 heading to the top of the photo.  Between me and my target is a deep valley (where the Sararzen #1 green was) It must be 40 feet bellow you and completely blind to that which might be coming up the hill, playing to 5. A golfer must have dribbled off the fifth tee and was playing his second when I heard a faint "fore" from down in the sunken valley...as I gathered my wits, I saw an orange Wilson Staff bee-lining for my chin...it was so immediate, my only reaction was to "limbo" backwards and the ball tickled my nostril hairs.  When the would-be assassin came up and over, he asked if I'd seen it.  I said with a great deal of maturity..."Orange wilson?  right over there...nice shot"

6.  the blue Line/Bar in front of the sixth green indicates that instead of that little stagnant bog that sits there now the thing that guarded the 6th green was a little stream with two culverts for access and entry.

7.  the dotted yellow lines are merely indicators of where you have to cross fairways to get to another hole.

8.  There's only one bunker on the course now.  It is a mean little pottie, 30 yards short of the uphill 8th hole.  The 1991 photo shows you that even its "heyday" there were only four (4)...short left of the 1st green, short right of the 9th and behind the right of the 7th.  then as now (even though there's only one extant) ANY time you were in a sunset bunker, it was perdition.  That remaining one on #8 is worthy of St. Andrews.  We never gave it a name, however.  Perhaps I will someday.

Well I'll concludes this "tour" (nothing of the sort really) by saying that despite all the many great places, and first class finery and treasured experiences of my life in Golf, this is my field of dreams.   the hours of quiet pleasure this place afforded me over the last 31 years are a treasure that can't ever be replicated or replaced.  I've chosen not to speak of any architectural values or features even though Sunset is loaded with shots and conditions that would absolutely beguile the games elite players...the greens are the size of your living room, they have more crazy pitches and contours than can ever be countenanced...thank god they are cut at the truest 6.5 you've ever played. 

Time has stood stock still at Sunset.  In my day juniors played ALL DAY (as many holes as you can get in) for $4.50...fountain sodas were fifty cents.  Today it's only slightly more expensive $16.00 for 9, $24.00 for 18, $3.00 beers.  Like I imagine those first hickory pioneers in Scotland, you make the course on the land...its laid out, but you are the real designer.

What a place!

cheers

vk
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

V. Kmetz

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Re: A Unique Google Earth Tour - Sunset Hill Golf Club - "the Ol' Course"
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 07:58:00 PM »
I just realized the "Legend" phot got cut off...I'l ltry to do somethign for repair...

or maybe it doesn't matter anyway. :D

cheers

vk
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

David Harshbarger

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Re: A Unique Google Earth Tour - Sunset Hill Golf Club - "the Ol' Course"
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2013, 10:07:07 PM »
So that's one for my must play list, though Infeel like I've played it already.  Cujo....made me snort tea.

Thanks for the wonderful tour.
The trouble with modern equipment and distance—and I don't see anyone pointing this out—is that it robs from the player's experience. - Mickey Wright

V. Kmetz

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Re: A Unique Google Earth Tour - Sunset Hill Golf Club - "the Ol' Course"
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2013, 11:03:12 PM »
DH,

Thanks for reading and responding; I'm glad you got a little something out of the amusement.

In the early 90s, when I hadn't played Sunset in a couple of years and playing alone late in the evening, I hit a ball into Cujo's domain left of the 4th green...took a peek, saw my ball a few yards away, crept over the crumbling rock wall (my senses will ever be alert there), got it quick and darted back onto the course...

Relieved to recover the sphere free of incident, within a brief moment, it dawned on me that Cujo likely would have passed by that time; that the poor boy was no more.

One of the saddest, or most poignant moments of passage from adolescence to full adulthood occurred that day.

I haven't played a round there since without thinking of him, and I've likely played it 150x since that day.

cheers

vk
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

David Harshbarger

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Re: A Unique Google Earth Tour - Sunset Hill Golf Club - "the Ol' Course"
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2013, 09:05:31 PM »
Vk,

As soon as I started reading the Cujo story to my wife, she knew the ending....even if not your dog, they do mark the time in our life.

Nob Hill, Culloden, WV, was my Sunset Hill.  I well remember the lost balls in the flowering clover, the nets, the barn backstopping the 1st green, but most of all, the day my dad's drive on the first tee shanked into the ball washer and back across my nose.  It was down by the 6th green before I dove back to the ground.  Laughing, of course.

