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Bryan Icenhower

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With professional golf in the nutmeg state this week, and on the heels of the recent major in New England, I am going to do a course tour of Woodway Country Club in Darien, CT.   The WPJ course hasn’t been discussed much on GCA in several years, so I have put together a course tour, including its history, changes through the years, and recent work to show the treehouse what it is missing.  First up, the club’s history, followed by updates with the front 9 and back 9 to follow. 


PART 1 - The Club’s History
 
Located in the northernmost part of Darien, CT and tight against the borders of New Canaan and Stamford, the club was founded in 1916, when a small group of members from Wee Burn branched out and started a new club when a vote to move to another site to accommodate a full 18 hole course vs the 9 they had was defeated (eventually Wee Burn would expand to 18 holes designed by Deveraux Emmett in 1923 less than a mile as the crow flies from Woodway).
 
Theodore Hoyt stepped forward in 1916 to purchase an ideal location for a country club, the Woodway Farm located on Hoyt Street in Darien, the key parcel of property which would make up Woodway Country Club.   Walter Travis was asked to appraise the land for the new golf course “If ever Nature intended a plot for a first-class course, it is here. I will go so far as to say that I have never seen anything, anywhere, so suitable in all respects, for the creation of a magnificent course. I am well aware that this is a pretty big order, but I am quite sure that I am not over-enthusiastic" said Travis after inspecting the land. 


The board looked at several architects, including Raynor, Tillinghast, and Ross, ultimately selecting Willie Park, Jr., as Woodway’s golf course architect.  His plans were approved in March of 1917, and work began soon after with seeding in the fall of the same year.  The new facility officially opened on Sunday, June 30, 1918, and Park’s design work was immediately acclaimed, with the course opening as the longest course in Connecticut at 6,470 yards (some 232 yards longer than the white markers today!).  Willie's design also provided for other teeing areas which, when used, would extend the course to over 6600 yards.


Earliest aerial (1926)



In 1921 George Duncan and Abe Mitchell completed what was then considered one of the greatest golf tours of all time. They played 91 rounds over more than 40 courses in ~3months. It was national (even global) news at the time with every match recapped in newspapers across the USA and England daily. Courses played included The Country Club, Myopia Hunt, Ekwanok, Shuttle Meadow, Garden City, Sleepy Hollow, Westchester CC, Hollywood, Merion, Scioto, and White Bear Yacht Club.  The matches were played against the greatest pros and amateurs in the US including the likes of Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet with thousands in attendance to view the matches. As the below article states, of all the courses they played, Duncan and Mitchell selected Woodway Country Club as the best. WPJ would later use this proclamation in his advertisements highlighting Woodway as his best US design.





Woodway has extremely interesting land movement, with 145 feet of elevation change on the property, and phenomenal Park greens.   A central hill, which is the site for two greens and two tees, is a major feature of the site and plays predominantly in 6 holes (5/6/7/10/11/13).  Additionally, Park artfully used the Noroton River (really a creek) to influence play in one way or another on 6 holes. 


Like most WPJ courses, par is defended at the large greens at Woodway; he created wonderfully undulating strategic greensites that allows the natural topography of the ground to dictate the challenge from tee to green and makes two putting difficult if you miss the correct section.  Many of the greens have been built as tabletop / plateau style greens he often created.


In talking with Bruce Hepner, he said “WPjr was all about the routing and the green sites. WCC has some great found green sites” and he “definitely used the natural ridges to play as many holes off of, especially leading up to the main hill. Great routing taking advantage of topo to create variety.“


The relatively few significant changes that have happened to the course (other than tree plantings) have been directly tied to the clubhouse(s).  Park originally had laid the course out with a different routing in mind then the one which the club opened with, one that would have taken advantage of the clubhouse being on the highest point of the property.  However, WWI and then the depression stopped this vision from ever being realized, and a change to the routing needed to happen before the first shot was taken when the membership decided to convert two original structures from the farm into the first clubhouse.     


The second major change happened in 1936 when  that clubhouse was expanded, and the original green (15 in today’s routing, 18 at the time) was abandoned and a new green was built by Albert Zikorus was built some 40 yards closer to the teeing area.  Several other attempts were made (and failed) over the years to move the clubhouse to the spot WPJ had intended, but ultimately the members decided in 1999 they needed more space and moved the clubhouse to its current location, which resulted in the only other substantive change to the course.  This move resulted in the creation of an entirely new 9th hole (the original green is now the practice green), and yet another change to the routing.   


Other than that, much of the gem that was what Willie Park originally planned and created still exists on the land, but there has been a lot of change through the years as one would expect with a course that is 106 years old - shrinking greens, added / removed / moved bunkers, new and / or moved tee boxes, shrinking mow lines, and of course trees upon trees added choking the course beyond belief.


A view of the 7th tee box in 2006 from the Kyle Harris thread linked below showing how choked the course had become 

 
Kyle's thread - [size=78%]https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php?topic=24292.10;[/size]


Luckily for the membership, Woodway has begun a restoration at the hands of Bruce Hepner alongside a very skilled new superintendent from Pine Valley named Anthony Garzia (hired in 2019).  Together, hand in hand with a dedicated Greens and Grounds Committee, the club has started to correct some of the wrongs that have happened over the last 106 years. 


