Rulewich Renovating Two Courses in Connecticut

Roger Rulewich and his Golf Group are in the process of remodeling two venerable private courses in Connecticut – Ridgewood Country Club in Danbury and Silver Spring Country Club in Ridgefield.

Opened over 1921-22, Ridgewood was designed by noted architect Devereaux Emmet, who also crafted Garden City CC in New York, Riddell Bay in Bermuda, and Congressional in Bethesda, Md. Ridgewood sits on property once occupied by Ridgewood Stock Farm. The horse-breeding facility was purchased around 1920 by local businessmen, who launched plans for the golf course. The remnants of the old half-oval racetrack can still be seen near the first hole and 13th green; the cart path along the 13th hole is the actual track.

A re-routing of nearby Interstate 84 necessitated a major redesign of Ridgewood in 1961, which was handled by Geoffrey Cornish. Though the par-71 course is on the short side at 6,570 yards, it boasts relatively high ratings – 72.5 and a 138 slope. The test is made difficult by dozens of bunkers, natural hazards and a stream that enters play on several holes. Ridgewood has tested the mettle of such great players as Walter Hagen, Tommy Armour, Gene Sarazen, Mark Calcavecchia and Kenny Green. Green learned to play golf at Ridgewood, which served as the site of the Connecticut State Open in 1995 and 2006.

The course is undergoing another transformation, thanks to golf Rulewich. The project involves reworking the greens surrounds and remodeling other putting surfaces; adding back tees and refurbishing others; reshaping green-side bunkers; modifying fairways; and adding length to several holes. The initial phase of a master plan approved by the members was completed in 2006. The next phase involves similar modifications to other holes, including a completely new putting surface at the par-3 10th, a 185-yarder with an island green. A new pond will also be added at the 18th.

“The club wanted to keep up and be competitive with other area clubs,” said David Kerr, Ridgewood’s superintendent for the past 21 years. “They felt some changes were needed but didn’t realize how much until Roger Rulewich came in. At the time the plan was initially presented to the members, there were many who questioned why make any changes. After all, at the 1995 Connecticut Open, only one player had broken par and that was on the final day.

“You don’t know what you don’t have until you have something new. The work by Roger Rulewich and Dave Fleury at Ridgewood is impressive. They have softened a lot of lines and delivered an appropriate design with dramatic changes that enhances play and is relatively easy to maintain.”

“The contours of the greens were considered good as they were and, in fact, many of them were,” added Fleury, Rulewich’s design associate and chief shaper. “Some, however, were too severely sloped for the size of the green. By splicing into existing greens, we created a seamless addition, allowing us to keep existing greens, enlarge them to accommodate present-day speed, and address the need for more cup locations.”

Rulewich and Co. are also making improvements at Silver Spring, a Robert White design that opened in 1930 as a par 70. Additional land was later purchased, and architect Arthur H. Tull used it to extend the 11th hole into a par-5, bringing the course’s par to 71. The layout now plays to 6,548 yards, where it has a course rating of 72.0 and a 132 slope.

The equity-member club occupies 160 acres. The front nine is bordered by mature stands of hardwoods, while the back nine, once farmland, is lined by hardwoods, ornamentals and pines. Though situated within a residential area, the course is secluded with only five adjoining homes. Though there are no water hazards at Silver Spring, the course gains difficulty by its tightness, rolling greens, uneven lies and 68 bunkers.

Rulewich was brought in to renovate the golf course in conjunction with a major clubhouse remodel that added 14,000 square feet to the building, which reopened in May 2006. The master plan calls for new and improved tees; repositioning and adding fairway bunkers; rebuilding the practice putting green; and a short-game practice area – all of which were completed in 2005.

Work continues on other parts of the course, especially at the top-rated par-4 seventh hole through the addition of a new drainage system; elevating the fairway; redoing the bunkers; moving and rebuilding the existing large tee; and adding a new back tee and bunker on the right side of the green.

Of this project, Fleury said, “The sculptured land forms created by Robert White at Silver Springs are unique. The bunker shoulders have very straight lines. There are pedestal greens with hard edges. We quickly realized that we would be doing a renovation project with a restorative flair. Although some changes are needed because of today's play, for maintaining consistent playing surfaces and better turf quality we felt that this course was so good it was imperative to keep the design style.”

Peter Rappoccio, property manager for Silver Springs’ golf course, tennis courts, clubhouse and grounds, is excited about the changes as well as future projects. “Additional work will be done in stages. The specific schedule is to be determined. It calls for repositioning all other fairway bunkers to meet the demands of modern-day equipment and playing abilities. The future work will incorporate adding and/or enlarging four back tees, reshaping eight or more green-side bunkers, as well as laser-leveling all existing tees and expanding some smaller forward tees.”