Number 93 (Springfield Golf Center)

Date played: 9/14/2019

The 93rd stop on my adventure was the self-proclaimed “Most complete family golf center” in South Jersey. Located in Mount Holly, Springfield Golf Center features a driving range, a miniature golf course, a “chip-and-putt” course (not to be confused with pitch-and-putt, I guess), and a par-68 course. I have to say, if you’re looking to learn the game, it’s difficult to argue with the “complete golf center” billing.  

Strictly speaking, the par-68 is what is actually Number 93 on the quest. Since the scorecard for the chip-and-putt does not have yardages for each hole, it’s not counted on the journey. It’s one of the few arbitrary rules I have about what will count and what won’t, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

*whistles* Nice greens…

The course only plays about 5,000 yards from the back tees. Most holes are straightaway, with ample room to miss. A serious exception is the par-5 14th which plays to a narrow fairway with unplayable woods on the left and a lateral hazard to the right. The back tees on the par-4 16th are also awkwardly narrow, pinched between the net at the far end of the driving range and a couple trees with some overgrowth on them.

There’s tight, and then there’s the-tee-shot-on-16-at-Springfield-Golf-Center tight

To be somewhat critical, there are some areas of the course where it seems difficult to keep decent grass cover. I believe the aforementioned 14th is the lowest lying area of the course and it looked like it might have drainage issues. The fairway landing area was very sparse when I played, something I felt was out of place for a September round.

Judging the place as a family-friendly learning course, I think it’s a great example of using the maintenance budget appropriately, focusing on keeping well-manicured greens, particularly for the price point. It was $44 (including cart fees) on a weekend, which is probably right where it should be.

Springfield became the seventh Burlington County course I’ve visited, leaving only Indian Spring Country Club to complete the area.

First we chip… then we putt

BONUS: After my round on the executive course, I decided to play the chip-and-putt while I was there. All holes are par-3s less than 50 yards with some probably as close as 25 yards. You can get around with a single wedge of your choosing, but I happened to play both my gap wedge and my 60-degree for practice. The putter was hot, and I made my way around with five birdies and two bogeys, en route to a three-under 51.

If only all of golf was that easy.

What could’ve been a sub-50 round
Number 93 (Springfield Golf Center)

Number 92 (Harbor Pines Golf Club)

Great old school ball washers at Harbor Pines

Date played: 9/8/2019

My first trip to play a public golf course in Atlantic County required begrudgingly breaking my precious sleep schedule. An early morning tee time at Harbor Pines meant that I’d have to be on the road at 5:00 am.  I don’t mind waking up early – especially to play golf – but waking up before 5:00 is pushing the limit. Nevertheless, the journey called and I was on my way.

The course winds through a dense forest, with almost every hole lined on both sides by trees. With the possible exception of the 1st and the 18th, wayward tee shots won’t have a chance of finding the fairway of a neighboring hole. When a course is mostly a winding tunnel of hole after hole, I find it difficult to appreciate unless there is great variety, and a majority of the holes at Harbor Pines are straightaway.

That’s not to say that there aren’t areas of the course that are noteworthy. The 4th is a long par 4 with a 90-degree elbow. The greens across the course are in great shape, and many have clever undulations that make for great hole locations, with the complex on the 9th being a great example.

Shadows across 9 green

You start the back nine with a tough par 5 that requires a tee shot that needs to avoid water on the left. Water is a factor on multiple holes, but perhaps nowhere else more so than the 12th. It’s a daunting short par 4 where a tee shot needs to carry and navigate water for at least half the carry distance, only to find that water must be avoided to the right of the green on the approach.

At over $80 in prime season for a round with a cart, Harbor Pines measures itself among the nicer public courses in the state. Through that lens, it comes off as somewhat average. Having said that, it’s certainly worth a play and would be a good option in a line-up for a multiple-day trip of golf in Atlantic County.

The par-5 18th
Number 92 (Harbor Pines Golf Club)

Number 91 (Orchard Hills Golf Course)

Date played: 8/24/2019

I had taken a Friday off work and traveled up to northern New Jersey to play a small private/community course with an old family friend. Afterwards, I also played the short par-3 course at Anchor Golf Center and decided to stay up in the area to try to play another new public course on Saturday. I was able to crash at my brother’s place and find a tee time at Orchard Hills.

Like most courses in New Jersey – but especially in Bergen County – Orchard Hills is tightly surrounded by suburbia. Situated adjacent to the Bergen Community College property and across the street from Paramus Catholic High School, it’s relatively easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. The course is nine holes and doesn’t even reach 2,800 yards from the tips, but as its name suggests, it does roll up and through the hills of the property.