Anthony assessed a bunch of changes that needed to happen and he recommended, and the club shortly thereafter approved, the choice of Bruce Hepner to come in and start the work Anthony laid out.  The first task was to redo all of Woodway's bunkers, which the grounds staff had spent a disproportionate amount of labor to make playable after every rain.  This project involved re-shaping every single bunker, adding drainage, and installing Billy Bunkers throughout the entirety of the course, as well as eliminating a few that had been added over time.


Bruce quickly pointed out that much more needed to be done other than just the bunkers, and that the Club had the ability to do more in order to start to rein the course back and show off the classic architecture that was there but had largely been lost through the years.  Bruce had a very simple plan, with a bit more work than planned, the course could be brought back into a cohesive thought by tying it all together, really highlighting the old world character that was on the ground. 


That started with tree removal and taking those out that were double hazards and which would improve the agronomy, expanding the greens back to their original pads, opening back up mowing lines that had been lost and realigning tees so that the hole played from the classic architectural tenet of playing from the same line that had been haphazardly placed through the years, and correcting some mistakes made over the years. 


Example of trees too close to the green, 6th hole, from Kyle Harris thread -



The Board approved the further recommendation from the Greens and Grounds Committee to fast track some of these projects which had been identified and were included in the Club’s Long Range Plan starting in August of 2019, guided by Bruce and Anthony, with MacDonald and Sons as the contractor.  Work continues to this day against that Long Term plan.


Bruce’s work was recently featured in Derek Duncan’s Golf Digest article “How golf courses can renovate at a reasonable cost” and features an image of the 13th hole from Evan Schiller, who the club had out
this past fall to take a few in-progress pictures of the work being done.



More of Evan’s imagery will be shown during the course tour, supplemented with images I took two weeks ago. 


The Golf Digest article can be found here - https://www.golfdigest.com/story/golf-courses-renovate-reasonable-cost-baltrusol-congressional-oakland-hills


Next to come, the front 9, but before that, here are some before and after shots comparing the work post tree removal against Kyle's original images above ….


7





6





13 - 2006 version of the hole, compared to Evan’s image above …
« Last Edit: June 23, 2022, 05:20:22 PM by Bryan Icenhower »

Will Lozier

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Looking forward to reading more....great start!!!


cheers

MCirba

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Terrific...thanks!
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

Bryan Icenhower

  • Karma: +0/-0

PART II - The Front Nine


Scorecard



Routing





Note - google maps and the drone video on the club’s website still shows the course pre restoration

Hole 1  |  Par  4          
Black - 390  /  Blue - 342  /  White - 320  /  Green - 303





The first hole was one of a few holes to be considered in the “most tweaked” over time category, and while the original hole was still there somewhere, much change had been done over the years.  A new green was added in 1985 right of the original green that “afforded a second shot over Raymonds Pond.”  A new set of tees were created in 1999 left of the original box to straighten the dogleg that was created with the new green, a large swale coming from the left was lowered considerably to soften the landing area, bunkers removed, etc.   A mess of a hole with two sets of tees and two greens prior to Bruce coming on board.


Bruce quickly got this hole back to its original intent, shutting down the alternate green and non original tees, opening the fairway with mowing lines, adding character back to the fairway by bringing back the ridge coming off 8th green that had been lost, eliminating the rough that fronted the green that stopped a run in shot, working on the green to bring it back to the original size, eliminating some trees close to the green and restoring the back left bunker. 


The short opener is deceptively full of subtle strategy, with the ideal play to resist the urge pull driver, rather something less in order to produce a better view of the putting surface.  From the tee, the hole plays over the Noroton River (more a creek, but not really in play) that meanders through much of the course to a landing area influenced by the ridge Bruce restored running along the left hand side off the 8th green.  The further you hit your drive the more reachable the pond is and the more you bring in a swale which will leave you with a difficult pitch that obscures the green’s surface.  Anything left of ideal is also blocked out of most of the surface by a fronting bunker on the left side. 






Hole 2  |  Par  4          
470 / 450 / 423 / 402


A long par 4 that runs along the edge of the property on the right with the ideal angle to the hole from the left side of the fairway. This hole has been extended over the years with the tee box moving backwards with the addition of the land that was purchased for the 1st hole alternate green.


This is a really good green complex well protected on all sides with lots of internal movement.  The green is perched maybe 20 or so feet above the 3rd tee box, making an extremely difficult pitch back up the hill to the green complex for any shot hit long. 







Hole 3  |  Par  3          
213 / 208 / 184 / 155


The third hole, the first of only 3 par 3’s on the course, is a great one shot hole, and while the tee shot is over a pond, it's not really in play but for a very poorly executed shot.  The pond was created out of a low lying wetland / bog area in the 1960s as part of a major water resource project throughout the course, when multiple areas were connected throughout the course by an intricate piping network.


This long one shotter requires an accurate tee shot to a green surrounded by trouble, as the green is semi-perched, meaning anything tugged significantly offline that misses the two bunkers protecting the left side of the green have a chance of careening into the Noroton River, anything hit long is faced with a shot from the woods, and with bunkers short left and right and long left.   


