Wee Burn Country Club dates back to 1896 when George Strath from St Andrews set out a 6-hole course on forty-eight acres of leased farmland. A further three holes were soon added to the layout, once members had settled into their surroundings.
The club found it had no room to expand the number of holes in play to a full 18-hole course so, in 1923, a nearby 230-acre site was acquired and Devereux Emmet engaged to design a new layout.
Two years later, the architect unveiled the course to expectant members, all of whom were no doubt thrilled to find that the Stony Brook (a.k.a. “the wee burn”) wound its way through the new property, just as it did at the club’s old location.
Gene Sarazen officially opened the course and, such was the favour it found with the USGA, it went on to stage three Women’s Amateur Championships, won by Betty Jameson in 1939, Ann Quast in 1958 and Martha Wilkinson in 1970.Tom Fazio has carried out significant modifications at Wee Burn in recent years, with more than three thousand yards of stream and lake banks being renovated in the scope of this work.
The Nutmeg State has the honor in being squeezed between two States with a very deep roster of superior private clubs. I am referring to The Empire State of New York and the Bay State of Massachusetts respectively. There's little question concerning the merit of the aforementioned States but there are only a few courses worthy of attention from Connecticut.
Wee Burn is beautifully situated on rolling terrain with the clubhouse set on a high point. There's also the inclusion of the Stony Brook which meanders around a number of holes. According to club legend, John Crimmins. the club's founder, invited his friend Andrew Carnegie to the club in 1896, and asked the Scot to suggest a name. Supposedly, Carnegie upon seeing the small brook recommended the club's name be called "wee burn" as it would be in Scotland. The name fit and has been forever since.
Devereux Emmet is rightly lauded for his work at Garden City GC on Long Island but Wee Burn is clearly worthy of attention for the combination of different holes encountered on the property. The routing is also skillfully done -- taking you to the fullest capabilities of the property with nary a repetitious moment encountered -- save for the uphill nature of both of the concluding holes on each nine. The great thing about so many of the old time designs is that when one hole is completed the walk to the next tee is so nearby thereby keeping the pace and rhythm of the round intact.
With the exception of the short par-3 4th -- the first six holes put players on quick notice that you best be ready to execute.
The club smartly decided to update their course and choose architect Tom Fazio to do so. Years back when I first played Wee Burn the amount of tree growth was beginning to become excessive and a few of the greens needed to be returned to their original dimensions. There was also issue with the stream banks being in need of renovation.
Working the ball off the tee is a constant theme when playing Wee Burn. Length is an important commodity but positioning one's tee ball is more essential because proper approach angles are crucial for maxing out one's scoring potential.
Fortunately, Fazio and his team did not insert their fingerprints on the design. The Emmet effort did not need such modifications -- think of a needed dusting not a wholesale revision.
One has scoring opportunities at Wee Burn but only when execution is delivered. There's no cheap and easy successes here. Connecticut doesn't have a deep array of private clubs like its neighbors but there are a few worthy of serious acclaim.
Wee Burn is anything but wee in character.
M. James Ward