Though it’s an easy course on paper, I somehow managed to play some pretty terrible golf. Looking back at pictures now, there is all the room in the world to land your tee shots on the six par-4s and the lone par-5. The course also features two par-3s that are a bit long on the scorecard, but certainly fair in reality.

Hole 4, the first of the course’s two long par 3s

While I carded a poor round, it was a good feeling to cross off another Bergen County course from the list. Orchard Hills was pretty well maintained and pace of play was decent for a busy golf course on a weekend. The course became my fourth public played in the county.

Number 91 (Orchard Hills Golf Course)

Number 90 (Anchor Golf Center – Par 3)

Date played: 8/23/2019

If I had to guess, I’d say the 90th public course I played in NJ is one whose legitimacy in my list is questionable to many. It’s something between a pitch-n-putt course and a par-3 course. There are mats for tee boxes, it “tips out” at under 800 yards, and the greens are a mix of clover and other weed growth. You could probably install cups and flagsticks in your backyard, set the lawnmower to the lowest mow height possible, and you’d get similar results.

Having said that, I count the Par 3 course at Anchor Golf Center on Route 10 in Whippany for three simple reasons.

  1. It’s a place to play at least nine holes of golf
  2. It has a scorecard with yardages for each hole
  3. It’s completely open to the public as a daily fee course

Apart from the greens, there are a couple other items of note about the course. Following an extended period of rain, the course was soggy, especially at the back of the driving range on holes 5 and 6. There were also a couple tee shots (on holes 4 and 7) that were at least partially obstructed by trees, which may trouble the beginner but add an element of challenge for an experienced player.

Pretty sure this is a Raynor template. The pallets under the tree give it away.

At the time of writing – November 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – the Anchor Golf Center website says that the Par 3 course is “closed until further notice”. It’s unclear if that means closed for the winter season or closed for good, but it would be a shame to lose a place like this.

In my opinion, these short courses – suboptimal conditions and all – deserve a place in the golfing world. They’re places to learn the game. The easiest way to make the transition from driving range to regulation course is by using these short courses as an intermediate step.

While I’m counting them all, and my criteria may seem loose to some, I’m curious what you think. Would you count a place like this on a list of public courses? If not, how would you define your criteria for such a list?

Number 90 (Anchor Golf Center – Par 3)

Number 89 (Rockleigh Golf Course – Blue)

Date played: 6/30/2019

After growing up and living in New Jersey his entire life, getting married and starting a family here, my cousin let me know that he and his family would be relocating to South Carolina. Knowing that we would be hundreds of miles apart for the foreseeable future in a matter of weeks, I suggested that we should play a round of golf before the move.

While not an avid golfer, my cousin was interested enough that we often talked about getting together to play, and he agreed we should make it happen. Being up in Bergen County and needing the course to be close to him so he could get back to the family soon afterwards, I booked a round at the Blue nine at Rockleigh Golf Course.

Located about a half-mile from the state’s northern border with New York, Rockleigh features 27 holes, split into an 18-hole course (the Red and White nines) and the par-33, nine-hole Blue course. Most of it plays very level, with only the slightest incline into some of the greens. While there are areas of the course that seem neglected, word has it that Rockleigh is limited in what they can use to treat the grasses, as it is protected park land. In spite of that, the greens are well maintained and play fairly. At $17 to walk on a weekend, it is tremendous value for casual or high-handicap golfers who don’t want to break the bank to hone their craft.

The green at 9

My favorite part of playing with high-handicappers is rooting for them and celebrating their victories. Whether it’s a 15-foot putt that’s holed or just a well struck shot, those moments in the game make great memories, so it’s special to me to serve as a witness to the occasion. At Rockleigh Blue, I got to see my cousin – who averages less than one round per year – make a legitimate par at the fifth hole, a short par 4 with a lateral hazard to clear on the approach.

If I’m going to bear witness to his next golf memory, it would more than likely have to be at my cousin’s new home in the Palmetto State. In the meantime, I’ll be continuing my journey around the NJ publics, perhaps joined by other casual golfers looking to make memories of their own.

Number 89 (Rockleigh Golf Course – Blue)

Numbers 86, 87, and 88 (Farmstead Golf and Country Club – Clubview, Valleyview, and Lakeview)

Date played: 5/30/2019

The Farmstead clubhouse (foreground, right) and restaurant (background)

Set in the quiet Sussex County town of Lafayette, Farmstead Golf and Country Club is a set of three nines: Clubview, Valleyview, and Lakeview. Having only booked 18 holes, my friend Ed and I were hoping to be able to play nine afterwards to complete the 27, so as not to have to make the long trek back to the northwestern corner of the state.

