Number 54 (Hanover Golf Club)

The northernmost public golf course in Burlington County, Hanover Golf Club was the 54th stop on my journey. Hanover holds itself out as “one of New Jersey’s finest daily fee courses”. I thought this was an interesting way to advertise itself as open to the public, presumably as opposed to a required annual membership fee.

A windy February day, with breezes blowing between 10 and 20 mph, I probably needed to bring my best golf to score well, and I came up short. Tee boxes seemed to be limited for the winter, with some holes only playing from Forward boxes. I took the liberty of teeing off as close to the White tee boxes as possible on a number of holes, especially on the back nine.

The first hole was played from 339-yard Forward/Red box, and I striped a 3-wood to leave an approach of 117 yards. Seemed like a fantastic start. Unfortunately, I overshot the green with a 9-iron, landing just at the back of the green, but bouncing off the firm ground. A poor chip left me with 27 feet, and I two-putt for bogey. The 2nd and 3rd were a par 4 and 5 respectively, both right in front of you. The fairways aren’t wide, but they certainly aren’t narrow either. Errant tee shots on both, and fat third shot on the par 5 meant I would card bogey for both. Then came the fourth hole.

The fourth is on the card as 128 yards from the White tees, playing as the third-easiest hole. That day, however, it only played about 95 yards from the Forward box. Though short, it’s a well-designed, downhill par 3. There’s a tree hanging over the left and some water to be avoided short and right of the green. I missed the green, got back on, and then inexcusably three-putted from 10 feet. I missed a two-footer. (There, I said it. Happy?)

I made the turn in better form, going +2 through the next five holes. The highlight of those five holes was making the par-5 8th green in two. The lowlight was three-putting for par (this time, from 45 feet).

Coming in, the wheels were coming off my game. An interesting stretch of five straight par 4 holes, 10-14 should be ones to score on. The 11th is an uphill, but drivable hole, playing at 276 yards from the White tees. I managed to pull it left under a small tree in some deep junk, take four more strokes to get on the green, and two-putt for 7. The 12th takes you all the way back down the hill. The White tees were well up, so I opted to play from the 399-yard blues.  Hitting the green in regulation, I three-putt for bogey. Finally, on the 14th, I managed to make my first par of the back nine.

The 15th, 16th, and 17th, are pars 3, 4, and 3 respectively. The only notable part of this stretch is that there is a massive difference between the Blue and White tee boxes on the 15th, with the Whites playing at 116 yards to the Blue’s 185.

Then, there’s the 18th

Playing at par 5, it can arguably be a par 6 for the average golfer. While the scorecard says 614 yards, the website advertises its “monster” finishing hole as 621 yards from the tips. The White tees are marked at 496, but I decided to finish from the Blue tees at 583 yards. Although it’s straight, it’s a beautiful hole. Downhill for most of the way, you’re probably level with the green at about 200-225 yards. The bottom of the fairway is a pond running perpendicular to the hole sitting across the entire width. The last 100-125 yards or so play back uphill. I hit a very good drive to the left side, but shanked my second shot. I managed to hit my third shot well, across the pond and 40 yards short of the hole. My approach from here left me at 13 feet below the hole, which was a gift, as it slopes severely from back to front. Unfortunately, my par putt lipped out, and I had to settle for a bogey finish to end the day at +18.

It’s difficult to judge the condition of a course during a winter round. I’ve since seen pictures of the course both on Hanover’s website and elsewhere. It seems to be kept in great shape during peak season, and if prices are comparable to my winter round ($34 with cart), it’s certainly worth a visit. If for nothing else, just to play the “monster”.

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Number 54 (Hanover Golf Club)

Number 43 (Rancocas Golf Club)

Named for a Native American Reservation (now Rancocas State Park) that was not far from the course, Rancocas Golf Club was my first Burlington County course. Skeptical about how much light would be available to start play, I booked a 5:00 am tee time nonetheless. I arrived at the course in almost pitch black, and while I was the first to get out, it certainly wasn’t at 5:00.

Although there were no blow-up holes, I struggled to make par on the front nine, and didn’t do so until the par 3 seventh. After putting my tee shot out of bounds on the 9th, I recovered to card bogey and make the turn at +8.

I thought being first out onto the course would mean I could get in a fast round, but returning to the clubhouse and the 10th tee, I noticed groups had been sent out onto the back nine. Thankfully, after taking a quick look to the left, I noticed no one seemed to be on the rest of the course, so I was able to play through on the 12th. With the exception of a par on 15, I played 12 through 17 in all bogeys. The 17th was an awful tee shot into a short par 3 green. I struck it fat from 136 yards, and was still left with about 70 yards. The maintenance crew was on the green and allowed us to play the hole while they broke from work.

They gave us interesting information in that they hadn’t cut the greens for two days, due to heavy rains. Up to that point – and even on the practice green – I was wondering why they were rolling so slowly. However, the crew let us know that they just mowed the 18th green, and that we should see the difference.

The 18th is a dog-leg left with the second shot into an uphill green. The fairway just before the green is still guarded on the left side by a few trees, and I had drawn my tee shot far enough left that I was blocked. With 138 yards left, I had to decide to go around right, or cut a shot to the left. I decided the draw would be too difficult from that distance, and played the shot to the left.

Incredibly lucky, I intended to fly it between two trees, but actually cut around the left-most tree. The shot landed in the rough, just shy on the left side of the green. Sure enough, I thought I hit the chip too fat to reach the pin, but it was just as the grounds crew said; it rolled three times as fast as any other green I played that day and stopped two feet beyond the hole. I would make par, and then make my way back to see if I could play 10 and 11.

As busy as it was getting, I was fortunate to run into a group that was gracious enough to let me join. My drive found the fairway, so I waited to allow others to find their tee shots. In waiting, I noticed the 150-yard stake and was attempting to give an estimated yardage to my new playing partners. Walking around, I then spotted a sprinkler head marked “149”… about six yards in front of the 150 stake. It’s not the worst mislabeled yardage I’ve seen, but it’s always a shame when you’re not getting numbers you can trust.

Hitting the 10th green in regulation, I two-putt for par. A really poor tee shot on the par 3 eleventh meant I got the chance to hit a pitch back onto the green, only to nearly miss entirely and barely move it. I got on with my 3rd, missed a short putt, and finished up with a double bogey. A shame to finish that way, but that concluded my out-of-order back nine at +7, for a total of +15.

Overall, Rancocas is a lovely course. However, the only notable blemish would be the power lines on the 8th hole. After seeing my first golf course power lines at East Orange GC, I would say these are actually worse, as they are high-tension power lines – 13 of them that I can count from a picture – that run across the fairway. That means the flight of your drive has a pretty good chance of clipping one of them (and mine did).

Apart from that, again, Rancocas GC is a course definitely worth playing.

Number 43 (Rancocas Golf Club)