Course Review: TPC River Highlands – May 27, 2022

Last week I had the opportunity to play TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.  TPC River Highlands is home of the annual PGA Tour stop of the Travelers Championship.  This year’s event, from June 23rd – June 26th, is scheduled right after the 122nd US Open in Brookline, MA.

Under normal circumstances, an event right after the US Open would have a pretty weak field. Many top players would want a week off after hacking their wayward tee shots out of The Country Club’s 5 inch deep USGA rough.

Au contraire, this years Travelers has a very deep field ~ clearly their best ever. Being the nosy type, I asked around but the general feedback I got from the management is that the Tour players just like everything about their Greater Hartford stop ~ the course itself, the facilities and the ability to rent a condo right on the course at a reasonable price.

My tee time was almost exactly a month from the start of the Tour event. I was thrilled ~ and a little surprised ~ that I could get such a great tee time. I was also surprised and delighted that it was not cart path only and no patron stand construction was going on.

TPC River Highlands has been universally chosen as the best private course in Connecticut for six consecutive years.

I have played about 1/2 of the TPC courses in the United States and River Highlands is right up there as my favorite of them all.  

The course is always in top condition, the food in the clubhouse is inexpensive and fantastic.  We were even more pleased with 1/2 price drinks after the round.  But I think one of the biggest factors is the entire staff.  They are all well aware that we were not members and they treat us like we are their most important members ~ each and every time.

The clubhouse PHOTO: Course Reviewer

We arrived early and well before our tee time to enjoy everything this course has to offer ~ we traveled about hour and 10 minutes from my home in Rhode Island. At breakfast, I had a Bloody Mary and my guest had a mimosa and we both had the Eggs Benedict. After a fantastic breakfast, we took our carts over to the driving range. The range is a 2-3 minute cart ride from the first tee.

In my opinion, this is the best practice facility I have every seen ~ many hitting bays, an extremely long range and unlimited new Titleist Prov Vs to hit. I have played TPC River Highlands 11-12 times and I have never underperformed.  I feel like I can practice all the shots I will need on the course that day. On this day, in anticipation of the upcoming tournament, one of the chipping areas is closed.  The others are open.

On the first tee, we again meet starter Charlie Sullivan ~ who is a legend at TPC River Highlands. Charlie’s mission in golf is to make each foursome as comfortable as possible. We talk about his three children who all live in Massachusetts.  It seems like I just talked to him last week but it was last September.

I am now on the first tee and am as comfortable as possible. Number one is 418 yard downhill par four.  I hit a great drive for me and then hit a superb mid iron 8 feet from the pin. I miss the putt, but have another birdie putt on two and I have delusions of a low 70’s round in my head. However, on the second part of the first nine, I hit into some of the Tour conditions rough and struggle to a 41.   

I think the most interesting thing about the course itself is that it is not even 7,000 yards for the PGA Touring pros but it is generally long hitters that dominate the annual event. There are a few holes like number 9, where if you can carry the corner, a big drive will leave you a chip from the front of the green.  Mere mortals will need to play to the left and have a mid to short iron.

As much as I like the front nine, the back is even more interesting. I find the par 5 13th hole one of the most interesting. There are railroad tracks to the left with OB and a water penalty area to the right.  

Par 5 13th hole PHOTO: Course Reviewer

I have seen so many pros in trouble on this hole, it seems to free me up and I am much more likely to par or birdie this hole than bogey it. 

The marquee area on the course is holes 15-17. The 15th is a drivable par four with water on the left. The beauty of this hole is that you expect at least a par and one loose shot can easily make it a six.  

Holes 15, 16, 17 PHOTO: Course Reviewer

I speak from experience.

16 is a tricky par 3 with a large required carry over water.

My most disappointing shot of the day was a flushed 7 iron that fell into the water when the wind shifted.  17 is a dogleg par 4 with water running all down the right side. I played that hole my best ever with 3 wood, PW and a 12 foot birdie.

The 18th hole may be considered a little weak as a finishing hole as it is a driver, sand wedge for the pros.

The 18th hole PHOTO: Course Reviewer

The course received some attention last year when the land underneath the railroad tracks on the 13th hole collapsed and had to be fixed. This land is off the course property but created a hazard so the course temporarily made the 13th a par 3 to avoid that area.

Due to the upcoming tournament next month, I found the course played tougher than usual. However, I cannot wait to play here again after the tournament.

If I could only play one course in New England for the rest of my life, I choose TPC River Highlands.

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