The Country Club of Waterbury can trace its origins back to 1899, when a local man named Arthur Fenn laid out a 9-hole course for the Waterbury Golf Association. Within a decade of its formation, the club was transformed into The Country Club of Waterbury.
After acquiring additional land in 1927, the club invited Donald Ross to design an 18-hole layout for the membership, using a combination of ground already in use along with the newly purchased acreage. By the end of the following year, this layout was brought into play.
Feature holes include the 453-yard, left doglegged 2nd (described by 5-time state amateur champion Dick Siderowft as “the best par four in the state”) and the 427-yard 13th, where water threatens the tee shot and a false front to the green repels imprecise approach shots.
The glut of superior private clubs in New York State and Massachusetts is certainly overwhelming and while Connecticut does have a number of worthwhile courses -- the depth is a small pool to consider. One of the most underrated is CC of Waterbury. In many ways the location is reminiscent in what you find at Forsgate in New Jersey.
In this specific case, CC of Waterbury is just outside the New York metro area but still a good bit removed from the broader Boston area.
The course is blessed with exquisite terrain. From the back of the clubhouse area, you see the heaving nature of the landscape with the holes neatly slotted.
The opening five holes at Waterbury says the following loud and clear -- be ready to play.
The opening hole descends from the high part of the property and you face a clear decision -- how close to a crossing creek do you dare attempt to play. Those who opt to play as close as possible will have a shorter approach. It's a fine starting hole because everything is right in front of you and playing from an elevated position always gets the juices flowing.
Matters intensify greatly when reaching the 2nd. The par-4 turns left in the drive zone and the shot from the tee must marry sufficient length with uncanny accuracy. Compounding matters is a tapered fairway that necks down the landing area. In short -- you must stand and deliver with one's tee shot.
The approach is also no less rigorous. The green is slightly elevated and has a devilish false front that will quickly repel all but the most resolute of approaches. The green also has a number of internal movements that must be carefully deciphered. In all the Connecticut courses I've played -- the 2nd at Waterbury is clearly among the Nutmeg's best 18 holes.
Waterbury does not lessen the challenge when you arrive at the long par-3 3rd. Yes, there's an elevated tee which helps shorten the hole a tad but when the wind is blowing in from the south/southwest the length of 227 yards is ever real and testing.
The par-4 4th that follows is a fine mid-length par-4. Turing right in the drive zone and then having a putting surface slightly elevated mandating a quality approach. The par-4 5th then turns up the intensity with an exacting two-shot hole of 456 yards.
The 6th is a good contrast -- players have to decide on how aggressive a line from the tee to play. Those who can carry the ball up the left side can better their odds in looking for a birdie.
The par-4 7th that follows showcases the need for sound judgement. The hole turns right and features a blind landing area over trees for one's tee shot. Staying right is central for one's success but those who bite off more than they can chew will find the going difficult. Those venturing too far left will find trees and have their pathway to the green blocked. The fairway cuts off at roughly 26o yards so , as I stated, sound judgement is centermost when arriving at the tee.
Closing out the front side is the lone par-5 at the 9th. The dropshot from the tee provides a sense of euphoria but the overall design details that follow is not particularly noteworthy.
The inward half starts with a quality two-shot hole of 405 yards that climbs upwards from the tee and even more noticeably with the approach. Again, Ross insists approach shots be played with total commitment and proper execution.
The par-4 11 and par-3 12th are filler holes -- each nicely done but more pedestrian in terms of the magnitude they present. Thankfully, that changes in a big-time way with the par-4 13th. The hole turns left in the drive zone and the 395-yards par-4 features another well-crafted green -- beautifully situated and contoured.
Ross was a fan of the long par-3 and Waterbury has two such holes. The previously mentioned 3rd and the even longer 14th at 234 yards. Dexterity with the long clubs is a skill that needs to be tested and the 14th does not suffer fools gladly.
The final four holes are a fine mixture of par-4 holes with the engaging 15th and 18th standing above the other two.
Waterbury has a similar par of 69 -- like that Rhode Island gem Wannamoisett. However, the Ocean State layout has the better greens throughout its presentation. On the flip side, Waterbury is blessed with the superior property -- rolling terrain that adds to the visceral enjoyment.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review -- Connecticut is sandwiched between New York and Massachusetts and the spotlight clearly belongs to its illustrious neighbors for the overall depth of private clubs found with each. But there are a few key layouts of distinction found in Connecticut where architectural connoisseurs will relish the golf presented. Add Waterbury to that grouping.
To use a baseball metaphor -- Waterbury is not a home run Ross effort but a solid double.
M. James Ward
Sandwiched between the golf-rich behemoths of Massachusetts and New York, Connecticut’s spectrum of architecturally significant courses pales in comparison to its neighbors. Despite this lack of famous layouts, plenty of Nutmeg State golf clubs showcase captivating, rolling properties that are perfect for the game. When notable designers did route courses, they took advantage of this compelling natural terrain.
Donald Ross’s work at the Country Club of Waterbury is a fine example of this architectural style. Building the course over a quirky landscape, Ross managed to fit 18 thoughtful holes into a unique V-shaped property. Ross maximized strategic interest not by bulldozing, but by highlighting the distinctive features of the topography. One standout hole is the 7th, with a green that appears to fall into a small rock-outcropped pit. Another is the par four 10th which includes a massive, grass-covered mound that completely cuts off the fairway.
The Country Club of Waterbury favors no one type of player, and it is impossible to get comfortable at any point in the round. A hole may require aerial target shots over creeks and ponds, and also force the player to consider the steeply sloping topography of the ground. This variety is essential for sustained playability, and it is a key reason why the course continues to stand the test of time.
CT has a number of very nice Country Clubs. I had the chance to play Waterbury and didn't have high expectations. I was wrong. It's a solid course from every angle. Great shape. Green complexes are challenging. Great mix of holes. It blends in perfectly with the rolling terrain. The first hole is maybe my favorite, It's perched on a high plateau with the clubhouse immediately behind and your first shot shoots off into the deep valley beneath you. One of the most welcoming staffs. Get there if you can, you'll enjoy it. I might push it up a click or two in CT. But top 10 for sure close to top 5.