From left of the green looking back from the 4th tee







Hole 4  |  Par  4          
392 / 379 / 357 / 290


The fourth hole plays over the Noroton River which runs directly in front of the tee box and then along the length of the hole on the right.  The tee shot plays up and over a ridge that bisects the hole diagonally from left to right in the landing zone, any ball that does not rise over the hill will be rejected right either towards the two fairway bunkers, or back down the hill for a very long and blind approach shot into one of the more interesting greens on the property. 





The fourth green is one of the larger on the property, and maybe some of WPJs finest work, with lots of movement and quadrants that make two putts unlikely if you miss the correct section of the green.  By my counts there are 7 distinct sections in the green, 4 areas that sit slightly lower, surrounded by 3 areas that filter balls this way and that.  The upper left quarter of this green is my favorite on the course, with so many depressions and movement that require your utmost concentration.





Hole 5  |  Par  5          
581 / 567 / 545 / 443


A long par 5 that very few members take on in two shots.  The tee shot is below the grade of the fairway and over another irrigation pond added in the 60’s and doesn't come into play but for the worst of golf shots. 


Fairway bunkers protect the right side of the landing zone, which is perched on the highest ground of the hole, leaving a very demanding second shot if you try to take on the green in two to a green beautifully situated in a natural bowl. 


For those more prudent to choose to lay-up, you are left with most likely a mid-iron shot to clear another fairway bunker on the right, but leaving you a choice of two distinct plateaus in the fairway as you make your way down to the green. 


The green is protected both right and short by the Noroton River, which runs parallel to the line of play 15 yards right of the green and perpendicular in front of the green some 55 or so yards short of the green.


As mentioned, we had Evan Schiller out in the fall to take a few in progress pictures of the work we have been doing, this is the first of his series, from behind the 5th hole looking back up over the two tiers







Hole 6  |  Par  4          
445 / 420 / 408 / 397





The reverse camber 6th hole plays significantly longer than the scorecard because the green sits almost 40 feet above the teeing ground as you begin to climb the central hill.


Less than accurate tee shots can find the new bunker on the left side of the fairway.  Those who push or block the ball out to the right, or hitting into the wrong section of the tilted fairway, can find their ball pushed into the fairway bunker protecting the right side of the hole and an extremely hard shot if you think you are hitting the green. 


This dogleg requires an accurate tee shot to hold a fairway that tilts hard left to right at the center of turn of the dogleg before tackling the rest of the climb by carrying a valley and then steeply up the rest of the hill.


At the ridge line



Those that needed to lay up after trouble on the tee, or for the longest of hitters who drove through the fairway, will find themselves in the valley that runs between the highpoint of the dogleg and the perched green. 


One can not understate the drastic change that tree removal has had on this hole, both along the fairway but especially up at the green.  Prior to Bruce’s work, the green was heavily protected by a set of trees that ringed the green, all of which have been eliminated. 


From the tee



From the ridge





Hole 7  |  Par 4        
417 / 410 /  389  /  288


Now on top of the highest part of the property, the 7th plays back down the hill we just climbed.  This was the area WPJ had intended to have the clubhouse situated, and if this had been the case, this would have been the 10th hole in his routing that has never seen the day.  This tee shot was incredibly cramped by trees lining both sides, which felt like it went from tee to green, as indicated by the “before shot” early on in this thread. 





The trees have been removed on this hillside revealing land movement created during the last ice age. The cramped feeling has been replaced with a beautiful panoramic, revealing the dramatic landform. 


The drive plays over a swale to a downward sloping two tiered fairway.  Those that take less than driver and lay back to the first tier are met with a wider and flatter fairway, more on level with the green, but a longer iron or hybrid into the green. 


The more aggressive line multiple potential hazards into play.  Drive it too far and you can reach the river that bisects the fairway, left you are hung up in heavy rough with a downhill lie.


Another in the Evan Schiller series looking over both tiers



The green site is reached as you climb back up over the river, and is protected by 4 bunkers, 2 left and 2 right, sits on the other side of the creek and back up the rise.  Another example of WPJs skills in building world class putting surfaces, the 7th has four way movement throughout the surface with many pinnacle areas.


Here is another before / after from the Kyle Harris images, looking back up the 7th fairway  …





Hole 8  |  Par  4          
371 / 367 / 355  /  272


The 8th is a short par 4 that has benefited heavily from Bruce's hand, starting with realigning the tee and restoring it from what looked like the state of Oklahoma  This teeing ground had it all, from a weird shape to japanese maples and even a gazebo.


Trees were eliminated that lined the fairway, with another batch that has recently been taken out in March of ‘21 along the left hand side, but the best work was done up at the green. The original hole was lined with trees, including one 20 or so yards short left of the green and in front of a bunker, pinching all approach shots.  Over time a bunker short right was added which took away all approach shots. 


Behind the green were two large trees between the green and 1st fairway, creating another claustrophobic green complex.  Bruce took it all down, eliminating the trees and removing that bunker, changing how the hole played and taking a one dimensional hole and turning it into a hole with multiple playing options.  Removing the trees around the hole opened up a dramatic site for the green, slightly perched and almost an infinity green from the fairway as no trees now break up the view out over the first fairway and across Raymonds Pond. 





