Tallwood Country Club
|Black M: 71.2/126||541||302||226||500||415||200||389||385||172||3130||306||525||381||359||159||377||481||387||415||3390||6520|
|Blue M: 70.1/122||541||302||183||495||415||172||360||371||172||3011||306||513||381||359||159||377||481||387||379||3342||6353|
|White M: 69.3/121||528||287||176||483||400||158||341||359||167||2899||296||500||361||346||157||364||460||377||366||3227||6126|
|Red W: 71.0/126||486||261||133||390||390||146||323||335||148||2612||246||442||294||327||149||352||382||315||311||2818||5430|
Golf Advisor: Top Courses in Connecticut
Excellent layout, pace was fantastic, a quiet day but you can tell they are organized. Great practice area and put put.
A Connecticut Classic, Beautiful and Testing
If you count yourself a serious golfer, put Tallwood Country Club on your must-try list for central Connecticut tracks. Tallwood is a tried-and-true venue for amateur golf tournaments, has one of the most competitive men’s clubs in the greater Hartford area, and features a classic American parkland layout that on most days will test all of your fourteen clubs. I’ve played this course over fifty times, and have scored anywhere from a stroke or two over par here to numbers just south of 90. This sizeable range is attributable to many factors, but the comments that follow should shed light, in general, on how the course affects one’s golf game. But simply put, you’ll need your ‘A-game’ here to produce a number close to your handicap. As one older club member one day long ago told me passionately, “You’ve GOT to play shots well here. This is Tallwood!”
Of 1970 vintage, this layout features much of what you expect (and something even more) of the Connecticut countryside, as rolling terrain, ponds, open settings, and forestland intermingle throughout. The back nine allows for longer vistas, as holes 11 and 12 are adjacent to an older but very scenic farm. Architect Michael Ovian clearly wanted to capitalize on the impressive views, as many tee boxes are perched here to overlook the landscape—and often greens—below them. The greens themselves are all carefully sited, as well: some are slightly elevated about the fairway, some on plateaus of varying heights, a few at the base of small hills or behind the dark, serene ponds. Greenside bunkering is impressive and plentiful, with an emphasis on larger, often deeper traps that demand skill if one is to escape them. Water hazards will provide, however, the stiffest challenges, as they appear on eight holes and require forced carries on holes 3, 10, 12, and 17, while carries on 8,11, and 15 should best be described as ‘nearly forced,’ (at least, from certain prominent angles). Most of these water holes, then, put a premium on high, relatively soft-landing approach shots.
Aside from water, the most common nemesis of most golfers, what else accounts for this course’s rigor?
Essentially, it has two attributes which will undoubtedly hinder your route to ‘easy pars’ (there may only be a few out here). There are the persistent, mature trees, but even more important are the difficult-to-manage greens. Nearly all of them are tilted and contoured, and many will have you carefully calculating their breaks and struggling to get just the right pace. Downhill putts are sometimes fiendishly difficult, and three-putt avoidance is a challenge here for average players. Missing a green by any significant measure will often cost you a stroke, so those with accomplished short games have a distinct advantage at Tallwood. Chipping or pitching-and-running the ball around many of these raised putting surfaces may not always be the most attractive option unless just off them; this means that your wedges need to be behaving. When mired in one of the deep traps, you’ll need a rapidly-elevating splash shot. Down the fairways, the beautiful trees at Tallwood can be lethal; many holes are ringed on their peripheries with woods, much of it dense. A few trees intrude upon fairways, first by being positioned near their fringes; secondly, by their overhanging branches on certain holes; and, third, by their pesky presence at the corners of doglegs and even near tee boxes.
In general, individual holes are well-thought out on this layout. I particularly like the par-five first, along with two four-pars, 5 and 7, on the front; three more par fours—12, 13, and 18—plus the par-5 sixteenth stand out on the inward nine. All of these have good shot values, whereby a hard shot is followed by a less-demanding one (or vice-versa), abiding by the theory amply laid out in Geoffrey Cornish’s classic book on golf course architecture, “The Golf Course” (1988). Not all of the holes do quite so well in this regard, and some criticism I’ve heard around the 19th hole asserts that certain holes are too penal. I partially agree, but it’s a judgment call and you should play the course and decide for yourself. The course’s slope from the back tees (6,523 yards) has been adjudged 126 with a stroke rating of 71.2 against par of 72. Above the average, but not excessive.
My one genuine criticism of Tallwood concerns the par-threes. They are all solid holes, to be sure, and have a certain variety in their contouring and tee placement. Yet their formatting is uncannily similar: all four are of mid-length; all have big drop-offs behind them, with lesser downslopes, typically, from their two sides; four for four have a massive bunker positioned on the left to left-central side, with only number 14 adding a right side trap. Add to all of this the fact that each of their greens tilts upward, away from the fairway (they all putt similarly, too), and I feel as if I’m playing essentially the same four holes. Despite the redundancy, two of these 3-pars—holes three and six—are both beautiful, challenging, exceptional. The four par-fives here are likewise good, though again the standouts come on the front side: numbers 1 and 4. The first hole is a spectacular-looking and classic hole, on which you should be favoring the left side from the tee. The fourth throws down the gauntlet to low-handicappers who want to play it as a two-shotter, but will punish shorter-hitting slicers off the tee—and beyond. As on several other holes here, the fourth’s greenside bunkers, massive and deep, put up a strong defense against errant long-range approaches.
