Short on yardage, long on trouble Woodstock CC is fun, but a ball-eater
Christianson, Senior Writer
WOODSTOCK, Vt. (June 15, 2004) Win Lincoln has been the starter at the
Woodstock Country Club for 18 years. And although he probably gives the
spiel to every first-time visitor to the 6,052-yard, par-70 course, it
sounds nevertheless both honest and original.
"The course has 2.5 million trees on it," he warns. "You know how they
trees are 90 percent air? Bull----. These are solid."
Lincoln goes on to point out that you will cross the Kedron Brook 12
times during your round. "And it loves golf balls," he smiles. "We
the members' ball retrievers more often than their clubs."
Finally, his advice for which tees to play, which may come as a
surprise considering the diminutive length and the modest 69.7 rating
and 123 slope from the blues: "Play the whites your first time or
When a quizzical look from a clueless golf writer prompts
Lincoln shares a story: "One guy was here last summer and said he was a
20-handicap. I suggested he play the whites [5,619 yards]. He said no
because theyıre so short. I shouldn't do this, but as he stepped to the
I tossed a towel at his feet. 'What's this for?' he asked. 'To dry your
tears,' I said. He never did tell me what he shot."
Golf in Woodstock, a favorite Vermont resort town for well over 100
years, began humbly in 1895 when a Dr. F.B. Harrington stepped off the
for an extended vacation at the Woodstock Inn. Harrington was a member
The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and was sorely disappointed to
discover there were no courses in Woodstock. In fact, there were none in
and an Inn employee stuck some coffee cans in the ground and set
up a makeshift course, and thus was born Vermont golf.
Fast-forward 30 years, at which time the Inn hired Wayne Stiles of
respected golf course architectural firm Stiles and Van Kleek (also
designers of Taconic Golf Club in Massachusettes, among may others) to
out a full 18 holes on the site of the present-day course. Fast-forward
another 30 years, at which time none other than Robert Trent Jones Sr.
retained by Woodstock Inn owner Laurance Rockefeller to revamp and
the par-68 Stiles layout.
Although Jones was known for sweeping vistas and heroic hole designs,
confines of the Woodstock acreage limited his usual drama. Nevertheless,
cramped track offers some distinct < and distinctly vexing < surprises
even top-flight players. Vermont Magazine once rated the
par-4 fourth hole as the most difficult in the state. And in 1989, when
Vermont Golf Association held the State Amateur Championship here, the
winner < a five-time state champ < went 12-over for the four-day
what makes this tiny terror so tough? Part of the answer is, amazingly
enough, modern equipment. The course was built for resort players
in the persimmon age. Some of the greens, in fact, are still identical
to the ones Stiles built back in the days of hickory shafts. As
such, accuracy is like gold here, and if you want to score you need
as much accuracy as the Rockefellers have gold. And a good bit of
local knowledge wonıt hurt, either.
Reg Fitz, who has been playing golf for 70 years and a member at
Woodstock for 25 years, has both. ³Familiarity does not breed contempt,²
says Fitz, who can shoot his age on any given day, despite the fact that
looks like he might not be able to walk from his cart to the tee.
youıre very, very good, play the whites not the blues," he warns. "And
prepared to hit a lot of balls in the water.²
A certain golf writer took Win's and Reg's advice, and teed it up
the whites for an early-morning round. And here is where the modern
equipment played against me, er, him. On several holes, straight, long
shots ended up through the fairways and behind one of those "solid" 2.5
million trees. The 400-yard, par-4 12th is a prime example. From the
itıs just 381 yards, and the landing area is cocked at such an angle
well-hit fade or straight ball will not stop until it is into the
the opposite side.
the whites does allow one to hit shorter irons into the greens,
however. This is extremely valuable, since most greens are small
and wedged between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Take the
par-3 fifth for example, which at only 151-yards doesn't sound so
threatening. On the tee, however, you notice that, although the
green is 45 yards deep, it is less than 20 yards wide. There's a
steep, shaggy hill left, the Kedron Brook runs directly along the
right, and overhanging trees limit any kind of draw or fade you
can put on the ball. In short, the green is a perfect place for
a picnic, but not so inviting as a target.
The two toughest holes on the course, though, are the par-4 third
yards) and the aforementioned fourth (403 yards). The former will not
a tee shot even from the back tees of longer than 235 yards, unless said
shot is a high, hard draw. The ever-present Kedron Brook bisects the
at the same point where the hole veers nearly 90-degrees to the left and
takes off abruptly uphill. First-timers have to resign themselves to
this hole as a par-5 because it will take a few rounds to sort out club
The fourth features the most dramatic tee shot on the course, over
same accursed brook to a fairway that looks as narrow as Calista
forearm. The approach is (sigh) again over the stream to a green that is
tucked coyly into the hillside. It is a delicate, yet dastardly, shot no
matter what level player you are.
The combination of topography, routing, and modern equipment creates
remarkable amount of trouble for all but the very best golfer at
The course gives one the oddest feeling that every single shot, from tee
green, is somehow between clubs. The conditions are superb, although the
maintenance staff seemed rather oblivious to golfers waiting to tee off
approach the greens they were hand-mowing. The course is very walkable,
which is good, because cart fees are outrageous at $36/18 holes. Green
are steep for the yardage at $85/weekend, $67/weekday ($68/$52 for Inn
guests), but not for the trouble one needs to circumnavigate.
Stay and Play
Woodstock Inn (woodstockinn.com, (800) 448-7900)
is rated Four Diamonds by AAA, and stands as the jewel in the crown
of the Woodstock area resorts. The Inn offers packages of all sorts
with themes running from family activities to culinary delights.
Golf packages begin at just over $200 per person per night. The
area is home to well over a dozen B&Bs as well. One of the most
family friendly is the Deer Brook Inn (deerbrookinn.com,
(802) 672-3713, $95-$130). One of the most golfer-friendly is the
Applebutter Inn (applebutterinn.com, (800) 486-1734,
$95-$195) in nearby Taftsville.
The Woodstock Inn boasts three restaurants: The Dining Room,
Tavern and Eagle Café, all of which are excellent. For more variety,
however, head to nearby Barnard where Maxıs Tavern at The Barnard Inn
up gourmet fare in a old-time tavern atmosphere ((802) 234-9961,
After your round of golf, you can hit the Inn's 41,000-square-foot indoor health
and fitness center and spa. The facility is open to guests free
of charge, but even non-guests can indulge for just $20 per day.
Not a bad idea for the kids on a rainy day.
The information in this story was accurate at the time of
publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be
confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making
reservations and/or travel plans.