The green is another favorite of mine, one that requires flighting your ball to the exact area or else two putting becomes tricky.  The working theory is that this is WPJs Table Hole at Woodway as the middle of the green has a distinct ridge that sticks out from the bottom bending back towards the right as it reaches the middle, with dips created left, right and behind the ridge.  Subtle movement through the entirety of this green makes even short putts tricky. 








Hole 9  |  Par  3          
171 / 151 / 128 / 111





The 9th, as previously mentioned, is a completely new hole, added in 1999 by architect John Harvey working for Roger Rulewich when the new clubhouse was built and under the auspices of returning to the clubhouse in proximity to the 10th.  The hole was patterned after the 12th at Somerset Hills, although it falls far short of the same natural beauty. 


The original hole played perpendicular to the current hole, crossing back over the Noroton River and up another rise to a blind green.  We are lucky that the original WPJ  green still exists, as it is now used as a practice green up by the first tee box.  Maybe some day ….


The hole plays over a pond added in the 1950s, shots hit short, right or even long can find the pond. Anything pulled hard to the left can find the river that pinches in parallel to the green on the left. 


Original 9th hole - Here is a rough approximation of the original 9th hole, which heads back towards the first tee …









Next up, the back 9


MCirba

  • Karma: +0/-0
Brian,


This is a splendid tour, thanks.


Just a suggestion: you may want to package up your posts and photos and send to Ran Morrissett as an In My Opinion piece that will keep it on GCA for perpetuity.


It's a great case study that should be available for easy accessibility here.
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

https://cobbscreek.org/

Bryan Icenhower

  • Karma: +0/-0
Brian,


This is a splendid tour, thanks.


Just a suggestion: you may want to package up your posts and photos and send to Ran Morrissett as an In My Opinion piece that will keep it on GCA for perpetuity.


It's a great case study that should be available for easy accessibility here.


Thanks, Mike - I have it all packaged just in case. 

SPDB

  • Karma: +0/-0
Bryan,
This is excellent. Living in Rowayton, i get to play WW quite frequently. Although the course has several great holes, overall I never found the course that appealing.  The tree removal and bunker work has changed my view. A perfect example is the 16th hole. That green was perpetually shrouded in shade. Playing it after the initial tree removal, it was almost as if I were seeing the green for the first time, which, in many respects, I was since you could rarely make out the contours of the green in the dark. Its been a joy to watch the transformation of WW. 

Bryan Icenhower

  • Karma: +0/-0
Bryan,
This is excellent. Living in Rowayton, i get to play WW quite frequently. Although the course has several great holes, overall I never found the course that appealing.  The tree removal and bunker work has changed my view. A perfect example is the 16th hole. That green was perpetually shrouded in shade. Playing it after the initial tree removal, it was almost as if I were seeing the green for the first time, which, in many respects, I was since you could rarely make out the contours of the green in the dark. Its been a joy to watch the transformation of WW.


Thanks for the compliment on the tour, hope it helps add to GCA ... and I agree that its nothing short of transformational.  16 indeed is a huge change, such a great hole and a great green that was overshadowed by a lot going on. 


Have you played this year?  Lots of changes over the winter as we continue to bring back what WPJ laid out, its still there, just needs to be shown (like 16)

Carl Nichols

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The tour is fantastic, thank you.


I grew up in Connecticut and have played a lot of golf there over the years.  It's always surprised me that there aren't more really great golf courses in the state--especially in Fairfield County, which has similar topography and resources to Westchester County.     

Bryan Icenhower

  • Karma: +0/-0
The tour is fantastic, thank you.


I grew up in Connecticut and have played a lot of golf there over the years.  It's always surprised me that there aren't more really great golf courses in the state--especially in Fairfield County, which has similar topography and resources to Westchester County.   


The topography is very different from the rest of the Fairfield County courses, and more akin to Westchester County imo.

Mike Sweeney

  • Karma: +0/-0
The tour is fantastic, thank you.


I grew up in Connecticut and have played a lot of golf there over the years.  It's always surprised me that there aren't more really great golf courses in the state--especially in Fairfield County, which has similar topography and resources to Westchester County.   


The topography is very different from the rest of the Fairfield County courses, and more akin to Westchester County imo.


Married into Connecticut and its golf, and this is very fun to see. Never played Woodway for the simple reason that I could play Yale. I have no input to add other than to say thanks for an interesting thread.


Speculation - Fairfield County grew exponentially after WWII and "country clubs" took over the existing "golf clubs", and/or were started from scratch. Rockrimmon is the poster child of a good but not great RTJ course - https://www.rockrimmoncc.org
"We need to allow people to make decisions for themselves and their local communities and families. Trying to tie everything into one package simply does not work." 5/11/21

V. Kmetz

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Rockrimmon is the poster child of a good but not great RTJ course - https://www.rockrimmoncc.org


Except Rockrimmon is really not an RTJ course... RTJ developed an 18 hole master plan in 1947-49 for 18 holes and left behind 9 built holes (current 1,2, 8, 9, 10-14)... then Orrin Smith completed the master plan in 1953, but with substantial changes from what RTJ designed...specifically holes 4 - 7, which have substantial variation, and holes 3 & 15-16, which were detailed differently.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2022, 04:36:29 AM 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." -

SPDB

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Thanks for the compliment on the tour, hope it helps add to GCA ... and I agree that its nothing short of transformational.  16 indeed is a huge change, such a great hole and a great green that was overshadowed by a lot going on. 