Dave
The trouble with modern equipment and distance—and I don't see anyone pointing this out—is that it robs from the player's experience. - Mickey Wright

V. Kmetz

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Re: A Unique Google Earth Tour - Sunset Hill Golf Club - "the Ol' Course"
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2013, 09:30:44 PM »
DH,

If you refer to the photos, and look at the 5th green, you can make out the 15 foot high steel fence that quarters that green from screaming Mimis off the 1st tee.  One of the most apt safety measures any course has ever had.

If you can make out the larger pond/swamp area to the right of the 7th "fairway," know that this is one of two irrigation sources (still run by strung out hoses to little area sprinklers) the various proprietors of the course (still owned by Urkiel family) use to keep the small greens playable.  Even though small fountain soda cups were 50 cents a piece, that was a pile of loot for me in the early 80s, and one hot day playing 45 holes, Joe and I unhooked the 7th green sprinkler and drank like chain-gang convicts from it...that is until the greenskeeper/proprietor Ken drove his coughing, backfiring gas cart up to within earshot, shouting "Hey don't you guys know that water comes from that swamp?!"  we looked at him with momentary embarrassment, looked back at the swamp and went right back to the hose, drinking with a purpose.  Ken puttered away, shaking his head.

Those micro-organisms are STILL there, I think.

These places...mine here in CT, yours in WV and all of us in our primitive beginnings.  These are the great places.

cheers

vk
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

Jim_Kennedy

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Re: A Unique Google Earth Tour - Sunset Hill Golf Club - "the Ol' Course"
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2013, 10:16:41 AM »
VKmetz
An aerial from 1951, right after it opened:


Never thought I'd see SH on GCA.  :) A friend of mine, John Sands, who owned the NLE 9 holer in Boston Corners lives in B'field and plays (or used to) there.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2013, 10:18:39 AM by Jim_Kennedy »
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

V. Kmetz

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Re: A Unique Google Earth Tour - Sunset Hill Golf Club - "the Ol' Course"
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2013, 03:25:37 PM »
JK,

Fantastic; I've never gotten a chance to look at the aerials between 1935 (no course) and 1960 (Sarazen out of the picture)...great little place.  Unique; even amongst these quirky neighborhood/shoehorn courses.

I might term this photo "Salad Days of Sunset'

cheers

vk
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

V. Kmetz

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I was going to make a new Sunset Hills post/thread, but I realized this old one covered the salient points. For now this picture will have to take the place of a thousand updated words...





Isn't this "mom n' pop" golf at it's precious best? In most places, I know 3 or 400 bucks could/should be better spent, but here (and many other places like it) humble kitsch comports and perfectly serves as genteel ornament. The teeing ground to which this grand entrance leads is not unlike many at Sunset, an oriental rug-sized plaza of soon-to-be-divots, too small, too used and too dense with corner trees to ever develop as all the million seedings and re seedings have ever dreamed...but in this quick and earnest touch, the place connects with me in the spirit of doing the best one can with what one has.
[/size]
[/size]cheers
[/size]vk
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

Joe Hancock

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VK,

So much of my career was with humble golf courses, I can't help but smile at the picture and your describing words.

Thanks for the reminder!
" What the hell is the point of architecture and excellence in design if a "clever" set up trumps it all?" Peter Pallotta, June 21, 2016

"People aren't picking a side of the fairway off a tee because of a randomly internally contoured green ."  jeffwarne, February 24, 2017

MCirba

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This is an awesome thread.   Nicely done, V. Kmetz!
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

Jason Topp

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I missed this the first time around.  Terrific tour!

Richard Hetzel

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A someone who grew up in the town right next door, in New Milford, I can appreciate this thread. I didn't even know there was a golf course in Brookfield!
Last Ten: 
Mid Carolina Club (SC), Crandon GC (FL), Streamsong Blue (FL), Columbus CC (OH), PB Dye GC (MD), Hotchkiss (CT), Copake CC (NY), Fenwick (CT), Yale (CT), Architects (NJ)
Top 5 this year:
1. Yale
2. Culver
3. Wilmington Municipal
4. Charleston Municipal
5. Streamsong Blue

V. Kmetz

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And once in a while, on the right kind of day, Sunset gives you a quaint, even handsome view like this one taken from the right side of the 8th fairway leading to the a green obscured by that lone pine.





cheers
vk
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

V. Kmetz

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Re: A Unique Google Earth Tour - Sunset Hill Golf Club - "the Ol' Course"
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2019, 11:20:11 PM »
Dave was kind enough to remind me of this Sunset Hills thread, for which I must add the funniest story I can't believe was omitted...


