Sterling Farms Has a Private Golf Club Air
Sterling Farms' 6th Hole
9th Green Near the Pro Shop
Torpey on Tour
Editor's Note: This is the third report in a series on area golf courses. Hour copy editor William Torpey will provide readers with his comments on the courses he has played.
When you stand on the first tee at Sterling Farms Golf Course, one of Stamford's two 18-hole municipal layouts, you get the feeling you're about to play a private course.
Behind you, on the other side of the ticket office and cart shack, the more agile populace compete on six tennis courts while, to your right, golfers try to perfect their putting strokes on a small practice green outside the pro shop.
Further to the right, past the ninth hole and across the parking lot,is a vastly improved and always packed green-carpeted driving range, where hackers and low-handicapped golfers alike take advantage of the 25 stalls to warm up.
I had arrived early for my 12:33 p.m. tee off time on a recent Friday so I could get acquainted with my playing partners -- Patricia McGrath, a Stamford Golf Authority member, Don Hill and Rose Palladino, three Stamford residents. I hoped they could show me the ropes to the 5,922-yard course (from the White tees.)
The Fairway at Sterling
On the way in from Newfield Avenue, I took note of the two restaurants on the course. The Fairway at Sterling that features fine dining and the Tenth Tee Grill, where golfers can sit and enjoy a sandwich or hot dog and a cup of coffee before, during or after a round of golf.
As I gazed down the first fairway, driver in hand, I was disappointed to see that the old battered tree that for years had challenged golfers by overhanging the fairway was gone, a victim of too many stray golf balls. In its place stands a grove of small trees.
The first hole is a short, easy par 4 (easy, that is, if you don't top your tee shot the way I did) that calls for a long iron or wood down a narrow fairway followed by a short-iron down a steep incline to a relatively flat, unguarded green.
Stepping onto the second tee is a genuine treat. This hole is one of the best -- on a course that can boast more than a few really nice layouts, where the fairways are well manicured, the greens are fair and true, and the challenges are substantial for us weekend hackers.
A 499-yard downhill par 5 demands a good drive from an elevated tee with out-of-bounds on the left, trees on the right, and a strategically placed bunker on the left side of a fairway that doglegs left-to-right. If you're out far enough on your drive, you can try to go over a small watery channel to reach the green; otherwise, you need to lay up, use a short to mid-iron and avoid the bunkers guarding the greens, front left and middle right.
The third hole is a short par 4 that requires a straight, but not long, drive and short iron, avoiding the out-of-bounds on the left and water on the right, if you're short.
My playing partners informed me that the really long hitters still cut the dogleg on the 333-yard fourth hole, but for most of us it's a medium iron over a drainage ditch and uphill to the green. The fifth hole is a nice, 198-yard par 3 from an elevated tee to a green guarded by water long and to the left.
Sterling Farm's Signature Hole
The par 5 sixth, Sterling Farm's signature hole, is only 415 yards, but it's up a steep hill that rises dramatically over the last 100 yards to a green whose surface is not visible from the fairway.
I was particularly glad that I was riding a cart as we worked our way up the sixth, and McGrath informed me that a study by The Northeast Golf Company commissioned by the golf authority offers a complete, hole-by-hole enhancement plan that will be used as a guide to changes in the course as funds become available. The plan suggests dramatic changes in the sixth hole, from tee to green. (I hope they know what they're doing!)
The last three holes on the front nine comprise a challenging dogleg right from an elevated tee (seventh); a straightforward, uphill long iron or wood to the eighth hole, and a longish, uphill fun-to-play par 4 ninth that takes you back to the clubhouse (just aim for the American flag.)
Hill and Palladino, accustomed to playing only nine holes, said their goodbyes and after a quick snack at the grill, McGrath and I mounted the 10th tee to attack the back nine. It begins down a steep hill -- dreaded by those among us who tend to hook the ball because the building that houses the grill, on the left, seems to jump out at you.
The 11th runs along the valley where you hit from an elevated tee (or a challenging new back tee) to a flat fairway. The green is guarded by a ditch that catches more than a few short shots. Then you work your way back uphill on the 12th, trying to skim the left side (or drawing it into the hill) while avoiding the trees on the right.
The 13th is a long par 5 dogleg to the right that requires a long drive to reach the bend before working your way uphill to the green.
Last Five Holes a Pure Delight
The last five holes are a pure delight. On the 14th you drive from yet another elevated tee down a hill to a flat surface, or, if you're really long, you may want to cut the dogleg left by landing on the narrow fairway between two ponds. It's a routine second shot to the green.
After a 140-yard, uphill shot to the 15th green, you hit from the last of the elevated tees on the 16th to a flat area, staying away from the old cemetery, then it's an easy pitch to a slightly elevated green. The 17th is a challenging, 217-yard par 3 guarded by a large tree on the right, another on the left, and a green-side bunker on the right.
The 465-yard par five 18th, where a large tree used to frustrate quite a few hackers, plays really long for everyone but the longest hitters, but it's a great hole that runs parallel to Newfield Avenue.
Walking off the 18th, I bid adieu to McGrath and pledged that the next time I wouldn't wait so long before trying my luck again at Sterling (if I can save up the out-of-town greens fee.)
Manager Paul Grillo a Norwalker, says that 70,000 rounds a year are played on the course, now in its 26th year -- about 15 percent of that out-of-towners.
I wrote this third part of a four-part series titled "Torpey on Tour" for the sports pages of The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on June 25, 1999. The information cited reflects the facts as they existed at that time.
Series Part I – Longshore Golf Club, Westport, Connecticut:
Series Part II -- Oak Hills Golf Course, Norwalk, Connecticut:
Series Part IV -- Fairchild-Wheeler 'The Wheel,' Bridgeport, Connecticut:
"The Golf Tour -- On a Small Scale" (A parody of my "Torpey on Tour" series written by The Hour's Assistant Sports Editor George Albano.)