Have you played this year?  Lots of changes over the winter as we continue to bring back what WPJ laid out, its still there, just needs to be shown (like 16)


I haven't gotten out there this year (I've barely gotten out on my home course). The irony of 16 is if you look at the early aerial you posted, 16 appears to have been closely surrounded by trees even back then. Were you involved with the restoration on the green committee?  We're updating our long range plan soon with our consulting architect (Andrew Green) and would be interested in getting your perspective on how things proceeded at WW.   

Bryan Icenhower

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Hole 10  |  Par  4        
391 / 374 / 348 / 292





Another hole that took on drastic changes, as what Bruce found was 4 different versions of this hole on Another hole that took on drastic changes, as what Bruce found was 4 different versions of this hole on the ground.  The tee sits on a rise just left of the clubhouse, hitting slightly downhill to the base of the central hill to the LZ left of the bunker.  Right of the tree is the hill that had been hidden by a forest all of these years and reminds me of landform you find at Essex.


The green sits near the top of the hill, providing an approach shot to a two tiered green whose surface is hidden in a natural bowl. This was the green that Bruce did most of his work on, as the green that he found had two distinct tiers to it, with the front half so severe that it was uncuppable. A small bunker on the left protected pulled shots, but was neither in the line of play nor directly up against the green. 


Bruce added a larger bunker that protected any shots that came up short on the intended line, shoved the bunker that was there closer to the green, and lifted the front half of the green to make both tiers now pinnable, creating 2x the available surface area than before. 


One can’t begin to explain how much better this hole is now with these changes.


Green site and looking back down hole







Hole 11  |  Par  4        
352 / 345 / 336 / 328





Hole 11, which was intended to be played as the 1st in WPJs routing, has been tweaked over the years as low lying areas have been more formally developed into ponds left and right of the bunker a bit over time, a tee to the right of the original tee was added to create a more dramatic tee shot in 1970s, and trees added down the fairway and around the green. 


Just left of the teeing ground was the “dump,” and it's exactly what you would think - an area cluttered with all kinds of organic materials (turf, clay, stone, sand, etc.) put there from years of previous projects.  Anthony and team, under guidance from Bruce, removed all of the trees and underbrush and then used the organic material to sculpt a natural looking landform back into the hill that was finished with sodded fescue.  A new tee complex was added 20’ left of what was on the ground a few years ago. 


The hole plays steeply downhill from the high point of the property, with fairway that is protected left and right by the two ponds, which the longer hitter can clear but many will need to consider laying up short.  The preferred angle into the green is from the right, however that pond is a bit further to clear, as well as the right hand side of the hole is OB with the swim/tennis and their parking on that side of the hole.


Two greenside bunkers hug both sides of the green. Pinching in the approach to just 18 yards across. Anything long has the potential to bound to rest against a stacked stone wall just 10 paces off the back of the green just short of the property line. 


This green is one of the smaller on the property, pinched in the front by the two bunkers but opened up wider as you get to the back of the green.  Anything pinned in the front means you're trying to hit a green that is 10 paces across, and protected by a slight rise that I wouldn’t classify as a false front but still has the same, albeit less severe, characteristics.


Looking back up towards the tee





Hole 12  |  Par  3        
190 / 184 / 162 / 135





The only par 3 on that back nine, the green is original but the tee box has been moved around numerous times in conjunction with the changes to the 15th.   WPJ designed this hole as playing shorter than it does today (155 yards in his routing), but now plays a bit longer with tee boxes having been moved back and right from their original spot.  Bruce did close down a championship tee that was behind 15 green and back left of the current configuration. 


The hole plays over the original pond used for winter activities on the property to a green site heavily protected by bunkers.  The front portion of the green slightly falls of the front, with the most difficult portion of the green is the lower-mid left section, with a small little hollow created hard against the side of the green protected by the front left bunker.


From behind the green





Hole 13  |  Par  4        
330 / 325 / 313 / 290


A really good half par 4 hole, 13 is a hole that Bruce has done a tremendous job on.  Trees have been removed along the fairway, around the green and on the hillside right of the fairway as it cascades down from 6 green and 7 tee, providing for a dramatic framing, while the left hand side has been opened up with trees removed as well. 


The elevated tee box plays down to a fairway that is protected by two bunkers protecting the left side for any tee shot that lays back for a better look at the elevated green.  Bruce added two bunkers in the LZ on the right, really making the player think about what club to pull, and where to leave your shot. 


Your approach shot, albeit mostly likely with a scoring club in hand, is anything but easy as your hitting to an elevated green and protected by a large bunker short right, as well as one left, meaning you need to be precise with your yardage. 


The perched green has several tricky pin placements, none more than font right, baiting the player who goes pin seeking to hit the narrowest slide of the green to a small bump.