The course’s best holes should be impervious to all criticism, however, especially from the standpoint of ‘fair’ challenge. Holes 7, 12, and 18 exemplify this well. Twelve and eighteen, both par-4’s, allow tee shots to fairly generous fairways, and become similarly demanding uphill affairs on approach shots, which must be hit to perched and well-defended greens. The seventh, a beautiful and open but less robust four-par, will require your careful efforts to first thread a drive that avoids a pair of magnetic and large fairway bunkers flanking the fairway, and second to fly a solid wedge or short-iron onto the putting surface, evading trouble (including two sentinel bunkers in front) all around. It may be among the best short par-fours in all of Connecticut, not so much for pure toughness, but the subtle difficulties it poses. When teeing off from the whites or blues at #7, be sure to catch a glimpse of the left-side fairway bunker; its tall lip is barely visible, as it sits in a swale.
Tallwood’s sternest hole is the 414-yard par-four fifth, an absolute beast that runs straight uphill and dog-legs right, has a massive bunker to its right side, and concludes with a heavily contoured, two-tiered putting surface that induces frequent three-putting. It could be U.S. Open material. And if ‘tough’ is your thing, be ready for holes 2, 8, 10, 11, and 15 (in addition to some of those previously mentioned) which, though not all long, can be blood-pulsing until your ball finds the bottom of the cup.
What we have, then, is a well-planned and solid layout with many virtues. Of the fifty-plus courses I’ve played in Connecticut, Tallwood easily falls among the top 25%, and this state has more than its share of paragons. Straight hitters and precision-players who can dodge nearly all of the hazards (the woods chief among them) will most readily take to this course, but almost every golfer will find something here of interest. The course is far from a ‘monster’ on the order of a Bethpage Black, yet it’s not ideal for high-handicap players unless their patience is unfluctuating. And real patience is a virtue for anyone here—the mark of a strong golf course. The layout is closely competitive with the outstanding Anderson’s Glen course at Blackledge, also in Hebron, a couple of miles westward. The five or six best holes at AG, compared to the top ones here, are a bit more exciting and meticulously planned—the work of a master architect (Geoffrey Cornish)—and the course has more variety overall. At Tallwood, average golfers may find slight appeal in the number of forced carries over its frequent water hazards. For sheer difficulty, Tallwood’s greens are slightly more stringent than those at Anderson’s Glen; even good putters should find them demanding. And here the more pervasive woods, when encountered, tend to be harsher.
Conditioning at Tallwood Country Club is very good, though not outstanding. The greens roll smoothly overall, but some have been compromised a bit, if not greatly, by the heavy traffic the course sustains during the summer. When I played here more often in the past, they had tended to be better on morning rounds. The maintenance staff clearly gives great attention to the course as a whole. Fairways, rough, and green complexes, including greenside fringes, pitching, and chipping zones, are almost uniformly well-manicured. From what I heard and observed when playing here earlier this summer, maintenance had to deal with the loss of hundreds of mature trees after a gypsy moth blight. Now, large tree stumps appear intermittently throughout, yet these have no real effect on play; they have only taken out a few of Tallwood’s teeth.
Beyond the course itself, my favorite single thing about the set-up here is its A-one practice facility, coupling a driving range with three putting greens, one of them part of an extensive chipping/pitching zone. This third zone allows short game practitioners to hit pitch shots from all angles to its green, perched on a small hilltop and fronted by three gaping practice bunkers, all submerged into the hill’s steep upsweep. With full pitches of up to 60 yards possible, a great opportunity is afforded to Tallwood’s visitors: they can endlessly hone their short games! It’s a nice bonus from a first-rate public golf course.
This place never disappoints...
We make it here a couple of times a year, and we always leave satisfied.
Great practice facilty (range, sand trap, chipping area, and two putting greens).
Course demands attention. Several risk/reward opportunities on both sides.
The Back Nine Can Be A Watery Grave
Tallwood is a great tract with a super back nine. The front has three par threes that require different clubs. The rest of the front nine has some interesting holes and requires you to think before just pulling driver every-time. Number 8 is a great strategy hole. The back nine is the real challenge with water on every hole except 18 and the lone par 3. Once again driver is not always the correct club and your approach shots must be precise. Not much movement in the greens but they are well protected. A ton of length was added a few years ago but really didn't make much of a difference.Improved bunkering in terms of line of sight and protection could make this one of the best courses east of the river. Right now the bunkers are just large instead of being true hazards. The back nine is definitely not for beginners.
I play this course at least once a season. GREAT practice facility (range, chipping area, putting). Staff is super-friendly. Course is ALWAYS top-shelf.
