Sterling Farms Golf Course – Stamford, Connecticut Guru's Rating: 8.2
Non-Resident Weekend Rate (with cart): $70
There’s a recurring scene in the parking lot at Sterling Farms Golf Course after my friends and I finish a round. The trunk is open, we’re peeling off our golf shoes, dumping the few remaining balls and tees from our pockets into our bags. We question each other’s fuzzy math on a hole or two (or three). And then one of us will incredulously ask, “Why don’t we play here more often?”
If only it were that simple. We’d play Sterling once a week if we could. It’s one of the best public courses within 45 minutes of Manhattan. The problem? Actually getting a decent tee-time.
Sterling Farms is owned by the city of Stamford and has created a tee-time system that treats its residents like members of a private club. Stamford residents (with a golf permit) can book tee-times a full twenty-seven hours before non-residents (who are locked out during those hours). And since Sterling Farms is far-and-away the best public golf course in Stamford, morning and early afternoon times on weekends get scooped up before you can say “I-95.” Stamford residents can even walk eighteen for just $26 during peak hours! All that’s missing for golf permit holders are lockers with their names on them.
*(see “Guru’s Tip” below for more on this)
The layout of the course is well thought-out and provides a challenge – particularly from the tips. While not “long” by any standard (just 6486 yards from the back tees), Sterling will test your shot making skills. There aren’t many water hazards, but lots of trees, slopes, and doglegs.
The course is well-manicured from tee-boxes to greens and takes advantage of its natural beauty as well, particularly on the back nine. You’ll come across large boulders, deep woods, and the occasional pack of deer or wild turkeys.
The nit-picky negatives: pace of play is not as quick as it could be on weekends (especially with seemingly few tee-times) and the staff could be friendlier.
Most Memorable Hole: #2 (pictured above). The first hole at Sterling Farms is its most boring: a short, straight Par 4 (359 yards that plays about 330). But just when you start questioning what the hype is all about (as well as wonder if wasting hours on Sterling’s website in an effort to land this tee-time was the best use of your Monday at work), you walk off the green and catch a glimpse of the 532 Yard Par 5 2nd Hole. Right then, you know that Sterling Farms is no joke (although, if the above scenario did occur, your job might be). It’s not so much that #2 is difficult, but more, intimidating. From the tee box, it’s narrow, downhill and breathtaking (set way back from the photo above). There’s usually a bit of a logjam on the 2nd tee, so you’ll probably have a gallery watching you. And once you get down to the fairway, a wide creek about 100 yards from the green awaits your approach (as it turns out, there IS a lot of room for both your drive and approach, so don’t let the elements fool you). It’s a pretty, well-designed hole which serves as your introduction to Sterling Farms. Honorable mention goes to holes 4, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, and 18 – all of them fun and picturesque.
Most Difficult Hole: The fourth hole is the #1 handicap and deservedly so. The green looks reachable directly from the tee-box to the left: all that’s standing between the flag and your manhood are a water hazard and a giant oak tree. The smarter option, of course, is to lay up to the top of the dogleg, about 200 yards from the tee, straight out. Go any further, and you’ll be in one of two large fairway bunkers. Any shorter and the aforementioned oak tree blocks your approach. Even if you land in the perfect spot, you’re still facing a potentially awkward stance and angle.
The Bottom Line: Play this course, figure out a way. It’s a HUGE upgrade over any of the nearby Westchester Public Courses and puts its neighbor, Gaynor Brennan, to shame.
Guru’s Tip: As much time as I’ve wasted dissecting how annoying Sterling Farms’ tee-time reservation system can be, it’s certainly not impossible to nab a tee-time there. Obviously, option “A” is to get a Stamford Golf Permit somehow. If you’re not a Stamford resident, be resourceful: maybe you know someone that lives there and would be willing to hook a brother up? It’s a picture ID, so that person needs to resemble you on some level. Your best bet WITHOUT a permit though is – believe it or not – the day or two before you’d like to play. To protect yourself, reserve a time at another course and then check Sterling’s website (frequently) on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. There are often last-minute cancellations – be ready to pounce.