Evan’s shot from the 6th fairway looking back down the hole



[size=78%]Hole 14  |  Par  5     [/size]
603 / 573 / 555 / 479


The second and final par 5 on the course is a 3 shotter for all but a very few golfers.  The tee shot is relatively straightforward off the tee with Bruce eliminating a bunker on the left side of the fairway that had been added over time


The second shot requires some thought as the hole bends slightly to the left, only to bend slightly back to the right for the green site, so you need to choose your distance wisely. WPJ visually lures you into playing the angles by advancing down the right side, however that side is fraught with danger, including a steep hill that swallows balls, or two more low lying bog areas turned into ponds in the 1960s The left side of the landing area is more open, and while the prudent play, but leaves a longer approach. 


The green, again taking advantage of natural landform, sits elevated, with steep fall off on the right and back.  The best movement in the green is front right and middle left, with a great hollow created between the back right with the higher edge and another WPJ bump.  This was another green whose features were obscured by trees since removed, as well as a waterfall behind the green that is no longer there.







Hole 15  |  Par  4        
402 / 355 / 335 / 286


Of the original holes, this one has been altered the most.  After abandoning the hilltop location of the WPJ clubhouse, this hole became the closing hole.  First, the original green was expanded, then it was moved 40’ to 50’ to the south to extend the clubhouse terrace.  It was again enlarged in 1961, when two of the long-range projects established for golf course improvement back in 1950 by architect Orrin Smith (the construction supervisor for WPJ) was finally undertaken - the improvement of the eighteenth tee and the enlargement of the eighteenth green.   


Albert Zikorus, an associate of Smith in the mid-fifties who continued his practice upon Smith's retirement and subsequent death in 1958, was retained in 1961 to do the job of redesigning and renovating that green. The redesign substantially enlarged the green, provided some new contours, and completely rebuilt it's foundation.  The improvement of the tee was completed by the grounds crew in 1964.  Later that same year the seasonal brook a short distance across the fairway in front of that tee was piped and the ground leveled and covered with turf.  Over time a new championship tee box was added, which required a lease from the town of Stamford, and has since been abandoned.  Trees have been planted.  And of course the two old buildings that became the first clubhouse have been demolished. 


As currently laid out, the par 4 plays as a dogleg left, with the inside of the dogleg protected by trees (that still need to be thinned / removed IMO) and a bunker that attracts anyone trying to take the most direct line to the hole.  The right hand side of the hole is OB and off the property, but ample room exists for all but the worst of shots.  This past winter even more trees were removed along the right hand side.


Approach shots are protected by a bunker just short of the green surface and pinching in from the right, as well as greenside bunker along the right hand side of the green.   Two bunkers guard the left, with an opening for those that want to run the ball onto the green.  The back of this green is pushed up, falling off the back into a swale with heavy rough.  The green is tilted rather significantly from back to front, with a swale running through the green from 8 oclock to 4 oclock, which means iron shots must be precise in order to have a real look at birdie and/or avoid 3 putts.


Looking back down hole, note that since this pic, trees have been removed this past winter on both the left and right





This before/after gives one an understanding of the types of changes that have occurred - changed mow line, greens extended out, bunkers moved back next to fairways, and bunkers changed back to allow the ball to run into the green. 







Hole 16  |  Par  4        
451 / 434 / 400 / 387


The 16th (1st on the routing the club opened with) is a beast of a hole, the tee shot is played over the seasonal brook, with the fairway guarded by two bunkers in the landing zones on the right and two bunkers short left what used to be the dump.   


The second shot requires a precisely hit long iron to an elevated green that sits some 18 feet above the fairway.  As SPDB mentioned earlier in this thread, this green used to be heavily guarded by a ring of trees as this screen grab from the course flyover shows.
 



Luckily, all of the trees have thankfully been taken down, providing a spectacular setting for a surface, and of course much better conditioning. 





This is a green that WPJ fans will find familiar, a large surface cut into two distinct areas by a diagonally pronounced ridge running left to right across the green.  Even hitting onto the correct tier doesn't mean you have it made, as each of the sections have many little humps and bumps that WPJ is known for.




Hole 17  |  Par  4        
356 / 350 / 335 / 305





This shortish par 4 requires thought off the tee, pushing the golfer to decide both club and angle.  The right hand side is more open, but leaves a longer approach and WPJ baits you into taking this angle with its wide open fairway, but it's from less than ideal angle to the smallest green on the property. 


Taking the left side of the fairway provides for the best angle into the green, but brings a large bunker into play.   The bunker can be carried to reach position A, but it requires a precise distance not just to carry the bunker, but also not to run out of fairway as it does run out and reach the seasonal brook that cuts across the fairway 30 yards short of the green. 


As mentioned, this small green is heavily protected, with bunkers both left and right, pinching in the opening of the green and tight against the property line behind the green.  This past winter two rows of pine trees were removed with new arborvitae being planted, giving you a chance for recovery for anything hit long for the first time in years. Prior to the removal, there were but a few paces over the back of the hole before the ball was in the evergreens.






