Walter Travis laid out the fairways at Ekwanok in 1900 when at the height of his playing powers. He returned 27 years later, shortly before he died, to construct the 18 holes at the neighboring Golf Club at Equinox.
Rees Jones had this to say about the course renovation that he carried out with lead architect Greg Muirhead in 1992:
“The Equinox Golf Course at this beautiful resort in the Green Mountains of Vermont was completely redesigned and rebuilt for a consortium headed by Guinness Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of Gleneagles in Scotland.
The historic property, which dates to 1769, is now known as The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa. The refurbishment of the vintage Walter Travis course greatly enhanced the drama and challenge of a classic New England layout tucked in a valley walled in by mountain ridges.”
The rating speaks for itself on this one. I wouldn't even put Equinox in the top 3 golf courses in Bennington County, although to be fair, it's hard to compare to the juggernauts of Ekwanok and Dorset Field Club.
Equinox is a fun golf course. It doesn't quite have the same feel as it's Walter Travis neighbor Ekwanok but it's basically the same setting in the valley which makes for an enjoyable round if you catch it on a fine summer day.
The only hole to note really is the par 5 sixth in which you have to hit over a main road, although for the longer hitter, this requires you to lay up off the tee which I view as a design flaw for a par 5.
Fun course, but that doesn't as qualify as a great golf course. If I never play this golf course again, I wouldn't be disappointed in the slightest
Those coming to Manchester will love the close proximity of The Equinox to all the engaging elements that make this charming New England community a very special place in the USA so much fun. The resort is literally within walking distance of so many of the key attractions.
The golf is mainly vanilla and is perfect for the masses but there's only a limited sprinkle where the Travis connection still lives on and where the architecture truly rises to the point of fascination.
Six (6) holes are worth discussing.
The par-4 8th plays uphill with the approach shot and is helped immensely by the challenging green. Hitting the fairway is essential as the uphill approach will be significantly impacted if played from the rough.
The short par-4 11th is also enjoyable. Not very long but again the approach i played to an elevated target that is rather small and it pays not be long on the approach.
The most compelling is the par-4 13th. The scene from the tee grabs your attention. The hole moves right in the drive zone but there is a hillside on the left that pushes your attention back to the right. Shaping one's tee shot the movement of the terrain is essential. The fairway also tapers in considerably so accuracy is truly tested. The approach encountered is riveting. Playing to an uphill target calls upon the proper club selection and trajectory. A small spine is within the green and it has to be negotiated with care. You leave the green -- trust me - you will have one wide smile on your face.
The final trio of holes does conclude the round in a quality manner. The slightly uphill par-3 16th is listed at 197 yards but plays a bit longer. The green is also done well and one must gauge the club selection with care.
The final two holes are par-4s. The penultimate turns left in the drive zone and one need to stay far away from the series of mounds that dot the landscape on the right side.
The closing hole turns left as well and the approach is quite exacting. The green is somewhat narrow on the left and right sides so precise execution is called upon.
As an update I was told that Rees Jones will be returning - via the efforts of Greg Muirhead -- and the focus will be on the bunkers.
Equinox, as I have stated, does provide a bit of drama with a few of the holes but when balanced with the others you may scratch your head and ask how could a designer like Travis create such a thrilling layout at Ekwanok which is literally next door and come up with a layout such as Equinox rather pedestrian with the exceptions noted. That's a question that baffles me.
M. James Ward
M., I haven't done any research into the matter but I'm curious if the respective renovators have anything to do with the divergent interest at the two courses? I'm admittedly wary of the "Open Doctor," while I'm admittedly high on the stock of Bruce Hepner (who worked at Ekwanok). Did you see anywhere at Equinox where it seemed perhaps the potential of the land could have been used once, if not today?
It's not uncommon for way too many architects who come in years later to insert their own "fingerprints" onto a design. The general outcome is a smorgasbord of designs themes that then clash and fail to be unison.
