Hartford is not exactly a household name in golf circles - most notably for those living outside the immediate New England area. But the capital of Connecticut has forged a clear identity, even when squeezed by nearby much larger size metro areas with Boston to the northeast and New York City to the southwest. What many may not realise is that the roots of professional golf go back several decades in the Nutmeg State.
The first significant professional event in Hartford took place in 1952 with the debut of the Insurance City Open at Wethersfield Country Club. The title name made perfect sense since many of the top tier insurance companies were based in the area. Over the course of time the event, as well as the city itself, went through periods of economic ups and downs. In 2005 it appeared that the golf event’s future looked bleak as title sponsor Buick pulled out with its last event in ‘06. Traveler’s Insurance saw an opportunity to be involved with the PGA TOUR and has been the title sponsor since 2007. At last year’s event Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat Daniel Berger in a playoff. The imagery of Spieth bumping chests with caddie Michael Greller in celebrating that moment provided a catalyst in drawing other top tier players. At this year’s event five of the top ten players in the Official World Golf Ranking opted to play - including US Open champion Brooks Koepka and Masters champion Patrick Reed. Rory McIlroy and Jason Day also opted to compete this year.
While many might have questioned having an event the week following the US Open, the timing has worked quite well. But the event is just one reason that makes the area a draw. There are quality public course options nearby and, best of all, don’t charge a king’s ransom to play them. There is also been an infusion of top tier lodging and culinary choices.
In 2019, The Traveler’s event will be the sole PGA TOUR connection for the entire New England area. The lone downside for non-affiliated golfers is that the host site - TPC at River Highlands - is a private club available to guests of members. Nonetheless, the tournament provides a slew of options for those attending and its continued presence on the PGA TOUR celebrates the connection between mid-sized communities and the world’s finest golfers. The course also serves as the perfect counterpoint to the intensity generated at the US Open: a festive atmosphere where birdies are more plentiful then bogies.
Places To Play -
Rockledge Golf Course
West Hartford, CT
Originally opened as a private club and interestingly, at one time, had the services of legendary Tommy Armour as head golf professional, Rockledge is a quality layout with varied hole challenges and exceptional turf presentation. Playing just under 6,500 yards Rockledge provides a range of amenities and the round concludes with a fine ending par-4.
Timberlin Golf Course
Nestled along the base of Ragged Mountain is Timberlin Golf Club, an 18-hole municipal golf course. The Al Zikorus design constructed in 1970, features rolling terrain. In 2006, a two million dollar renovation project, designed by Stephen Kay and Doug Smith, was completed. The project consisted of renovation and redesign of 50 existing bunkers, along with the addition of 12 newly designed bunkers
Simsbury Farms Golf Course
West Simsbury, CT
Located roughly 30 minutes northwest of Hartford is Simsbury Farms. The course was the first public facility in Connecticut to be certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary site. The site takes golfers on a fine journey where golf and nature intersect. The holes are varied with appropriate challenges for all playing levels.
Wintonbury Hills Golf Course
Located in Bloomfield, Connecticut, a municipal course just 15 minutes from Hartford. The course is Pete Dye’s first championship design in New England. The 6,711-yard, par-70 layout has a combination of open links-style and traditional tree-lined holes. Ranked by Golfweek as the #1 place one can play in CT. It also holds a top 10 place for municipal golf courses in the US.
Places To Stay -
Two facilities stand apart for top tier stays in the Hartford area. The Delamar West Hartford opened in the Fall of 2017 and has become the lynchpin for the overall rejuvenation of the core West Hartford area. The facility has 114 rooms with all the amenities including first rate dining via Artisan Restaurant. https://delamar.com/west-hartford/
For a worthy downtown experience, look no further than the Goodwin Hotel. Dating back to its original opening in 1881, the Goodwin originally started as an upscale apartment building. Known for its distinctive English Queen Anne terracotta façade, the building later went through lean times before re-emerging with new owners intent on restoring its former grandeur. Savour the culinary possibilities at Porrón & Piña under the direction of Chef Tyler Anderson. Where classic era distinction meets new world pizzazz. www.goodwinhartford.com
Things To Do -
The Mark Twain House & Museum is the restored Hartford, CT home where American author Samuel Clemens - Mark Twain - and his family lived from 1874 to 1891. Twain wrote his most important works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, during the years he lived here. Providing guided tours of Twain’s restored home, a National Historic Landmark, the museum offers activities, exhibitions, and education programmes that illuminate Twain’s literary legacy and life. www.marktwainhouse.org.
TheaterWorks in Hartford is a non-profit professional theatre company located in the downtown area. Founded in 1985, the aim is to produce high quality contemporary productions that appeal to all age groups. www.theaterworkshartford.org.