Sometime in the late 1980s, when I was in my earliest twenties, it had become convenient to play twilight golf at 5:30 - 6:00 pm and get in as much as daylight would allow... That season, me and a few Budweiser buddies would always be closing the place and drawing the lock chain behind us as we pulled out well after the owner.


One summer evening, it was about 6:45 pm and we were on break shooting the shit at one of the three picnic tables, deciding whether or not to get in a few more when a car pulled up into the gravel lot...a forgettable average middle aged man popped out, went directly to his trunk, pulled off his work shoes, put on his spikes (back then) and hustled past the three of us, straight into the tiny shop, coming out moments later with a cart key...he travels the 50 yards to the cart pen, starts one up, brings it to the tee rack, hitches his bag and after a few digs at this bag, walks over to the first tee, not 25 yards from us.


We were kind of amazed into silence at his obviously mapped out logistics and the speed of their execution, figuring that he must be trying to fit 18 in the two hours of light left in the day (very possible at Sunset by yourself)... bvut we were starting to giggle.


Now, it's a shame that my previous post pictures of Sunset Hill aren't up for you would readily grasp that the entire right side of the 1st 435 yard hole is OB, defined by a notorious rock wall and treeline along that boundary side...it is a slicer's fright and many are the inaugural quintuple bogey started because of it.


After a few waggles, our hop-to-it hero proceeded to hit the most OB banana slice you've ever seen; as dead as Julius Caesar the moment it left the club face.


In empathy for a stranger we stifled our laughter...but not for long as our intrepid protagonist calmly ripped off his glove, re-stocked his bag from his pockets, took his bag off the cart...pulled the cart back into the pen...walked back to the rack after dropping back his key...picked up his bag, walked past us towards the lot...opened the trunk...put the bag back in... changed back into day shoes...hopped into the driver's seat....slowly backed up.... and then made a left out onto Sunset Hill Road and out of sight...!!!


We were CRYING WITH LAUGHTER...


And THEN....


only a moment or two later...


HE RETURNED...


...Same car, same guy, same process, same procedure, same method....PAID for his fucking cart again... (but pulled a different cart out this time)...drove up to the tee...loaded his bag...filled his pockets... took a few waggles... this time he nailed a beauty that split the 1st fairway... we gave him a goodwill Bronx cheer...he did not acknowledge us...and out he went.


Whole thing took like 20 minutes from the first time we saw him til he drove up the fairway the second go.



"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

David Harshbarger

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Tomorrow’s the day…
The trouble with modern equipment and distance—and I don't see anyone pointing this out—is that it robs from the player's experience. - Mickey Wright

V. Kmetz

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Playing Sunset?... Get outta here...!  What time?


Some last minute tips:


A. Don't hit more than 4 iron off the 4th tee...
B. You have to cross the 8th fairway/green down the hill to find the regular 6th tee



Please take some pics and share...





"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

David Harshbarger

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Prolly 11-12. Will do on pix. Thx for the tips.


When you get a chance to cross an item of your bucket list you gotta take it, amirite?
The trouble with modern equipment and distance—and I don't see anyone pointing this out—is that it robs from the player's experience. - Mickey Wright

V. Kmetz

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A cloudy Tuesday?... you should have the place to yourself, like you're a pasha.


Things to consider:
  • Imagine if those greens were cut at 9-10, instead of 5 -6.5?
  • The 8 bushy pines planted between 1 and 5, twenty - twenty-five years ago, were a defilement.


Enjoy!!
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

V. Kmetz

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...as the Judge intones, "Well?...We're waiting."


Probably scandalized.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2022, 08:57:20 PM by V. Kmetz »
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

David Harshbarger

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As we walked off nine my son concurred “yes, I’d go around again.”

Sunset Hill Golf Club is a wonderful course. You should play it. Here is why.

Sunset Hill is unlike any course conforming to contemporary norms:
  • The proportions are all wrong
  • Fairways are 40-50 feet wide
  • The holes are awkward lengths including 2 (blind) holes around 270 and 3s of 115, 126 and 145
  • The elevation gains are significant
  • Holes are packed tight
  • 7 holes have some blind element including the longer par 3.
And somehow it works.

