Oronoque Country Club

"After a recent tournament, the general manager told me that the members were absolutely raving about the golf course."

—Garth Townley, Oronoque Country Club, Stratford, Connecticut

The Oronoque Country Club is no stranger to super¬latives. Five years ago, the private, 18-hole course was ranked among “America’s 50 Toughest Golf Courses” by Golf Digest. And Golf World praised its designer, Desmond Muirhead, as “the most innovative golf course architect of the last 100 years.”

18th hole approach at Oronoque Country Club

Garth Townley would agree that Oronoque is a difficult course to play, but it’s becoming an easier course to maintain since he took the superintendent’s job in 2012.

“We had some challenges that we needed to address to bring it back to championship condition,” Garth said. “There wasn’t one big issue – just a range of little things that needed to be taken care of.”

Garth felt that if he and his crew could more effectively execute a strong turf management program, the course would turn around. He’s been working on that turnaround with the help of Tom Irwin, a partner he’s relied on for years.

“I was at Hop Meadow Country Club in Simsbury when I first got introduced to Tom Irwin,” recalled Garth. “I worked with Rob Larson there for two or three years. We had a fertility-based issue on some of our greens. They just weren’t healthy. After working with Rob for that first year and building a plan, the greens turned around.”

Based on that success, Garth continued working with Tom Irwin at his next stop, Green Woods Country Club in Winsted, Connecticut.

“I had a good relationship with Rob and then Jeff Houde,” said Garth. “They’re just super-nice guys. It was wonderful having them there. I had members who were telling me the course hadn’t looked and played that well in 15 years.”

Now at Oronoque, the assistance of Tom Irwin has enabled Garth to focus his efforts where they are needed most.

“Coming into my situation, with all the other stuff I have to deal with, knowing that I have Jeff and Tom Irwin in my corner is a great feeling,” he said.

Scenic water hazard beside the fairway of Oronoque’s 16th hole

Garth, who graduated from The State University of New York at Delhi with a degree in Golf Course Management in 2000, has also relied on Tom Irwin for professional development and is putting that expertise to good use.

I just went to my first Leadership Forum this winter,” he said. “It opens your eyes to the fact that, once you get to the superintendent’s position, the grass-growing is only part of your job. It shows you how to handle board meetings and how to communicate with members. You learn to frame your message to each audience and how they think. You can go into a meeting with a plan and the ability to respond effectively to people. I loved it,” Garth said.

My first priority was to align our goals…members, management, and mine… and make Oronoque better than ever,” said Garth. “We’re getting there. It’s been a steady progression. After a recent tournament, the general manager told me that the members were absolutely raving about the golf course. They said they have not seen it looking this good in many, many years. And that’s reflects well on all of us.”

Garth welcomes you to contact him if you have any questions about his experience with Tom Irwin: gtownley@palmergolf.com


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