According to the Stanwich Club, “The name chosen for the club had been part of the local lexicon for nearly 250 years”. We're not entirely sure what that means but wonder whether the name came from a blend of the two cities of Greenwich and Stamford, which are each situated about five miles away from the Stanwich Club? If you know, the details of the “local lexicon” we’d love to hear from you.
The father and son team of William and David Gordon designed the Stanwich Club and the course opened for play in 1964. The relatively flat course is routed across former farmland and reclaimed swampland. Mature trees line each fairway, water comes into play on half the holes and the greens slope from back to front inviting bold approach shots. Beware though, the putting surfaces are among the slickest in the Met Area and they’re tightly bunkered. It’s these excellent putting surfaces which attract tour professionals to the Stanwich Club when they are in the area.
Stanwich has no shortage of great holes but perhaps the pick of the bunch is the par three 13th which, from the tips, plays firstly over a creek and then a pond. The raised L-shaped green is ringed with bunkers and is wickedly undulating.
Host to the 2002 US Mid-Amateur Championship, Stanwich is not one of the better-known courses in the States, but George Zahringer will certainly have fond memories of the club. Not only was he a member of the Stanwich Club but also he became the oldest winner (aged 49) of the 2002 Mid-Amateur title. It must have been sheer delight to win that title at your home club.
Sadly, as with so many top tracks in the US, you’ll have to butter up a member to get a game here - we can all live in hopeful anticipation.
I had heard the stories and read numerous reviews. I recently saw Stanwich for myself. While the course is long and penal in places with magnificent conditioning, I believe the architects missed the boat (and the boat after that one) when it comes to the architecture of the greens. Simply put, they are far too extreme and pitched at sometimes ridiculous angles. Furthermore, if you study an aerial photo, you’ll also see a lot of holes running back and forth, which has the disadvantage of bringing you right back to the site where you wished never to see a merciless green ever again!
While the original spirit of this club was the host professional tournaments on a really tough layout, this philosophy is not conducive to producing an enjoyable course for members/guests to enjoy every week. In this day and age, golf needs to be played on charming courses that will encourage players of all ages and abilities to head back to the first tee, not a golf course where you stand on almost every green and think “how in god’s name am I going to get my first two putts close to the hole?”
The biggest mistake many people make when assessing courses is the fixation on two specific elements at the expense of the central core. Too many people concentrate on the overall difficulty of a layout and its overall conditioning. There's no doubt the aforementioned items do play a role but more in the support capacity.
The real focus needs to be on the overall architecture -- the intersection of how superior strategy calls upon the golfer to constantly weigh a myriad of key decisions to determine and then provide the execution to go with it.
The Stanwich Club has rightly been touted for its demands. The course is routinely in superior condition and offers putting greens that roll true, fast and smooth. The course also features high rough that borders many of its narrow fairways. Over the years the facility has hosted a range of events -- including US Open qualifying. In sum -- the perfect alignment.
To score at Stanwich requires a machine-like capability in hitting fairways and greens. There's no real dimension of strategic calculations -- it's just a robotic need to repeat time after time after time.
The most noted of holes comes with two quality par-5' on the inward side -- the 12th and 17th.
It's been said by a few people I greatly respect in the golf community that the reason Stanwich is often rated the best course in Connecticut is tied to the fact that nearby in New Haven the turf quality of Yale Golf Club has been a hit or miss situation with more miss than hit.
Golfers have different characteristics they place above others. Conditioning should not be minimized because nothing on the design side can really shine if the turf quality is just not present. The same holds true on the difficulty side. Stanwich came into existence during American golf design that often celebrated big, muscular courses that really pushed the demand side to the forefront. That time has passed and the standing of such clubs is moving more towards the rear than the front.
Compelling architecture is something that strikes a feeling -- a rapture in which you are totally engrossed in all the different ways the respective holes and the entirety of the course come together in such a seamless manner.
Stanwich is a fine layout but it's not one that causes enrapture for me -- an examination certainly but a layout that fails to stir a long lasting emotional connection.
by M. James Ward
It was a long time debt to my friend Alberto Agrest, Club Champion in 2013, to finally get my feet on the plane and go to play his home course in Greenwich CT. He had many times told me about it's toughness, great condition and very fast greens (when I say fast, I am saying FAST!). It is a great Club just 5 miles away from his home where I was staying and it is a easy and quick ride from downtown Greenwich.
I arrived early and as usual when visiting this private courses a nice and deep walk inside the Club House watching Champions Boards, the different rooms and before play a nice lunch in the Terrace which will be torn out and rebuilt 8 feet higher to be able to see the course and the water from there.
The round was a very nice walk with my friend Alberto (who beat me 2&1) and another member and with our caddie Dennis who caddied Alberto when he was Club Champion back in 2013. It was funny because he nicknamed Alberto calling him "Messi". It isfair to say Alberto has maybe the best amateur swing in golf I have ever seen.
The course is mantained in pristine shape, every blade of grass was perfect and the beginning of the Fall showed some great colors on all the trees of the course. And the greens ... well you have to play here to see what real fast greens are, we had played Winged Foot East the day before and these were a lot faster (but not as tough to read and play as WF) and the grain being against sometimes which didn't slower the putts.
Regarding the holes and design, if you remember the holes one week after playing them is because they are really good. Short Par 4 1st is a strong dogleg to the left with the green breaking severely from left to right which makes it a tough approach shot. Par 3 4th holes is maybe the toughest of the par 3s and the green is lightning fast from back to front: there Alberto holed a bunker shot from the left aiming it to the end of the green, the ball kept still a short while and then sloped down 8mts to end inside the hole. Par 5 5th is in my opinion the best hole on the course with a flat tee shot and an upright dogleg right second where only very long hitters will get home in 2 shots. Par 4 10th downhill and dog leg left is another one of the nicest, while 12th is a very tough par 4. 13th might be considered the signature hole, a 175yds par 3 over the water where when trees turn red in autumn you will have the nicest picture on the course. 14th is said to be a week hole as the tee shot might be unfair sometimes but I liked the risk/reward ecuation.
All in one it is a great course, a very nice experience and a very nice piece of land and if you add this quality of grass, the speed of the greens and the great caddies it is a great round of golf that you play.
Stanwich Club was founded in 1964 and designed by William and David Gordon, names I had never heard of before or since. Long, tight, and relatively flat, with trees lining all 18 fairways, Stanwich is truly and imposing test of golf. Perhaps its most memorable features are the Gordon-style greens, some say the fastest on the metropolitan area, canted severely from back to front and bunkered tenaciously at their front corners, with lakes and streams that come into play on eight holes. Larry Berle.