The Greater Hartford area is filled with courses that refute Mark Twain.BY JOHN TORSIELLO • PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK WILLIAM PAUL
If you ever wondered if Mark Twain truly said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled,” perhaps you can stop by his former house – now a museum dedicated to the literary legend in the west end of Hartford – and ask him.
Twain won’t be there, of course, except maybe in spirit. But the Mark Twain House and Museum is just one of the many activities to consider during a golf getaway to the Greater Hartford area. The Connecticut River Valley is filled with fine, daily fee tracks, providing numerous venues where you can put Twain’s alleged axiom to the test.
The Hartford area has a number of fine hotels, along with bed and breakfast establishments, that can serve as a base for your golf getaway. Dining options include the Capitol Grille in Hartford’s Riverfront area, Ficara’s on Franklin Avenue and the City Steam Brewery. You can also journey just outside Hartford to nearby Simsbury and enjoy superb American cuisine at Millwright’s.
There’s plenty to do in the area. Must-see spots are the new Science Center, the aforementioned Mark Twain House and Museum and the Wadsworth Athenaeum. The city’s Bushnell Theatre stages a variety of plays, shows and other events year-round and the XFinity Theatre in the heart of downtown Hartford is a major concert venue.
There are miles of woodland trails to hike, bike and walk just outside the city, while the Farmington River offers trout fishing and tubing. The Minor League Rock Cats play their home baseball games in New Britain, which is approximately 20 minutes from Hartford. Travel a bit farther, to the town of Essex, and hop on a ferry or train to tour the Connecticut River, or view one of the largest finds of dinosaur tracks at the Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill.
So to disprove Twain’s alleged dislike of golf, check out Hartford and the Connecticut River Valley.
Blue Fox Run Golf Course in Avon has 27 holes of solid golf. A new nine was added a few years ago and offers a pleasing mix of holes open to nature and several others that are lined by trees.
Tower Ridge Country Club in Simsbury is a unique layout, with the feel of a northern New England course. The track has dramatic elevation changes as it winds up and down steep hills.
Simsbury Farms Golf Course was designed by renowned architect Geoffrey Cornish and provides an excellent test of golf and a visually pleasing round.
Tunxis Plantation Country Club in Farmington has 45 holes and rolls over flat terrain, making it a good walk unspoiled.
The 27-hole Stanley Golf Course in New Britain has long been considered one of the premier daily fee facilities in the state, with three distinct nines and some of the best conditions in the Greater Hartford area.
Wintonbury Hills Golf Course in Bloomfield is Pete Dye’s only New England design. Dye did a super job of weaving the links-style course over the rolling hills of a former dairy farm.
Rolling Meadows Country Club in Ellington has an interesting routing and good playing conditions. The course offers two diverse nines, with the front side rolling and open and the back more tree-lined.
Manchester Country Club opened in 1917 and was designed by two early 20th-century architects, Tom Bendelow and Devereaux Emmett. Emmett also created famed Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C.
One of the best-conditioned, player-friendly tracks in Connecticut is Rockledge Country Club in West Hartford. The relatively flat layout sits on a sweet parkland setting, is playable for all golfers and offers a visually pleasing mix of holes.
Goodwin Park Golf Course in Hartford has 27 holes, with the short North Course (2,544 yards) a great place for beginners and senior players to hone their skills and enjoy a leisurely round. Another Hartford municipal track, Keney Park Golf Course, was also designed by Emmett.
Timberlin Golf Club in Kensington was given a facelift a few years back in the form of new bunker complexes and fairway and green complex work, an effort that was led by noted golf course architects Stephen Kay and Doug Smith.
Quarry Ridge Golf Club, located on the slopes of the Connecticut River Valley in Portland, offers some of the best vistas in the state. This is a true shot-maker’s delight, with dramatic elevation changes, an interesting mix of long and short holes and tricky greens.