The land is hilly. The way the course lays across it and with the shrunken proportions the course feels like a shriveled version of a normal course. In length and width all of the holes are small, particularly the playing corridors. Yet the vertical dimensions are exaggerated with more significant elevation changes and steep grades.

The greens are small and played slow and firm. Most are built up significantly to fit up on the hilly land. On 7 the tiny green at the end of a narrow par 5 runs away from the player.

Many have narrow, 5-8’ grass bunkers encircling part of the green. If these had been sand filled they would work as “courtesy” bunkers to catch balls before they run into trouble such as long downhill runouts.

Even midday on a gray Tuesday the course was active. Seniors, beginners, a group of teens, the usual players from the general public, all we’re enjoying the course*.

*English has 10s of 1000s of words so there must be a better one to describe the feeling of playing Sunset Hill other than “enjoy” but I can’t summon one to mind. The extreme slopes, narrow fairways, and blind landing areas combine to shunt balls away from site. The rough was just tall enough and clover filed enough to hide even well struck balls in plain site. The smaller scale features shrink target and landing areas. There are no level lies. Greens are slow and heavily tilted. All of these factors contribute to an endless variety of insanely challenging shots. Somehow all of these vectors of chaos sum as “Enjoyment”.

On the Doak scale I struggle to see where this course fits. We took an hour detour on our drive from New Haven having played GCA fave Yale the previous afternoon. That detour was well worth it, though I’d be hard pressed to pull a course feature to replicate intentionally. However I find the course architecture illustrative more of the resiliency of golf to adapt to an objectively unfit site than to any more permanent design principles.


This leads Sunset Hill to pose this fundamental question: how is it possible that is this is fun, even as it is?
« Last Edit: June 22, 2022, 09:01:51 AM by David Harshbarger »
The trouble with modern equipment and distance—and I don't see anyone pointing this out—is that it robs from the player's experience. - Mickey Wright

V. Kmetz

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DH (and all)


What a fair and aesthetically accurate description of Sunset; it is indeed so hard to quantify or qualify, as it exists in some strange twilight that is both sub-golf and uber golf at the same time. 


It's sub-golf when you're hitting off the occasional mat and hardpan "teeing grounds;" it's uber-golf when you're judging a partial wedge off a 8% side-slope to a plain target the size of a tapestry drape. 


It's sub-golf when you cross holes to access other tees and when the difference between milkweed rough and crabgrass fairway is that the former is gang mowed once a week and the latter, twice...with the same gang mower.  It is uber-golf when you're A+  shots can and do result in a "2" on 7 of the 9 holes, as well as when you have correctly forecast and executed a longer shot of 68% flight, 31% roll and 1% luck...and the damn thing finds the green after discoing off five little bounces in the clover. 


It's sub golf to the contemporary TV/championship status mind at 2300 yards and par of 35; it's uber-golf in that the nine chunks which make up the 2300/35 each yield a specific and different golf sequence that is as legitimate and regular enterprise as is found on the best courses.


As a 40 year veteran of over 400-500 rounds there, I have seen it in most every guise, joyful and frustrating, impossible and easy, and in the tension between such poles, it achieves a koan of perfection, as DH's evincing report points.


I'm just as pleased to to see DH pass on the good vibe that Sunset has always engendered...a syncopated mix of disparate golfers... a foursome of 13 year old novices figuring it out on their own...bot-bellied retirees who still roll cigarette packs in their sleeves... beer leagues...frumpy middle aged couples... dusty beer league stalwarts, a business professional stealing two hours before his next appointment... a curious father and son, looking for a shared good time.


One additional counterpoint of all of this is that Sunset repels, resists, and disgusts the "good golfer," or rather the golfer with a high opinion of their game and its journey through contemporary standards...the well-practiced golfer who prospers in measurables, tends to the vanity in handicap, concerned with proportionate, fair, sensitive and nuanced about his/her equipment... no professional golfer who doesn't want to be laughed at would ever play there...whenever they encounter the course, it's like Bobby Jones' 1st visit to TOC... 


This is a good thing, for that resistance, and absence of quality, fine golfers, has probably kept Sunset in its humble good service to its local crowd for the last 25-30 of its 85 years. Though some features have been altered, no one has tried to legitimize, perfect or re-imagine its virtues; no great players, golf visionaries, architects, or shrewd golf developers will ever play there, so no one gets designs on it, and it remains an American antipode of wherever the Top 100 list is centered.  God bless that most of that ilk dismiss it as a goat-track shithole.