I have to wonder what prompted the desire to bring in Rees Jones to starts with? Was there something so fundamentally flawed with the Travis design that it needed to be updated?
Equinox is not very exciting from an architectural standpoint based on what is there now. When you have a layout that only delivers on just over a 1/3 of the course you have the remaining holes simply failing to deliver. I did not play the original course prior to the updating which I believe commenced in 1990.
To be fair, I was told Greg Muirhead who works for Rees Jones will be doing something on the bunkering that's present. That will be interesting to see what transpires.
The broader issue is that the totality of the greens at Equinox are not at the consistent level of sophistication you see with Ekwanok next door. Possibly they were of equal caliber -- possible they were tweaked over the years. During my most recent visit, the greens were full of grass but quite slow.
On the whole, I can't think of a more dissimilar outcome between two Travis designs immediately next to one another.
As you are likely aware -- a number of clubs that hired Rees to do "updating" -- a more politically correct way of saying "changing things" to be more of a Jones course -- have opted to reverse the direction and hire more classical oriented architects to return them to the original premise. Examples include the hiring of Gil Hanse at two high profile clubs such as Baltusrol (Lower Course now back to Tillinghast feel/look) and Oakland Hills (South Course returned to the Ross style).
In answering your last question -- my reply is simple -- yes. The bones are there but Equinox's mission is to be a daily resort course tending to the masses that come to Manchester. Getting people around in 4 hours or close to it is a central priority. Ekwanok's main advantage as a private club is in a far different traffic lane and therefore has remained truer to its core foundation.
I will be providing a detail analysis of Ekwanok sometime this weekend.
Hope this answer helps.
Yes, excellent response! Thanks!
The Equinox is an old resort throwback, built almost 100 years ago. Thus, it is not very long.. It is literally next door to Ekwanok, a course I have been trying to get on for years. Anyway, the first hole is a welcoming par four. Fairway bunkers left and the green is protected by three bunkers. The 2nd is the longest par four on the front and is the number one handicap hole, which surprised me. A long fairway bunker right and a water hazard on the left side starting about 115 yards out. This green is also well protected with two bunkers front right and one left. I thought the third hole was one of the tougher holes, a whole gaggle of bunkers left with a tree that pinches the fairway, two right and then a huge front left greenside bunker and one right. Of course when you smother it into a bunker left that should not come into play and then go bunker to bunker, one should not expect a happily ever after ending. The 4th is a short par three with a large bunker front left and three right. The fifth is a good birdie hole. Short and wooded right the fairway runs out about 90 yards out and has three bunkers right. The 6th is also a short par four straightaway birdie oppty that parallels five. The only real challenges are the four bunkers surrounding the green. I found the 7th to be an interesting hole. A reachable par five with o9 fairway bunkers left and only 8 right. The fairway runs out about 210 yards from the green. It valleys into a road and resumes about a 100 yards later going uphill. The green is well protected by 6 bunkers. The par fout 8th bends a wee bit right and has three sequential fairway bunkers on the left side starting inside of 200 yards. The green has three bunkers right and one left. The 9th is pretty much straightaway with a 20+ yard deep bunker sitting in front of the green.
The back starts with a birdie hole that bends right. There are five sequential bunkers right and the green is surrounded by five bunkers. The 11th is straightaway, however there is a 50 yard long fairway bunker left. The 12th is interesting, including greenside there are ten bunkers left and one right. As a hooker, I feel discriminated against. The 13th is a long par four that leans right. The fairway tuns out about 50 yards from the green and there is a solitary bunker front left. The 14th is the shortest par three and rated the easiest hole. The last par five is narrow but reachable. However, the green has 6 bunkers left and two larger one front right. The 16th is the longest par three, over a creek and then over three bunkers. The 17th is a long par four that bends left. There a re fairway bunkers on the elbow and three greenside. The 18th is also a long par four that bends left. The fairway narrows considerably the closer one gets to the green. There is a long bunker on the right side that is probably about 70 yards long.
A decent resort course.