by Jeff Skinner
Pete Dye’s handiwork will be getting plenty of attention this week at The Players Championship. Dye’s has an amazing talent. At the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course he built his most famous and infamous course simultaneously. The island green seventeenth is perhaps the most well known par three in golf while at the same time being the most diabolical.
Dye has designed dozens of top courses that have hosted majors, Ryder Cups and PGA Tour events. Harbour Town, The Ocean Course, Whistling Straights and Crooked Stick are examples of Dye’s high end work.
But you don’t have to play on tour or fork over three hundred bucks to get a taste of Pete Dye and his immense talents. The best kept secret on Dye’s resume sits in a quaint town in central Connecticut at Wintonbury Hills Golf Course.
Wintonbury Hills is rare find indeed. It’s a municipal course designed by a world class architect that’s affordable and a joy to play. Owned by the town of Bloomfield, Wintonbury is laidout over rolling hills near Hartford.
A golfer could be excused for being anxious about teeing it up on a Dye course. After all, some say Dye delights in embarrassing the best golfers in the world so what chance would the average player have at one of his tracks. But that’s the joy of Wintonbury: it is extremely playable.
There aren’t any railroad ties, waste bunkers, bulkheads or island greens. But there are plenty of demanding holes that are well maintained and challenge every level of golfer. For a Dye course there is a noticeable lack of severe penalties but that doesn’t mean there isn’t trouble to be had.
The course plays firm and fast with a flavor of links style golf on many holes. At the same time there are parkland holes and on first glance there seems to be little trouble off the tees. But as you approach the greens you’ll find that Dye trademark: greens that can drive you crazy.
The greens are Wintonbury’s defense and they do a great job of protecting the course. The greens have multiple levels and plenty of contours that sweep an errant approach down into one of the many collection areas. The greens are surrounded by swales and moguls that can be friend or foe as a little bit of local knowledge goes a long way at Wintonbury.
Once on the greens you’ll be challenged on each and every putt. They roll true and play fast and could certainly have been more penal if someone hadn’t had a tight rein on Mr. Dye. The bunkers surrounding most greens are extremely small, as are all the bunkers on the course, no doubt an effort to keep maintenance costs low and play moving. To make Wintonbury a typical Dye nightmare all that is needed is to enlarge those bunkers. But I’ll take this version of ‘Dye-Lite’ any day of the week.
Wintonbury is a Billy Casper Managed property and is well run and expertly managed. The staff is courteous, helpful and professional.
For any golfer that doesn’t have a tour card Wintonbury Hills is the best way to get a little taste of Pete Dye without any of the pain or embarrassment.