If you're ever near Brookfield CT with 90 minutes to enjoy, you should go see it. It is one of a kind...and yes, such is the voraciousness of property development, there could soon be a day when it replaced by a score of 1 acre demi-mansions, called "The Reserve at Sunset Hill"...stone pillars and all.


***Follow up to data of DH's post:


Fans and debaters of bunkerless this and that take note: There is currently only one sand-filled bunker on the course, 30 yards in front of the 8th green; there used to be four, three of which appear as grass bunker/depressions now... (left by 1st green, right rear of 7th green, right front of 9th green). Photographic evidence remains inconclusive, but there may have been two more... behind the 5th green, and to the right of the current 4th green (which is not original to the Sarazen course and would have only briefly existed if at all).
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

David Harshbarger

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To VK, first Thank You! for lending your pen and ear to the benefit of Sunset Hill and your readers. You bring a gonzo style to golf writing: I am richer Duke following your words.


I got more out of my visit to Sunset Hill than I did my second visit to Yale the afternoon before, at least as far of my understanding of golf and of myself as a golfer and (C) student of the game.


If courses have some vegetal sentience Sunset Hill seems cruelly indifferent to the travails of those roaming its rolling hills. It is indifferent to dispersion patterns and strokes gained. I stopped entering strokes in Golf Metrics by the time I was on 4; what was to be learned that would matter at all when back in the conventional world?


(Should I reacquaint myself with the technique for hosting and posting images I will post photos).
The trouble with modern equipment and distance—and I don't see anyone pointing this out—is that it robs from the player's experience. - Mickey Wright

PPallotta

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What an enjoyable read, thanks much gents. And thanks to David for finally daring to say out loud what I've long dimly suspected, ie the subtle vegetal sentience possessed by all golf courses, some benignly indifferent to the human travails being played out upon them, and others cruelly so. One day, in a Star Trek Next Generation world using Jordi LaForge type vision technology and Counsellor Troy levels of insight and empathy, we will have so-called scientific proof of that very vegetal sentience of which you speak. Until then, I will have to remember and trust in the words of the famed Hindu guru Paramahansa Yogananda, who said: "God sleeps in the minerals, dreams in the flowers and the fields, awakens in the animals and in the birds, and knows that He is awake in man."


V. Kmetz

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This re-visitation and DH's journal entry inspire me to conjure a "restored" and more fulsome tour with stable/permanent pix here, though just like everything dyslexically (im)perfect about Sunset, it defies not only serious, consuming golfers, but, like a vampire, even communicative photography... I mean Jon Cavalier and a 1 billion pixel drone camera might not convey what it's like to play these shots with mental expectations of golf as its known outside Sunset's 31 acres.


And it also gives rise to the idea that course tours are owed to Sunset's nearby 9 hole cousins...Pequonekonck (mentioned here occasionally for the famed one-shot 4th hole known as Kilimanjaro) and Vail's Grove in North Salem, NY, and Sunset's fraternal twin, the quite mad Newtown Country Club. Each of these equally humble relatives don't quite carry the "pitch" of Sunset's implacability, (e.g. they each have some plainer/duller holes that don't inspire challenge or solution) but they all carry those grace notes of the game at its older, essential level, which time and economy have left alone.


Another amusing/attractive Doric column about such courses is that it silences these opinion debates dominating the equipment game; it doesn't matter how hot your driver, how much or little spin your ball, how milled your wedge, how fitted your clubs, how practiced your cross hand putting, how refined your AimPoint survey skills, your rain gear, your yardage gun and its elevation features...all mostly moot at Sunset and its cousins, because you have to hit compensatory partial shots everywhere...there are few green lights in its 35 expected-par shots.  It's nearly a disadvantage to have the limit of up to date equipment. Titleist, Cobra Big Betha is no better than Gear Effect irons...Burke Punch-irons... Jerry Barber shank-proofs here.  People have shot 37s with Caldor Executive irons by Spalding and stolen miniature golf course putters, beating people with matched sets and Taylor Rocketballz who shot the most obscenity-laced 44s you've ever witnessed...Senior ladies have made aces off the parking lot fence posts...yet, every shot, every hole is doable, no heroism required...just...flexibility... and a tolerant mind. 
"The tee shot must first be hit straight and long between a vast bunker on the left which whispers 'slice' in the player's ear, and a wilderness on the right which induces a hurried hook." -

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