After speaking to the starter, he let us know that the Valleyview nine was extremely wet after days of rain, and he wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get out there. I let him know about my journey to play all the public courses in NJ, and he said he would see what he could do. He sent us out on Clubview and told us to check back in to see which nine would follow.

Clubview (86)

The Clubview nine sprawls away from and returns to the clubhouse in an L-shape. Apart from the first few holes along the perimeter of the course property, it is generally open and provides some room to miss. Water will feature prominently on the par-5 fifth and the par-3 ninth holes, as well as the approach into the sixth.

Clubview 1

Valleyview (87)

Returning to the starter after nine holes on Clubview, he let us go out on Valleyview. These nine holes have a much tighter setup than Clubview, and you work your way back up into some elevation to the first tee which also gives it a mountain golf feel. With the exception of turning back for the par-3 third and fifth holes, the routing essentially runs away from the clubhouse along one line and comes straight back, covering a relatively narrow footprint. It is also significantly shorter than the other two nines, playing at under 2,900 yards from the back tees.

The sixth hole is a fantastic downhill, dogleg left par-4. For longer hitters, it’s drivable for if you can match the shape of the hole and carry the water in front of the green. The par-5 seventh is also fun, playing at only 430 yards from the back tees, with your final approach playing to an elevated green.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Farmstead for letting us out to see this nine. The course was indeed very wet, so much so that there were areas on the fourth fairway that were like walking on a waterbed. Other than playing our shots, we were extra cautious to not disturb any of the course.

Valleyview 4

Lakeview (88)

If I remember correctly, there was a slight chance of rain in the forecast, but thankfully it hadn’t rained a drop all morning. We would finish the last of the nines in dry weather as well. While named for the lake that it’s set along, I’d argue that water is really only a factor on holes two, four, and nine, which is a fantastic par-3 set on an isthmus that runs through the lake. On nine, there is a vast difference between the back tees playing at 201 yards and the one-ups at 124, but it’s intimidating from any tee box with water on both sides the whole way.

Lakeview 9

Overall, I found the courses at Farmstead to be charming, something I think was encapsulated perfectly in the old farmhouse that has been converted to the course’s restaurant. For first-timers set to play 18 holes, I highly recommend trying to arrange that Valleyview be one of the nines if possible. It will provide the best variety on the day when compared to Clubview or Lakeview, which play somewhat similarly.

Of course, you could just commit to trying to play all 27 on the day!

Numbers 86, 87, and 88 (Farmstead Golf and Country Club – Clubview, Valleyview, and Lakeview)

Number 85 (Pennsauken Country Club)

Date played: 3/30/2019

After finishing my round at Golden Pheasant in Burlington County, I made my way 15 miles due west to play my first Camden County course: Pennsauken Country Club.

With its nines straddling Haddonfield Road in a V-shape, Pennsauken CC is short par 70, playing at 6,250 yards from the back tees. The first three holes play east of the road while the remainder of the front nine is played across the street.

Overall, it was a great day out and I had good company for the round with some locals who were able to help me sort out some holes.

Here are a few of the memorable holes from the course:

  • The 4th is a long par 4 with a blind tee shot playing uphill.
  • The 14th hole is an excellent par 5 which forces three shots for a majority of golfers. Your final approach needs to cover a creek to an elevated green with a false front on the left side.
The approach into 14
  • 17 is a fun driveable par 4
  • The closing hole is a long par 4 playing from left to right around a pond. The approach plays slightly uphill to a green that is sloped severely from back to front.
Number 85 (Pennsauken Country Club)

Number 84 (Golden Pheasant Golf Club)

Date played: 3/30/2019

I’ve gotten to the point in my journey – or at least, the point in writing about my journey – where I’m running out of things to say about the courses I’m playing. I’ve increasingly found myself behind in the writing, and my perfectionism is to blame. That isn’t to say that my posts to date have been “perfect”, or anything close to it. I’ve just put some pressure on myself to make a course seem interesting, or find elements that no one may have noticed.

I’m sure there are still truly unique golf courses that remain unchecked on the list for now, but the list – as you know – is a list of public courses. There will be mundane courses. Uninteresting courses. There will be courses that are more about the locals and what they mean to the community. Alas, I’m not a journalist by trade, and I won’t be able to extract a story from everywhere.

And so, this is the point in my journey where I admit that not every public golf course is noteworthy, and that this is likely true of most public golf courses. I am using this post to remind myself that this trip is about seeing them all, whether I feel good, bad, or indifferent towards them. I will allow myself the freedom to not have to force anything special out of each stop.

