Golf in Woodstock dates back to 1895 but the Woodstock Inn & Resort course at Woodstock Country Club is a Robert Trent Jones Senior layout from 1963 which replaced an earlier Wayne Stiles design. The old master returned subsequently to upgrade the course several times.
The full story of the course’s provenance is told in this edited extract from The Life and Work of Wayne Stiles by Bob Labbance & Kevin Mendik:
“Today’s course occupies a level piece of property along the Kedron Brook. The original course straddled the peak of Mt. Peg, a 1,080-foor hill in a wooded area that long-ago reverted to forest. Several routings occupied the hilltop before William Tucker brought the course down from the mountain.
He planned two 9-hole courses for Woodstock, the first in 1906 and a revision in 1912. By 1923, the membership tolls had swelled to 160 from the original 35, and all agreed that an 18-hole course was necessary.
The first step was the purchase of the 150-acre Hathorn farm to the south of the existing layout. The next step was to bring Stiles to the site [and] he retained more than half of Tucker’s holes. It wasn’t until 1927 that the entire course was open.
Laurence Rockefeller purchased the property in 1961 and engaged Robert Trent Jones to remodel the layout. The Wayne Stiles course was obliterated, with the sole exception being the 8th green that became today’s 5th hole.”
Woodstock Inn and Resort is a short Jones Sr. creation that is landlocked for no apparent reason. I understand that an investment would have had to have been made to buy the land. I am surprised that Jones would have taken the commission with the geographic constraints. The Village of Woodstock is one of the quaintest communities in America and it deserves a better track. This is the course that Keegan Bradley grew up on.
The first hole is a welcoming par five that leans left. It is reachable but you need to be left of the right fairway bunker to give yourself a chance. The 2nd is a mid-length par 3 with bunker front left and a small water hazard right. The dogleg left third is a demanding hole. A creek cuts the foot off the dogleg. Thus, you have a quandary on the tee, lay up and hug the left side as much as you dare and have a 170 yard plus approach or be a mcgilla knowing you will have to carry at least 240 to reach the fairway. The fourth is a long par four that leans left. You will have to cross the creek off the tee and again on the approach. The tee not a problem, but the green is perched right behind creek. Woods left and trees right and if you do not calibrate correctly you run the risk of driving thru the dogleg. The 5th is a short par three with the creek in front of the green. This green is long about 40 yards, so club accordingly. The 6th is the longest par five an d the fairway tapers as you get closer to the green. This green is also tucked right behind the stream. The 7th is a short Florida par three with water carry and bunkers left and right. The 8th is straightaway with a fairway bunker left and two greenside right and left. Nine feels very similar to 8, just a bit longer and fairway bunkers on both sides.
The back starts with a really short par five. Woods left and fairway bunkers hourglass the fairway at about 200 yards out. Greenlight birdie oppty. The 11th is short par three with the green behind the brook. The 12th is eerily similar to the 4th. The 13th is a short par three with bunkers left and right. The 14th is a fun hole, especially if you birdie it. Short and bends left, the fairway bunker straight ahead is only about 230 yards. This green is well protected with bunkers. Consider laying up to your preferred attack yardage. The 15th is another short par three with the stream lurking in front of the green. The last par five leans left and my recommendation is play it as a 3 shotter. The 17th is a short par four fairway bunkers both sides and the same greenside. The 18th is a long par four fairway bunker left and two greenside.
As James mentioned the North to South configuration of many of the holes greatly dimishes the shot value of the course. Coupled with a narrow property not much can be done to lengthen or revise the overall layout.
Kedron Brook runs through many of the holes, which is pretty, however the usage of water by Trent Jones Sr is not fitting for the course decisions. Trent Jones Sr, style of aerial attack better suits modern courses, with vast parcels of land. Woodstock would be better suited with more charming layouts found during the golden age of course design.
Conditions where rough, typical of a municipal course near a larger city. Dry patches of fairway and slow greens. It is difficult to justify the cost playing here, epically considering that Hanover CC is nearby in New Hampshire.
Overall, Woodstock is nothing special forgettable holes and to a larger extent course. Sad, as I was expecting more as the Inn is an exquisite place, that oozes old New England charm.
Unfortunately, I never played the former Wayne Stiles design ultimately replaced by the efforts of Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The course today is a decent one but handicapped by a small constricted land parcel with holes moving primarily either north/south or south/north.
There are only a few holes of note and much of it stems from the intersection with Kedron Brook. You get this with the dog-leg left par-4 3rd and also at the slight turn to the left par-4 4th. The latter is done well - at the turning point the available acreage mandates a superb drive because it's easy to go too far right and reach the adjoining trees. The putting surface is smartly located on the far side of the brook and when the pin is cut in the deep right corner it takes a special play to nestle one's ball tight to the hole.
The same situation happens on the inward side with the holes using Kedron Brook. The par-4 12th is nearly a mirror image of the earlier played 4th. The short par-4 14th is also quite fun but its design style uses a heavy-handed Trent Jones Sr. style when a more charming New England style favored by the old time architects would have worked far better.
The course is set-up to provide guests at the exquisite adjoining Woodstock Inn a golf connection but do keep your expectations in check.
M. James Ward