A Tom Fazio design that first opened in 2001, the layout can play to a very challenging slope rating of 146 from the back markers. Most sensible golfers will see sense, however, and tee it up from one of the four more forward tees on every hole.
On the front nine, the par threes at the 214-yard 2nd and 224-yard 8th provide more than a modicum of golfing eye candy as a spectacular thirty-foot waterfall backdrops the green at the former and an alluring wetland area fronts the bunkerless putting surface of the latter.
The back nine holes play through an undulating wooded landscape – with half a dozen little wooden bridges linking uneven sections of the terrain – whilst the front nine is laid out on more open ground, with six of the holes set alongside the Housatonic River.
The backside at Great River Golf Club begins with a par three. What might look like on paper as a gentle introduction to the second half is anything but as this 197-yard hole plays to a demanding sand-protected, raised green that sits behind a creek.
Great River is a fabulous course. A great mix of very good holes. Over the years they have switched the front and back nines. For a while the first hole was a challenging par 3. With the change the first hole is a devilish par 4 that is a slight dog leg right with massive fairway bunkers right in the hill that sits to the left of a pond. The hole seems to be almost straight except if you challenge the right side the reward is not worth the risk. the 2nd is a par 3 which is a very good hole. It has a very large green which sits behind some small moguls and diagonally has depth to the left. The 3rd hole is fabulous par 5. It gently glides to the left as two ponds come into play out to the right. The final 80 yards are up a huge incline to a severely sloped green. At the base of the final incline is a brook. The 4th is a very demanding par 4. There are ponds left and right and the one on the right goes up to the green and infront of it. A good drive is met with an approach which must carry the pond yet hold and not cross the green as there are several demanding bunkers. The 5th is another demanding drive par4 as there is a pond on the left and a waste area on the right. The 6th is a par 5 which has a seemingly wide fairway. The trees out on the right however cause problems as the firway ends and goes right to the green and shots can be troublesome if right as the trees block the green view but the fairway slopes away and balls run out often thru the fairway into the woods left. The 7th is another big par 4. Elevated tee to a fairway that has waste area the whole left side a pond to the right unless you can carry it 260 past it. A green protected by an enormous sahara like bunker with a slight hill on the right toward the green. The green is very deep and diagonally laid right to left. The 8th is a par 3 with good length and a waste area to cross and to the left and a slightly raised green. The 9th is a dog leg right par 4 with a huge waste area to the right forming the dogleg. The green is well protected by bunkers. The 10th is a good par 3. A slight rise to the large green and you must cross a brook just short of the green. 11 is a good par 4. Pretty much straight with the green sitting in a well bunkered area with mounds on 3 sides. 12 is a fabulous par 4 with a valley with a brook sitting out about 250 to 2800 off the tee. The area near the brook slopes down toward it making drives that go to that depth creating downhill lies to an elevated green 175ish away. Numerous bunkers are placed all over the approach area. 13 is a good par 5. The tee sits along side the rail tracks and the right side is dead the whole way. You cross that valley again as you go back but it is close enough to the tee to not be too bothersome. The green sits across a massive bunker. This bunker rides the left side for near 200 yards and crosses in front of the green. 14 is a seemingly wide open par 4. There are deep fairway bunkers left and the railway is out right but the fairway is 50 yards wide. The green is extremely protected with bunkers and is raised slightly. 15 is a post card par 3. Straight down hill playing 120 to 160 and the green is sided by the Housatonic River and fronted by a brook with massive stone walls built everywhere. 16 is another fabulous par 4. A semi blind drive up the hill to a wide fairway. The green is positioned next to a large oak tree with a limb that covers the right edge of the green. The green is raised and well bunkered. 17 is maybe the toughest drive of the day. You hit up a gentle slope with woods and bunkers out to the left. The right is a severe drop off to the river with a lost ball. It is so very narrow. The finish of the hole is a large funnel down to a well protected bunkered green. 18 is a good par 4. An elevated tee shot to an expanse of several fairway bunkers challenging you to cover them. They sit in a hill so you either lay up and have a blind approach or you try to cover them and bring trouble into play at all angles. The green has drop offs on 3 sides.
Great River doesn't get the positive feedback it deserves in my opinion. It is a fabulous course deserving of a top 10 maybe top 5 rating in CT.