Number 84 was the first of a 36-hole day, starting at Golden Pheasant in Lumberton, Burlington County. The most interesting feature at the course? The 11th hole is a par 3 that plays across the entrance road for a knee-knocking experience for beginners.

If your shot is short onto the entrance road, you can shout “fore”, but they’re probably not gonna hear you in the car
Number 84 (Golden Pheasant Golf Club)

Number 83 (Avalon Golf Club)

Date played: 12/26/2018

Not one to waste a two-hour drive, after playing Cape May National in the morning, I decided to try to play another course in the Cape May area before heading home. After a quick search online and a couple phone calls, I was on my way to Avalon Golf Club.

Set in a residential community, and playing at only 6,300 yards from the back tees, Avalon is a nice option for locals. Much like Cape May National, I was very impressed by the condition of the greens for a round in December. But where Cape May seems to do more with the flat, sea-level landscape, Avalon does very little.

As an everyman golfer, a flat layout is something I personally don’t have a problem with. Between executing a planned tee shot, hitting greens in regulation and putting well, the game itself can be hard enough for most. But for those that are looking for a course to put their game to the test, you may not find it here. There are a number of holes at Avalon that play dead flat and straight away.

That’s not to say there aren’t some relatively challenging holes. There are two par 3s – the fifth and seventeenth – that play almost entirely across water. And while straight and flat, a number of the par 4s and par 5s are narrow enough where trees will cause trouble for higher handicap golfers.

A look back on the fifth

After finishing up at Avalon, I decided to make the most of my time in the area. I had never been to Cape May and not knowing when I’d be back, I got in the car and headed to the beach as the light faded. Yes, it was December and nothing like it would’ve been at 5:00 on a summer night, but it was great to explore the area.

(Almost) the southernmost point in NJ

I was able to see the lighthouse and walked out to what a quick Google Maps search seemed to suggest was the southernmost point in NJ (though I’d later find out I was wrong). I capped off a great 36-hole day with a walk out onto one of the stone jetties at this point and caught a view of everything off the coast of the tail-end of the state.

It’s experiences like that that make me glad to have set out on this journey, and I know there will be plenty more like it to come.

Number 83 (Avalon Golf Club)

Number 82 (Cape May National Golf Club)

Date played: 12/26/2018

Number 81 on my journey took me to about 10 miles from the northern border of the state. For Number 82, I decided to go in the opposite direction. On the day after Christmas, I would head to the southernmost course in New Jersey: Cape May National Golf Club.

“The Natural”, as it’s colloquially known, would be my first course in Cape May County. Situated at sea level and right down the centerline of the Cape May peninsula, the course is also home to a nature preserve and bird sanctuary that splits the front and back nines. While the course in its current form was designed in 1991, the club boasts history going back to the late 1800s when it was known as Cape May Country Club.

An 8:02 tee time on one of the shortest days of the year meant I would have to leave well before dawn to make the two-plus-hour trek to get to Exit 0 on the Garden State Parkway. Stopping only to get a few photos of the rising sun, I arrived at the course early. I knew immediately that there would be a frost delay, something almost inevitable for a December morning in New Jersey. After about 45 minutes, I was able to get on my way.

Sunrise over the Parkway

The first three holes play southwardly down the east side of the nature preserve before turning back north along the Parkway on the dog-leg-left fourth. It’s clear immediately that the sea-level layout will be flat throughout, but mounding is used to add character to holes, like at the par-3 sixth.

The mounded green at the sixth

The green at the sixth is slightly raised, running off at the front left which increases the danger of short shots caroming backwards and rolling into the water. Along the right and around the back of the green, there is mounding that may provide challenging stances when trying to scramble for par.

The scorecard boasts a quote (from The Jersey Golfer) that the course has “three of the top ranked holes in New Jersey”. That’s quite a claim, and as of the time of writing, I can’t find any record of these rankings. I will say though, that on the back nine, numbers 11 and 18 are highlights on the course.

The landing area for the tee shot at 11 is larger than it seems from the tee

All around, I was thoroughly impressed with the condition of the course in December. While considerably further south than most courses I play, I still didn’t expect everything to be in the shape it was for the winter. I’ve seen many public courses that don’t look as well maintained in their prime season.

Being in such a remote corner of the state, it’s hard to recommend as a “must play”. Having said that, there are plenty of things to do in Cape May in warmer weather. So, if you’re looking for a beach weekend that includes some golf, then Cape May National is definitely worth a visit.

Number 82 (Cape May National Golf Club)