I find the course somewhat challenging. there are some short-ish par 4s, but the lack of length is offset by the hazards (water!). Good par threes and decent par 5s.
Yeah, Tallwood may be a stone's throw from the Blackledge tracks (both of which are great layouts, by the way), but you should NOT overlook playing at least one round here this season. You won't be disappointed!
I gave it three stars for "Off-course amenties: only because it it in the middle of farm country, so there's not much going on in the way of retail stores (not a Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts anywhere near!)
Water. Water. Everywhere
Located in the rolling, rural hills of Hebron just off CT RT 85, family-owned Tallwood Country Club is a great course for players of all levels. Many state tournaments use Tallwood as their tournament site, which attests to the quality and management of this course. It also has a very large and active men’s league indicating the popularity of Tallwood.
At 6523 yards from the tips to 5424 yards from the forward tees, Tallwood is longish for the average public course in central Connecticut. It is also quite hilly with a slope rating ranging from 121-126. It’s not an easy course, especially with six ponds to contend with. Four of these ponds are located on the back nine, which is more difficult and longer than the front nine, thus the 35/37 par differential. There are three par 3’s on the front nine and only one on the back side.
Rates are reasonable: $38 weekdays, $41 weekends and $29 seniors/juniors/military (weekdays only). Carts are extra.
Upon arrival, overhead power lines and a large gravel parking lot awaits. To the right of the clubhouse are two large putting greens, a chipping and sand trap practice area (with three traps) and a large driving range. Inside the clubhouse there is a fully-equipped pro shop and comfortable but Spartan eating area. The restaurant is not known for gourmet meals, though the basic fare is satisfactory.
The day we played it was hot and humid. An acute lack of rain in the past weeks dried out the course a bit but the fairways and greens were still in excellent shape. There were also plenty of strategically-located water jugs to keep us hydrated and quite a few porta-potties for relief. Most fairways are narrow and bordered by deep woods or ponds so hitting your shots straight is crucial in keeping the bogieman at bay.
Good course management is necessary at Tallwood so here are some tips for the trouble areas you’ll need to cope with. All distances are from the white tees.
At 528 yards, the uphill first hole is the longest on the course, but it should not be a too difficult for accurate hitters. Problems and decisions start at hole #2, a short (287 yard) dogleg right. The fairway runs out on the left into deep woods so a long or mid-iron/hybrid is an excellent choice off the tee to get within wedge distance of the green. A fade with a driver or 3W is desirable but not many of us mortals possess a fade on demand. My fade is more like a slice that comes without warning. On #8 a pond protects the green starting roughly 240 yards from the middle tees. Keeping to the right side of the fairway is smart. Long or left on the par 3 ninth spells trouble.
Almost every hole on the back nine has a pond that comes into play, starting with the short (296 yard), downhill 10th where a small one defends the front of the green. It’s about 225 yards to the water from the white tee box. Although only the #8th handicap hole, #11 gives many players fits. I hate it. This twisting par five 500 yard double dogleg is troublesome. Off the tee is not the problem, your second shot is where trouble looms. You’ll be hitting blind over a hill with water long. I suggest a trip to the hilltop to see what you’re facing. You’ll see that anything too long and straight gets wet as yet another pond guards a very small green that is bordered by water in front and a steep bank behind. Choose your weapon carefully to give yourself a short wedge to the green. The next hole, requires a tee shot over a geese-infested pond than uphill to a small green. Walk carefully near the tee box and pond to avoid the “gifts” the geese have left. Number 15 is water all along the right side of the fairway and deep woods down the left. Some players are tempted to go for the green on their 2nd shot but any ball short goes for a swim. A smart play is driver or 3 wood off the tee then a mid-iron to a collection area along the left side of the fairway. From there it’s a short wedge to the green. The short (317 yard) #4 handicap 17th has the last pond you’ll see; it crowds the left fairway just short of the green. With a blind tee shot, club choice off the tee and accuracy to the green are the keys to par. If you can, ride or walk up the hill before teeing off, to survey the hole layout.
There’s only one negative I can speak of and that is the condition of the gravel cart paths. They could use a new layer of gravel to cut down on the kidney-jarring ride around the course. Also, a suggestion is a menu at the ninth tee box so players can call in their order when making the turn.
In conclusion I give this course high grades. The staff is friendly and helpful, the course very well laid out, challenging and the practice area is great. It’s also worth the trip from anywhere near Hartford and a good place to bring a client and still stay within your budget.
Finally, I’m surprised that there are no other reviews for Tallwood. I use reviews frequently to check out golf courses I’ve never played, vacation sites I’m planning to visit and restaurants I’m thinking of eating at. Oh well.
That is a spot on comprehensive review of Tallwood. I have played many a round up there with a close friend who use to live locally for years. Each hole has its challenges and the design has left a number of quality and distinctive holes to play. There are a few holes that always seem to get me up there even when I have been playing well. Its a great muni track and worth a visit or two