Hole 18  |  Par  4        
381 / 371 / 345 / 318


The home hole has you crossing back over the seasonal brook that is not in play but for a topped shot.  This was another hole that had a lot going on prior to the renovation, including a tee box that had been pushed to the far right of the property and all but in the wetlands that needed to be carried.  Two other tee boxes that hugged the wetlands were added, and the back tee box was out of character with the entire course, and not on the same line as the other 3.  Bruce eliminated all of the tee boxes and brought them all back in the line of play as they originally were positioned. 


The ideal angle is from the left in order to access the meaty part of the perched and angled green, but of course this side is protected by a large bunker.  Directly across the fairway and on the right hand side is a smaller, but significantly deeper bunker.  Carrying the right bunker mostly likely finds a downhill lie, as the fairway falls to a small valley before rising again to an exposed green with a false front. 





This past winter a large number of trees were removed along the right hand side, allowing enough room and airflow for Anthony to finally start cultivating the fescue. 


I find this the most difficult green on the course to have a reasonable opportunity for birdie, approach shots must be hit precisely for any chance at a good look.  Anything that is short feeds off the false front and back down into the valley.


Long left is a tight bunker well below the playing surface, and if you fly that you're down the hill in front of the 10th tee box with next to no chance of holding the green but for the far right side (left from this angle) of the green. 


Left is the smallest part of the green, and right is the meaty part, and also the steepest part of the false front, but a long way away from anything left or middle.  Past the false front, everything breaks hard left except for a small bump back right which breaks right to left.  Huge trees ringing the green left and right were eliminated during the first year of the renovation.


Looking back down 18 from Evan







It's a REALLY good course that by the day is getting even better and I wanted to show off the work that the club is doing.  I promise you the treehouse is missing out on not seeing or talking about this course, which was one of three courses Park chose to highlight on his business card, along with Sunningdale and Mount Bruno.





Much has been done in the past three years, with much more planned and/or contemplated, and with each new season bringing a slew of new work and changes for the better.  The membership is very proud of the WPJ gem and the work that has been done to bring it back, and eternally grateful to Bruce, Anthony and a very dogged Greens and Grounds Committee.  If anyone would like to see the course in person, please reach out, if I can’t host I am sure that I could get someone to show you around.


Bryan Icenhower

  • Karma: +0/-0

Thanks for the compliment on the tour, hope it helps add to GCA ... and I agree that its nothing short of transformational.  16 indeed is a huge change, such a great hole and a great green that was overshadowed by a lot going on. 


Have you played this year?  Lots of changes over the winter as we continue to bring back what WPJ laid out, its still there, just needs to be shown (like 16)


I haven't gotten out there this year (I've barely gotten out on my home course). The irony of 16 is if you look at the early aerial you posted, 16 appears to have been closely surrounded by trees even back then. Were you involved with the restoration on the green committee?  We're updating our long range plan soon with our consulting architect (Andrew Green) and would be interested in getting your perspective on how things proceeded at WW.


If you look at the 1934 Fairfield Aerial Survey, it doesn't look as dense, although WPJ certainly left trees there.  That image is much more hi res and indicates that a lot of what we are seeing in the earlier aerial (coincidentally hanging in the Darien Town Hall) were shadows.


Yes, for the past 2 years I have been.  Happy to help. 

Tim Gavrich

  • Karma: +0/-0
It's always surprised me that there aren't more really great golf courses in the state--especially in Fairfield County, which has similar topography and resources to Westchester County.   
I grew up in Hartford County and I have wondered whether Westchester County's larger size and all the attention those courses have gotten from their proximity to one another has caused the best Fairfield County courses to be underappreciated. Another notion is that a lot of Fairfield County courses' most recent renovation projects were by architects who are somewhat out of favor. Will they get their big glow-up next time around?


Near as I can tell, here's the Murderer's Row of Fairfield County courses:


- Tamarack
- Round Hill
- Woodway
- CC of Fairfield
- Wee Burn
- Greenwich CC
- Shorehaven
- CC New Canaan
- Stanwich
- Brooklawn


And then Yale is nearby. Pretty strong if you ask me, especially considering what renovation/restoration work could be ahead for some of these clubs over the next 10-25 years.
Senior Writer, GolfPass

Tim Martin

  • Karma: +0/-0
I always thought Shuttle Meadow CC and New Haven CC were the most compelling Connecticut WPJ courses. That said the recent work looks terrific and I’m looking forward to playing. Is the four lane bowling alley still operating?
« Last Edit: June 23, 2022, 07:03:42 PM by Tim Martin »

Bryan Icenhower

  • Karma: +0/-0
It's always surprised me that there aren't more really great golf courses in the state--especially in Fairfield County, which has similar topography and resources to Westchester County.   
I grew up in Hartford County and I have wondered whether Westchester County's larger size and all the attention those courses have gotten from their proximity to one another has caused the best Fairfield County courses to be underappreciated. Another notion is that a lot of Fairfield County courses' most recent renovation projects were by architects who are somewhat out of favor. Will they get their big glow-up next time around?


Near as I can tell, here's the Murderer's Row of Fairfield County courses:


- Tamarack
- Round Hill
- Woodway
- CC of Fairfield
- Wee Burn
- Greenwich CC
- Shorehaven
- CC New Canaan
- Stanwich
- Brooklawn


And then Yale is nearby. Pretty strong if you ask me, especially considering what renovation/restoration work could be ahead for some of these clubs over the next 10-25 years.


