Work has started on the renovation of the golf course at Wethersfield Country Club in Wethersfield, Connecticut. The course, a 1916 Robert Pryde design, is currently being renovated by golf course architect Bruce Hepner.
Hepner has been a course architect for over 30 years, is a former design associate and shaper for Tom Doak, and now principal at Hepner Golf Design has an extensive portfolio including his projects at Hartford Golf Club in West Harford, Ct., Charles River CC in Boston, the CC of Fairfield in Fairfield, Ct., Shuttle Meadow CC in Kensington, Ct., Essex County Club in Essex, Ma, Streamsong Blue in Florida and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand to name a few.
The majority of the project is a bunker renovation as they had fallen into disrepair over the years.
Hepner said, “This project is more of a maintenance update. We are basically rebuilding the bunkers, getting them closer into play, rebuilding with a historic feel, so there is no particular architect we are following. The style of bunkering we are trying to build is a classic style from the era that this course was originally built in. We’re adding a few bunkers here and there while subtracting a few. We are looking at some old photos, however that is not a blueprint, as the original design was pretty simplistic.”
In addition to the bunkers, work will take place on several tee areas and mowing lines. “Probably the most significant thing we are doing is opening the approaches to greens, getting a lot more short grass closer to the greens and bunkers, and getting the bunkers more in play,” said Hepner. “We are either bringing the green closer to the bunkers or the bunkers closer to the greens. We are removing some unnecessary bunkers and adding bunkers that will be more in play and at the same time better frame the hole.”
The goal of the project is also to make the bunkers more maintainable, more playable, and have them drain better. Said Hepner, “We are basically rebuilding the bunkers to function better and at the same time that they play better and are easier to maintain. There will be brand new sand, new drainage, basically giving the course a tune-up.”
The project will cost $800,000 and have an equal impact of renovations that are three or four times the cost, said Hepner. “In the end, the members will get a great product. We are hoping that a player who shoots 75 will shoot 77 and does not know why and a player that shoots 103 will shoot 97 and not know why.”
Hepner is undertaking the project, shaping and placement of bunkers, with McDonald & Sons. “They are doing the fine feature shaping with their own team,” said Hepner.
McDonald & Sons is a Maryland-based construction company. They are a Certified Builder and Charter Member of the Golf Course Builders Association of America (GCBAA). They have implemented the vision of many of the game’s top architects as well as executing McDonald Design Group’s construction services.
With the course closed down for play until an anticipated reopening in April 2023, course superintendent Ben Newfang and his crew have shifted their focus from day-to-day maintenance to aiding the recovery of and turf establishment. Newfang is overseeing the renovation project to make sure the final product is maintainable for his crew. During the shutdown, Newfang will be able to implement new horticulture practices that he has never been able to do before. New mowing lines will be established, trees will be removed and sightlines opened. Tree work will open up parts of the course that had become overgrown.
Wethersfield Country Club is a club with perhaps the richest history in Southern New England, but it also has a strong commitment to the present and future of its membership.
The Club hosted the Greater Hartford Open, which became the Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open for a number of years before the annual tournament moved to The TPC Course at River Highlands in Cromwell. The Travelers Championship debuted as the Insurance City Open in 1952 at Wethersfield. Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Billy Casper, Ken Venturi and Lee Trevino all were regular participants. The Club is very conscious and proud of its connection to the GHO tradition and has a plaque sitting on the first tee listing all the former champions of the event when it was held at there.
While the Club honors its past, it is the superb golf course and amenities that continue to draw members from far and wide. The conditions are impeccable and Wethersfield can truly boast perhaps the best greens, fairways and tee boxes of any private club in the state. There’s an excellent range and practice area, a first class restaurant, traditional locker rooms, and an understated ambiance that has made Wethersfield Country Club a favorite for generations.
For information about membership visit www.WethersfieldCC.org or call 860-529-3326.