The Country Club of Vermont was formed in 1998, with Canadian architect Graham Cooke setting out the club’s 18-hole layout as two contrasting circuits of nine holes – the outward half plays across open, rolling terrain dotted with wetland areas whilst the inward half is routed through an undulating, heavily-wooded landscape.
The fairways occupy just over two hundred acres of a large 415-acre property, with the unused land held by Vermont Land Trust as a natural “buffer zone” that is designated to always remain undeveloped, ensuring that no residential traffic ever encroaches on the golfing element at the country club.
The front nine features a couple of exciting par five holes, with the 470-yard downhill 3rd (“Silo”) offering a good chance of a birdie. In contrast, the 558-yard 9th (“High Point”) is a far trickier proposition, thanks to the wetland areas and bunkers that lie between tee and green on this hole.
On the inward half, the 199-yard 11th (“Pinehurst”) heads into woodland, where the next four holes are also located. The best of these tree-lined holes is undoubtedly the 175-yard 14th (“Free Fall”), featuring a drop of more than sixty feet from the top tee down to a right-to-left sloping two-tiered green.
Architect Graham Cooke kindly provided us with the following comments:
“The Country Club of Vermont was a fun course to design. It’s a fine scenic site with dramatic grade changes and the setting is wonderful for a course, especially with the spectacular surrounding mountain views.
I've played the course a number of times and not too long ago played a fun exhibition match with their club champion to mark the club's 10th year celebrations.
The Country Club of Vermont in my opinion has a very appealing collection of golf holes, each with its own signature. The course is entertaining and fills golfers with an anticipation of what the next golf hole will showcase in both challenge and charm.”
The most immediate dimension when playing CC of Vermont is the isolation you enjoy when playing the course. The amount of acreage allows the golf to take center stage without being hemmed in with housing or other disruptions. I have always opined that no less than 60% of any course review is ultimately tied to the nature of the land the layout occupies. CC of Vermont emphasizes the outdoors and the connection to the beautiful Vermont countryside.
Graham Cooke's thoughtful routing explores all the central aspects of the property and the round never lacks in anticipation for what lies ahead.
Beyond the aesthetics the architecture smartly combines classic type holes within a modern style look. The golf experience is divided into two distinct halves. The outward side more open and the inward half framed by hardwoods on a number of the holes.
If there's one notable deficiency, it's the continuous same direction followed by several hole on the back nine -- holes 12-15 The holes are not bad per se, but the inability to mix up matters would have helped. There is also a bit much on the dropshot type tee shots. The par-5 3rd -- which should really be a par-4 -- and the 15th both give wonderful views but it's the same mega fall-off from the tee. The same concept is carried out at the dropshot par-3 14th although the hole is well-crafted with a devilish green to hit and hold -- especially if any breeze is blowing.
Three of the best two-shot holes come with the 2nd, 7th and 13th holes. The lone short par-4 comes at the 17th and it's really more of a pedestrian hole than one that's riveting.
The quartet of par-3 holes is good but again having at least one of them in excess of 210 yards from the back tees would have been a plus.
Overall, CC of Vermont is a fun layout and the details presented from a design perspective are helped by fairways with internal movements and often provide uneven lies.
Turf conditions are very good -- I just wish the layout itself was a tad firmer and faster -- thereby raising the threshold for shotmaking.
For those able to secure an invitation - CC of Vermont is well worth exploring.
M. James Ward