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Play Away: Yankee Double Play

It helps to have a friend in the business. Back in 1996, golf writer Bradley S. Klein beseeched Pete Dye to build a municipal course for Klein's hometown of Bloomfield, Connecticut. Seven years, three referenda and $11.5 million later, Wintonbury Hills Golf Course opened last fall. All towns should have a course this good—or, in the case of this fortunate town, two courses this good.

Wintonbury is, surprisingly, Dye's first layout in New England. ("No one's ever asked me to build one before," he explains.) Still, Dye held nothing back. Although the course appears petite on the card at 6,623 yards, it proves subtly muscular. With more than a hundred deep pot bunkers cut into volcano-like mounds, it exudes Yankee vigor. Its open, links-style creations segue to heavily wooded holes, their heaving fairways offering long views of forested ridges.

The longer back nine illustrates why the seventy-eight-year-old Dye remains a master of his trade, with a sturdy 455-yard fourteenth that's instantly among the finest par fours in the state. Here the Tunxis Reservoir hugs the entire right side of the fairway, with a steep wooded hillside defending the left. A sentinel oak backdrops the large, sloping green. Barely a spoonful of dirt was moved to create this nature-made classic.

Still, Bloomfield was not finished—as it will prove this July when it unveils the bold urban course of Gillette Ridge Golf Club. Built by Palmer Course Design on CIGNA's Bloomfield campus, it features an intricate layout. Some fairways are nestled in wooded conservation easements; others skirt wetlands or soon-to-be neighborhoods; still others traverse rolling terrain that offers glimpses of the Hartford skyline.

A 283-acre jigsaw puzzle, Gillette Ridge bristles with hazards from the tips at 7,160 yards and boasts a bevy of brawny par fives—like the 602-yard double-dogleg seventeenth, whose oblong green sits on a stone parapet with steep drops on all sides. Only a life-insurance firm could get away with a hole like this.

Wintonbury Hills Golf Course, Greens Fees: $60-$70. Tee Times: 860-242- 1401 or visit wintonburyhillsgolf.com. Gillette Ridge Golf Club, Greens Fees: $60-$75. Tee Times: 860-242-5582 or visit gilletteridgegolf.com.


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