Those are the prominent courses in Fairfield County, would not include them all in a murderers row as you say. Westchester County has better land movement than Fairfield County.  Woodway has better land movement then the rest of the Fairfield County courses. IMO.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2022, 08:27:30 PM by Bryan Icenhower »

Bryan Icenhower

  • Karma: +0/-0
I always thought Shuttle Meadow CC and New Haven CC were the most compelling Connecticut WPJ courses. That said the recent work looks terrific and I’m looking forward to playing. Is the four lane bowling alley still operating?


I haven't seen NHCC, but in my (clearly biased) opinion, would put Woodway above Shuttle Meadow. 


I recently ran across a Tom Doak quote in The Met Golfer where he said, "My former associate Bruce Hepner, who has consulted on five of Park's courses, is the closest I know to an expert on his work ..." so I asked Bruce last week where he thought Woodway sat in in relation to other WPJ courses in the US when looking at original design, and he said "You're way up there.  It's a beautiful piece of land, great set of greens. You're unique. You have a great piece of land that he routed on. So I would think you're in the upper echelon, especially with the work that we've done here and brought it back to life."  He went on to say that he thought Battle Creek Country Club is the purest Willie Park course in the in the country because they never had any money.


That being said, would love for you to form your own opinion. 

Robert Mercer Deruntz

  • Karma: +0/-0
Having played a few tournaments there over the years, the consensus among the pros was that the course had great bones and the most trees among the over treed courses like Nassau and Metropolis back in the day.  The greens really are amazing, possibly the best quality contouring in Fairfield, though Round Hill, Silver Spring, Patterson, and Wee Burn must be in the mix.  Very glad to see a restoration occurring.  Hopefully, sometime in the future, the club will be able to fix the out of character Rulewich modern tribute par 3.

Bryan Icenhower

  • Karma: +0/-0
Having played a few tournaments there over the years, the consensus among the pros was that the course had great bones and the most trees among the over treed courses like Nassau and Metropolis back in the day.  The greens really are amazing, possibly the best quality contouring in Fairfield, though Round Hill, Silver Spring, Patterson, and Wee Burn must be in the mix.  Very glad to see a restoration occurring.  Hopefully, sometime in the future, the club will be able to fix the out of character Rulewich modern tribute par 3.


I would agree that they are the best in Fairfield County.


We've taken out a lot of trees, and there are still more to go.


The 9th green has undergone apparently 3 changes since it was created in 1999, and is now half the size of what it was when it originally opened and more in scale with the rest of the course. 

SPDB

  • Karma: +0/-0
Bryan,
I hadn't seen the work on the 10th, but it looks stunning. That high point of the course where 10 green, 6 green and 5 and 11 tee sit will really an interesting focal point of the course now.


I have always contended that NHCC possesses the best greens in the state. I know that Brian Schneider is working with the club now, so I suspect that course will now continue to grow in prominence. I'm looking forward to seeing the work at WW.

Bryan Icenhower

  • Karma: +0/-0
Bryan,
I hadn't seen the work on the 10th, but it looks stunning. That high point of the course where 10 green, 6 green and 5 and 11 tee sit will really an interesting focal point of the course now.




It is a huge focal point now, and if the clubhouse had ever been moved to where WPJ envisioned it, would have been even more so.  It's a far superior routing to either what we are playing now or what the club opened with in 1926 ... so much so that we are playing our Scholarship Tournament from the original routing (see image below, purple is WPJs intended routing and what we will play for (assumed) the first time tomorrow.) Should be a good one!


That area you mention will be the 1/10 tees and 9/18 greens tomorrow.









Bret Lawrence

  • Karma: +0/-0

Bryan,


Thank you for the excellent tour of Woodway Country Club.  I played Woodway a couple of times in 2016 and really enjoyed the golf course.  My favorite holes were 2, 5, 6, 13, 14 and 16.  The 6th hole reminds me a lot of Number 11 at New Haven Country Club and the green on the 16th hole reminds me  of the 17th green at Shorehaven.  I really enjoy playing all the CT Willie Park courses with the weakest likely being Tumble Brook and Madison.  Shuttle Meadow, Shorehaven and Woodway stand out to me as Park’s best work in CT.  I really love the greens at New Haven Country Club, I would agree they have the best set of greens in the state, but the property isn’t as exciting as you find at Shuttle Meadow, Woodway or Shorehaven.


The recent work looks terrific.  There are a few old pictures of Woodway in the MSU Turfgrass Archives, included in the Noer/Milorganite Photo archives.  Here is a picture from 6/28/1962 showing the new reservoir being dug in front of the 5th tee:


For more pictures of Woodway (or a clearer version of this one) click  this link and browse by location, then click USA, Connecticut, Stamford.


https://tic.msu.edu/noerslides?_ga=2.33152637.215163716.1656346268-277215623.1655940255


Thanks again for the tour.


Bret

Tim Martin

  • Karma: +0/-0
I have always contended that NHCC possesses the best greens in the state.


NHCC may have the best set of WPJ greens in Connecticut but better than Yale?

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