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.
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 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.
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.