Nature's Path & Way To Go
6:11 PM EDT, October 4, 2012
I found an old photo of Berlin's Pistol Creek Golf Course showing immaculately trimmed greens, pristine fairways and golfers making their way around the scenic,18-hole course.
Today, all that remains of the course are an asphalt cart path, a few bridges and rotting wooden signs.
Although visitors can discern the former holes as they walk along the cart path and see the undulating hills and large trees dividing the fairways, only those who have played the course know exactly where each link once existed.
The town purchased the property in 2008 after it had been abandoned for a few years. A developer proposed building condominiums and a massive single-family housing development. But an effort by residents saved the golf course, and now the forest is reclaiming the land.
The seemingly endless ribbons of golf cart paths — there are more than 4 miles of them — make a convenient way to explore Pistol Creek. The land sprawls over 77 acres in Berlin — the front nine — and more than 40 acres that made up the back nine is across Atkins Street in Middletown.
While I'm not a big fan of paved trails in a natural area, the paths make it easy to navigate and keep your feet dry during the rain, as I found out.
The Berlin side of the course retains much of its former aspect, with the clubhouse being used by the town and the abandoned links relatively easy to see.
There are bunkers with large trees growing from them. Tee areas give visitors a panoramic view of the area, and at points along the golf cart path you feel like you're at a bit-time course as the path takes you past towering trees.
One of the most scenic areas is the path that travels along the western border of the course through a patch of forest. The path parallels a ravine where Spruce Brook flows through it. As I pass through the woods, I look for golf balls on the ground.
The Middletown side of the course is spectacular, with tremendous views of the surrounding hills. If you are looking for an autumn view that's easy to reach, this is it. Anyone who worked at the recently demolished, 1.3 million-square-foot Aetna campus located just to the east or driven along Atkins Street can attest to the beauty of the views from the back nine.
The cart paths are a bit more rugged along the back nine, but easily manageable. A large wooden bridge takes visitors over a scenic marsh area. The holes are less discernible on the Middletown side, where secondary succession is well underway as cedars and birches grow where fairways and greens once were.
So explore the wilds of Pistol Creek Golf Course, but bring a walking stick instead of a club.
Take I-91 to exit 21. Follow Route 372 toward Berlin and take a left on Savage Hill Road and follow to the intersection with Spruce Brook Road. Take a right and park in the old golf course parking lot. Visit http://www.town.berlin.ct.us/filestorage/199/2112/2276/PistolCreek_2012_Map.pdf for a map of the Berlin side of the course.
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant