August 11, 2016

Atlantic City Golf Vacations Course Spotlight: Sea Oaks CC


Sea Oaks pros say to ‘envision, then realize success’


By Dave Bontempo- Advice to the average or high-handicap golfer: when observing sand traps, water and other obstacles to the green, pay them no mind.
Perhaps that's the Bonicky Blog.
 
 
“Much of what concerns the average player is visual intimidation,” says Jeff Bonicky, the director of operations at Sea Oaks in Little Egg Harbor Township, which opened in 2000. “The way you combat that is trust. You have to trust that the club in your hand will reach the yardage you need, and remember that something that is on the ground, like water, is not in the air. If your shot is in the air and reaches the yardage number you want it to, you will clear that water hazard.”
Bonicky's tips are relevant, particularly on the par 3's here. Sea Oaks has four of them, each requiring a successful shot to clear an obstacle.
“Envision clearing that water or bunker as part of your pre-shot routine,” he says. “Much of the knack of achieving a good shot is picturing one in the first place. The more you do that, the better it will be for you.”
Sea Oaks offers six tee boxes in the neighborhood of 6,900 yards for advanced players, 6,300 yards for most and 5,100 yards for higher-handicap golfers.
The fourth begins one's journey with the par-3's. It plays about 155 yards from the mid tees and demands accuracy amid “a valley of sand traps,” Bonicky says. The shot carries uphill and must have both accuracy and distance. If the flag is placed left, players must flirt with greenside bunkers to reach the putting surface or play safe to the right and chip on. That decision could hinge on how well one is hitting the ball that day.
Another “visual intimidation” lurks on the seventh. It is a par-3, only 146 yards from the mid tees. But there is a mammoth waste land on the left. A straight shot or even one that lands a little right should be safe.
Twelve stands 195 yards from the mid tees and demands a forced carry over waste land. A tee shot that reaches this green is good enough to make one's day. Fourteen, meanwhile, entails battling water.
Sea Oaks blends a nice collection of holes with a unique marketing tool, an on-premise hotel. The Inn at Sea Oaks encourages stay-and-play packages.
“We receive a lot of repeat business from vacationers who make this the place they want to come to play every year,” Bonicky says. “We like to show them a day of relaxed golf. This is a course you come to to get away from what's going on the rest of the time in your life.”
The course layout appears to reflect that philosophy. Sea Oaks opens casually, unfolding a wide-open front nine that is forgiving in nature. The objective is to get distance off the tee. Generous fairways give players a fighting chance to score if they drive the ball well.
Take nine, for instance. It’s an uphill, 545-yard layout that plays close to 600 yards because of the slope. The second shot is the key component. Players must clear a 50-yard area containing mounded moguls with rough to reach the flat area for an approach. A ball buried inside the gap will usually require a punch-out shot. Long hitters who are close to the green after two shots have the added luxury of trying to place their third shot close to the pin. The green is two-tiered.
Players must adjust and tighten up for the back nine. Fairways narrow, placement becomes more significant and water becomes more prominent.
Tap-ins: Sea Oaks offers a rarity — consecutive par 5's on the 9th and 10th. It should help pace of play. The course also has memberships and junior leagues.

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August 4, 2016

Atlantic City Golf Vacations Course Spotlight: The Links at Brigantine Beach


Daily winds make Brigantine Golf Links a bit of a challenge


Prepare for an adventure. Brigantine Golf Links, built in 1927, has multiple personalities. It sports four tee boxes, with the two most commonly used set in the range of 6,100 to 6,500 yards. Daily wind shifts adjust the course length by a couple hundred yards.
“I would say that on 85 to 90 percent of the days you will have some wind,” says Gabriel DeLiberty, the head golf professional for Brigantine Golf Links. “It always makes you think before you hit your shot.”
Yet DeLiberty, who has been familiar with the course since 2008, believes players can calmly incorporate wind into the nuances of golf management.
“It's no different than if you are playing elevation changes or hitting narrow fairways. When it comes to the wind, if it's breezy, swing easy,” he laughs. “And when you have to account for wind direction, say left to right, line yourself up left, try to hit a straight shot and then let the wind bring the ball back into the fairway.”
The club was known in local legend for luring icons Walter Hagen and Tom Vardon here to practice for the British Open. True to its Scottish roots, the links-style layout offers bay views and winds through native marsh and nearly treeless terrain. With a prevailing ocean wind that characterizes links golf, holes can play completely differently from one day to another — or from morning to afternoon.
Besides its tradition, Brigantine retains a connection to the nearby casino industry. Patrons and shift workers can fit golf into their vacation or work schedules.
“We are the closest course to downtown Atlantic City,” DeLiberty says. “When people go to gamble they can't spend all day in a casino. And while the beach is entertaining and fun, you can only enjoy the sand and water for so long. What better extra-curricular activity could you have than a golf course so close to all of that?”
Brigantine sports recent upgrades including new tee boxes and an aggressive spring aeration to make putts roll more true. The course will challenge high-level players, but has no blind shots, “no hitting and hoping,” DeLiberty laughs.
Two of its best holes are lengthy par 3s. The 15th plays 167 yards from the mid tees. A body of water approximately 50 yards long makes this a boom-or-bust hole for many. If the tee shot is short, it is likely wet.
The third hole is a long par 3 of 210 yards from the back tees and 195 from the midset. Water crosses about 40 yards short of the green, creating a physical and psychological challenge. It will take a well struck ball to clear the water. Any errant shot will likely get wet and result in penalty strokes. Headwinds may cause players to pull out clubs like a driver or 3 wood to reach the green. Those clubs are harder to control, increasing the difficulty of holding the green with the tee shot.
The fifth is a difficult 400-yard par 4. It has a sharp dogleg right, tempting players to either cut off yardage by hugging the right side or making them play safe down the left side and add yardage to the approach shot. The elevated green is bunkered left and right. Any shot hit over the back will find rough and a tough chip back to the green.
Seventeen is listed as the hardest hole on the course. It is a 415-yard par 4 from the mid tees. It doglegs left and also has out of bounds on the left. Water comes across the fairway. Players need to get the ball 180 yards out to see the green. There is a waste area on the right and bunkers on the left. The green slopes from back to front with subtle breaks.

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Atlantic City Golf Vacations: Course Spotlight Blue Heron Pines


 Blue Heron Pines enjoys new look
It's been four years since former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski purchased the declining Blue Heron Pines Golf Club in Egg Harbor City. Today, it reflects revitalization.
Jaworski felt that the course, built in 1993 as the area's first high-end daily-fee establishment, needed “TLC.” Tree limbs were thus cleaned up, bunkers re-done, greens were fertilized and the rough was trimmed to manageable levels.
This facility is in the best shape it has ever been in since Ron Jaworski took over,” says Chuck Filling, the new director of golf for Blue Heron Pines. “What already makes our course special is the play-ability, regardless of your handicap. You don't have to be too good of a player to enjoy our course, but if you are a top player, you will be challenged.”
Blue Heron has five tee boxes ranging from near-championship level of about 6,900 yards, to the most forward set of about 5,100 yards. Most players select the 6,250-yard mid-tee range.
The course contains several interesting holes with unique variables. Its 14th resembles the seventh at world-famous Pine Valley in Clementon. A prominent bunker called Hells Half Acre stretches about 90 yards long and 60 yards wide. It occupies the fairway and dominates the thought process for the second shot on the 480-yard par-5. There are no safe areas on the left or right side. One either clears Hells Half Acre to set up a short approach or lays up in front of it to try both clearing the bunker and reaching the green on the ensuing shot. That won't be easy. A shot of perhaps 200 yards from behind Hells Half Acre would be needed to reach and stay on the smallest green on the course.
“It really makes a player think about where they want that second shot to be,” Filling says. “If you clear that bunker, you half or a full wedge approach onto green. That's the best scenario. If you end up in the sand, you can play out of it, but there are numerous islands of ornamental grass so deep that you would simply have to chip out into the grass or go directly behind it. This is the toughest one-shot decision on the entire course because of the bunker. What I love about it is the challenge. Either you can pull it off or you can't.”
The fifth is one of Filling's favorites. The 400-yard par-4 has a ridge running through the middle of the fairway. Tee shots that land in the edge of the fairways or in the rough will be propelled toward trees on the left or a pond on the right. Success on the hole depends on a straight, long tee shot and a mid-iron that must avoid sand traps and water on the left side and behind the green. The putting surface slopes severely from back to front and is two-tiered. Pin placement is significant on this hole. For the average golfer, hitting the front of the green is generally safest, ensuring either a relatively short or uphill putt.



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July 26, 2016

Atlantic City Golf Vacations Course Spotlight: Mays Landing Golf & CC

Mays Landing finds new ways to lure players               

    ATS Mays Landing Country Club            

Mays Landing Country Club combines the opposite realms of golf and bocce ball, the grand, centuries-old bowling-type game from Italy. The club built a set of grass bocce courts residing in a practice area that includes a large, 18-hole putting green, a chipping area, and a bunker. Mays Landing also has a 300-yard driving range off to the left of these amenities. The bocce courts went up in May.

“This is another way to bring people to the club and for them to enjoy themselves either separately from golf or tie it in before or after their round,” says William Green, the corporate director of operations for Mays Landing, which sports a new ownership group in Green Valley Destinations and Resorts.

“We knew that this course has a nice history, dating back to the 1960's and we thought if we came in and gave it some TLC that we could not only appeal to new people but bring back those who had left.”

Green's background is in the hospitality industry, and the club aggressively pursues new marketing avenues. While greens fees usually peak at $74, Mays Landing has unveiled several weekday specials to attract groups. First responders, veterans and union members obtain varied special-rate periods of $25. Call to inquire.

The public can get greens fees of $25 after 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. And anyone can purchase a $325 weekday membership that guarantees $25 green fees in what club pro Billy Papa calls “the greatest golf bargain ever.” It runs from Jan. 1to Dec. 31.

Papa and fellow pro Ben Thomas periodically post “Tip of the Day” videos on the club's Facebook site. A recent version featured playing out of the sand trap.

The course remains consistent in its layout. Constructed before the target-golf days of fairway traps and approach shots that must carry water, Mays Landing demands length, precision and accuracy. In return, it offers a fair chance to score well.

The 17th is a difficult par-4 measuring 405 yards from the mid tees. The hole is straight, long and challenging. It usually takes a long drive and low iron, or hybrid, to reach a well-guarded putting surface. Water runs a good portion of the right side. Out of bounds lurks on the left. Power, precision and a good putting blade are required for a good score on this hole. Birdies are rare. Par is an excellent performance.

While 17 is considered the toughest hole, Mays Landing presents some stiff challenges on the front side too.

The sixth is a par-3 ranging from 220 yards on the back tees to 123 yards from the most forward set. This is a significant yardage spread on a par-3 and illustrates a wide range of club-selection options. Two creeks run across the fairway. A tree and sand trap guard the left-side green. Water is off to the right. Thick grass and a wooded area sits behind the green. Players can overshoot the green as they adjust for a long hole that runs slightly uphill toward the putting surface. The green entrance is a funnel. Pay close attention to the flag position on this hole. It is better to be putting uphill toward the hole. Downhill putts can become nightmares, with balls rolling off the green.

Eight is a formidable par 5 at 527 yards from the mid tee set. Thick woods mark the right and left sides and the terrain tilts sharply right to left. It is not uncommon for shots to land in the left fairway, presumably safe, and then roll into the woods. The green is large, elevated and guarded. Shot placement is important on this hole.

TAP-INS: For those who have not played here in awhile, the hole numbers have changed. The front and back nines were flip-flopped to accommodate changes to the grounds.

 
                                          
 
 

                                                                                                                                                                 
    

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July 8, 2016

Atlantic City Golf Vacations Course Spotlight: McCullough's Emerald Golf Links maximizes its aesthetic niche

                                   

 
The Egg Harbor Township-owned facility, built on rolling terrain at the site of a former landfill, sports a picturesque course with elevated views and layouts resembling famous golf holes in Scotland, Ireland and England. Opened in 2002 and named for longtime mayor Sonny McCullough, who was instrumental in its formation, the course fashions fun golf.
“It's a nice relaxing way to finish out your round or enjoy a beverage,” Tom Sullivan, the general manager of McCullough's says of an area that sits just off the restaurant. “We recently had people out there watching a hole-in-one contest shot for $100,000,” he adds. “It's a great vantage point.”
McCullough's maintains a solid volume of play, exceeding 31,000 rounds last year, according to Sullivan, who considers his establishment “an excellent value” in its price range, usually $36 to $89.
To speed play and increase rounds, McCullough's mowed down some areas in the rough and behind some greens that caused delays with players looking for golf balls.
McCullough's won't intimidate novice players but offers enough to interest low-handicappers. The course offers four tee boxes ranging from 6,535 to 4,962 yards. There aren’t many trees, but players will find rolling hills, fescue that plays the role of deep rough and summertime breezes to affect hole length and club selection. Most greens are not protected by bunkers, allowing players the option of hitting low approach shots or punch-and-run shots onto some greens.
The eighth hole, designed after the 10th hole at Turnberry in Scotland, starts from an elevated tee and is a dogleg right at 385 yards. A pond mimics the ocean to the left on the original design. A unique fairway bunker with turf island in the center sits 75 yards from the green. If the tee shot is less than average, the bunker may encourage players to lay up in front of it on the second shot.
The 15th is a replica of Royal Dornoch's fifth hole in Scotland. Positioning is paramount on this short par-4, which breaks sharply right to the green. The hole plays through an area framed by large dunes. The fairway bunkers on the right are as deep as the Scotland version and must be avoided. Yet a shot hit too far left brings greenside bunkers into play on the second shot.
Royal Dornoch gains another representation — its 14th hole — at the McCullough's 10th. It is a 437-yard par 4 highlighting berms surrounding the hole and a steep slope behind the green. Two long, accurate shots are needed to reach the green in regulation.
The best birdie opportunity may be the fourth, a short par-4 at 323 yards with few gimmicks or tricks. A good drive will lead to a 9 iron or wedge into the hole for many. It replicates the third hole at Nairn, in Scotland.
Eighteen, reminiscent of Prestwick's fourth hole in Scotland, features a right-side pond. The hole does not play long, at 332 yards from the mid tees. Fairway and greenside bunkers will be no more than a distraction if the tee shot and approach are accurate.
The 14th is designed after the 14th at fabled St. Andrews in Scotland. It plays 458 yards from the mid tees and 591 yards from the back. The hole displays “Hell's Bunker” 80 yards in front of the green. The fairway rises and falls with hollows.
Tap-ins: The course steadily increases its use of online booking. Egg Harbor Twp residents receive a price break with proof of residency.

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July 7, 2016

Atlantic City Golf Vacations Course Spotlight: Atlantic City Country Club

 A.C. Country Club blends past and present

The 15th hole at Atlantic City Country Club, above, proves to be a serious challenge to even the most experienced golfers. The skydeck, below, is a massive, open-air terrace that is the crown jewel of ACCC's $5 million renovation project.     
            
The Northfield golf facility embraces neighboring Atlantic City in novel ways. It recently unveiled a stylish, elevated open-air terrace, using the Atlantic City skyline as a backdrop and selling point. This skydeck is the highlight of a $5 million club renovation project that includes an enhanced entryway, lobby and exterior facade.
As for history? It oozes throughout. After all, the place was built in 1897. The Seniors tour was launched here in 1980, when legends like Nancy Lopez, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer played this course, and future pros like Julius Boros won the Sonny Fraser amateur championship, a grueling multi-day match-play event.
Bob Hope frequented this establishment, as did Mickey Mantle. Leo Fraser, the club owner, had national prestige. He was president of the Professional Golf Association Tour and once brokered an historic peace deal between the players and the organization. Want to go back further? Atlantic City professional John McDermott became the first American to win the United States Golf Association championship, in 1911. And yes, the golf term, "birdie" was invented here.
The past has re-surfaced, captured in a series of recently-recorded videos available throughout the building and in a room honoring Fraser's legacy.
"I did not know all these facts about Atlantic City Country Club at first," says Chip Ottinger, the CEO of the Ottinger Golf Group which purchased the club in 2014. The "Ottinger Empire" also includes Ballamor in Egg Harbor Township and Scotland Run in Williamstown. They are intertwined via membership programs and open to the public in the high-end, daily-fee price range.
"Every course has some kind of history, but there is nothing like what's here," Ottinger says. "We combine the history, preserved with modern technology (videos and kiosks) along with the fabulous views of Atlantic City, and we're thrilled to showcase all of it."
The past and present were further linked last week when Jim Fraser, Leo's son and a member of the previous ownership group, presented Atlantic City Country Club with a painting of its third hole, which had been hanging in his home. Fraser had seen this facility experience ownership changes in the last two decades with the emphasis placed on gaming companies hosting customers. With the Ottinger influence, it again became a golf-first business, with banquet facilities and restaurant amenities added.
"It's great to see what they have done here," Fraser indicates. "It's wonderful to see my family represented in such a nice way and from a golf standpoint, it's back where it was."
The layout includes four tee boxes, ranging from 6,577 to 5,349 yards. Manicured fairways and large sloping greens protected by deep sand bunkers remain a course staple. Long carries over natural marshland and shifting breezes enhance the strategy element of club selection.
Hole nine is considered the toughest, playing 436 yards from the middle tees and requiring two strong shots to reach the green. It's a dogleg left with a narrowing fairway that can come into play off the tee. Four bunkers surround the green. The approach shot must be precise, and lengthy.
The 15th is a formidable challenge, especially from the back tees of 190 yards. It is a par-3 that bends right and is unlikely to bring a straight shot directly to the hole. Strong left-to-right breezes push tee shots toward a dropoff, punctuated by water (confirmed, a little too often, via first-person experience). Many tee shots must start left and allow the wind to push the ball back to the hole. It's hard enough for players to hit a shot straight, let alone steer one. That challenge makes this hole special.
Another difficult par-3 is the 17th, 150 yards from the mid tees, which slopes uphill and is a blind tee shot to the green because of dunes placed in front of the putting surface.
One of the most popular holes is the third, which slopes uphill. It is not a long hole, at 353 yards from the back, but the best tee shot will rest on the left edge of the fairway and flirt with a set of long sand traps on the left. Because traps guard the right-side entrance to the green, the best opening to the green comes from the left side, even though sand is there too.
A.C. Country Club blends past and present                                                                                                                        



 


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June 15, 2016

Ballamor's past proves to benefit its present- From Press of AC

 Ballamor’s past proves to be a benefit to its present


ATS Golf

Ballamor Golf Club once struggled for notoriety after it changed from private to public play. Now its past may be a benefit, according to Mike Jackson, the club's new general manager.
“Unlike other public courses that were built for that purpose, we were initially a private, Parkland-style course built into the woods,” he says of the Egg Harbor Township facility. “There are no homes. You go into the woods and you never come out, until you are done. It's very peaceful for a golfer.”
Ballamor became public a few years back and was later purchased by the Ottinger Golf Group, which owns Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield and Scotland Run in Williamstown. All three courses are available in membership form. Otherwise, the public can play here for summer rates usually set between $70 to $109.
Ballamor offers five sets of tees ranging from 7,098 yards — the equivalent of a professional tournament — to 5,238 yards. It is loaded with long par-5's, including a whopping 625-yard layout on the fifth hole's back tees. Even from the mid tees, it's a formidable 551-yard challenge and considered the hardest hole on the course. This is a dogleg left par-5 that requires a strong drive to nestle between two fairway traps, a low iron or hybrid, then a high iron to a large green. Getting one's third shot close to the pin on this long hole will be tricky.
Eighteen is Jackson's favorite hole, for varied reasons. It's a strong finishing layout, sweeping gradually to the right in the form of a par-5, 480 yards from the mid tees. Jackson also has notched two eagles on this hole. “It’s an excellent risk-reward proposition,” he says. “You can get there in two if you hit two tremendous shots into the green.”
Players can flirt with right-side water and try to hug the edge of the fairway with their drive, cutting off yardage to the green. Or they can maneuver safely into the center or left side of the fairway. If opting for the green in two, their second shot must be accurate. If it drifts right, it will likely find water or the stone wall that guards the putting surface. Jackson considers 16 deceivingly difficult. It looks easy enough at 400 yards from the middle tees, with little sand or water to navigate. The challenge unfolds closer to the hole, as a slight incline pushes the ball away from the green, right or left. This green won't accommodate a bump-and-run shot to let the ball roll on. The approach shot must land on the green and stay, prompting the need for an accurate high iron.
The third hole also plays harder than it looks. The challenge appears simple as a 286-yard par-4, but five large bunkers jut out near the green and in landing areas. The hole bends to the right. If the flag is positioned right, the second shot must clear water, a stone wall and steer clear of two large traps. It is a creative layout. The bunkers and water make up for the short distance, the terrain bends toward the water and pin placements can increase the difficulty. Jackson, a long hitter off the tee, nonetheless suggests two irons into this green.
The 10th hole, conversely, looks harder than it plays. “You are on an elevated tee and you see all these bunkers, a well as the fairway sloping, up, down and then up again,” Jackson says. “It looks intimidating but what you have to remember is that there is a wide landing area. You can almost land a small plane in there,” he jokes. Players can land their small plane, or drive, almost anywhere, hit a safe second shot into the center of the fairway and a high iron into the green.
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May 20, 2016

Atlantic City Golf Vacation's Featured Article: Boardwalk (Golf) Empire

Atlantic City has quietly built itself into a worthy golf destination
Atlantic City Country Club's 157-yard 17th has a hidden green.

Atlantic City Country Club's 157-yard 17th has a hidden green.
Gamblers don't mince words when they say Atlantic City is not Las Vegas. But if you're a golfer, that's not a bad thing. Las Vegas is a gambler's paradise that just happens to have some good golf courses sprinkled about, but you could say the opposite of AC. Within a half-hour drive of the city's legendary boardwalk—which is still intact despite Hurricane Sandy's best efforts last fall—are 20 public courses. More impressive is the diversity of designs. During a long weekend you can tee it up at two old-school major-championship venues, three Scottish-links-inspired courses, another routed through a vineyard, and even a Pine Valley knockoff. Take that, Sin City.
Course Guide

It's OK if you never thought of the southern coast of New Jersey as a destination for a buddies golf trip, says Charles Fahy, general manager of Atlantic City Country Club.
That's because before 2012, even AC courses struggled to realize the tourism they could attract if they banded together. But last year the 17-course Greater Atlantic City Golf Association (playACGolf.com
) began a campaign to generate business. It was derailed briefly by Sandy: Casinos shut down for five days, and the beaches and many courses needed TLC. But the recovery is complete, and the association is making a big push to lure golfers, including custom packages based on the size and needs of each group. It's not quite as organized as, say, Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, but the Atlantic City group is quickly learning to compete with more established golf destinations using a combination of good golf, affordable prices and ease of use.
If you go, put Atlantic City Country Club at the top of your playlist. The par-70, 6,577-yard course dates to 1897 but has been updated several times, including in 1999 by architect Tom Doak. He did his best to restore many original features, including firm, undulating greens and tall, native grasses that frame bunkers and fairways. Willie Park Jr., the British Open champion in 1887 and 1889, is often credited as the primary designer, though at least four others are responsible for this classic layout. ACCC is routed along marshland and back bays and has the feel of a classic Northeast country club, which it once was. The course has been open to the public only since 1998 when Hilton Hotels bought it. Caesars Entertainment now owns it.
As you play several holes along the shoreline, the neon-and-concrete kingdom of AC looms in the distance. The front nine is a brute with four par 4s longer than 445 yards. One of those, the opening hole, charmingly uses a portion of the practice putting green as its tee box. The back nine is much shorter (3,125 yards compared to 3,452 on the front) but also a lot tighter as you wind your way around the marsh. Several shots bring the hazard into play, and the 157-yard 17th is a blind shot over massive sand dunes.
ACCC is the area's priciest course ($225 on weekends, $195 weekdays), but the experience is worth it. It promises to be a fun and challenging round, and you'll feel like you've entered a golf museum in the clubhouse. ACCC played an important part in the history of American golf. Not only did the terms birdie and eagle originate from rounds played there in 1903, but the course was the site of six USGA championships, including the 1901 Amateur and the 1948 Women's Open won by Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Bob Hope regularly played the course. So did boxer Joe Louis and quarterback Joe Namath. Arnold Palmer spent a couple of summers there in the 1950s while serving in the Coast Guard nearby. Everything from the wood lockers to the spike marks on the 19th hole's floor lets you know that you're experiencing a piece of golf's past.
a 6,247-yard, par-71 layout, has a similar look and feel to Atlantic City Country Club, playing along Reeds Bay with views of the distant AC skyline. Five holes use the marshland as part of their defense. Architect Bob Cupp should get credit for doing a nice job of restoring the original design started by Hugh Wilson and completed by Donald Ross in 1915. Like most Ross courses, the smallish, tricky greens make up for any lack of length. And like ACCC, a visit to Seaview comes with a history lesson: It hosted the 1942 PGA and has been home to the LPGA's ShopRite Classic since 1986. What was once an elite private club is now a 36-hole resort. Room prices start at $129 for a weekend night in mid-April.
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Atlantic City Country Club's locker room

Connections to the past seem to be a theme in AC. It's hard to spend time here and not think about whiskey, bootleggers and the Prohibition era. Nor does it seem out of place to tee it up on a course that pays homage to golf's Scottish roots. Sure, you could get a little feel for what Pine Valley is like at Sand Barrens Golf Club
in nearby Cape May, but any trip to AC should include a round at Twisted Dune.
It looks like a links course, feels like a links and even plays like a links. But I'll stop short of calling it a links. There are too many modern features to make you think you've been transported to County Fife, Scotland. Nevertheless, Twisted Dune
offers enough gnarly lies, bump-and-run opportunities and sand to satisfy. The par-72, 7,248-yard layout has all the bunkers and waste areas you can handle. You'll be shaking sand out of your shoes for weeks. Wind is the course's other defense, which can be problematic on a long closing nine. Even from the white tees, you'll often find yourself hitting hybrids and woods for second shots. Luckily, you can chase them onto many of the greens because there aren't a lot of forced carries. Oh, and speaking of the greens, take a refresher course on lag putting before coming. They're huge.
If you prefer modern layouts, Vineyard Golf at Renault, west of Atlantic City, gets points for creativity and playability. It's part of a resort and winery, and its big Tuscany-style hotel gives the impression that the course has been there for decades. Actually, the par-72, 7,213-yard course has been open only since 2004. Renault is a big course sprawled over 225 acres. Many holes offer risk/reward options with water coming into play on seven holes and hazards designed to make aiming at the premium part of the fairway or green a gutsy play. The most unforgettable hole is the nasty, dogleg-left seventh. You have to play over the vineyard off the tee to a narrow landing area. Trust me on this: Wine grapes are not good to eat.
the Vineyard's 207-yard 13th

The back nine is hillier and more memorable in terms of shots, including the downhill 12th, guarded by water and sand right of the green, and the double-dogleg, par-5 18th.
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Lucy the Elephant

You're probably wondering about the wine. Well, let's just say that if you've sampled the best from Napa, Tuscany and Bordeaux, Renault's selection might not make it past the spit bucket. Still, the novelty of drinking New Jersey wine is worth it for the story. In fact, that's the real charm of a golf trip to Atlantic City: the stories. I'm not going to go all Bruce Springsteen on you here, but AC is a piece of Americana. From the decaying inner city, to the outdated boardwalk casinos, to Lucy, the six-story elephant that has become a landmark, there are few golf destinations that offer the charm, history and, yes, cheese factor of AC.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

ROLL THE DICE
Looking for a gambling experience similar to Vegas? The most popular casino is the Borgata on the north end of town. But the casinos along the boardwalk in the center of town are great for sunsets and people watching. Try Caesars first.
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Knife & Fork Inn

CHECKED OUT
You can eat at any number of big-chain restaurants in the casinos, but for a real experience, head out on Black Horse Pike to the Library LB1. The steaks are good and affordable, and the scene in the lounge is worth any wait for a table (think the Regal Beagle from "Three's Company").
WHERE'S NUCKY?
If you're looking for scene locations from HBO's hit show "Boardwalk Empire," you'll have to travel to the boroughs of New York City. But if you want a taste of Prohibition life, head to the Knife & Fork Inn (right) or the Irish Pub (and ask to see the bootlegger's trap door).

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April 27, 2016

Atlantic City Golf Vacations: Featured Article Boardwalk (Golf) Empire

Atlantic City has quietly built itself into a worthy golf destination
Atlantic City Country Club's 157-yard 17th has a hidden green.

Atlantic City Country Club's 157-yard 17th has a hidden green.
Gamblers don't mince words when they say Atlantic City is not Las Vegas. But if you're a golfer, that's not a bad thing. Las Vegas is a gambler's paradise that just happens to have some good golf courses sprinkled about, but you could say the opposite of AC. Within a half-hour drive of the city's legendary boardwalk—which is still intact despite Hurricane Sandy's best efforts last fall—are 20 public courses. More impressive is the diversity of designs. During a long weekend you can tee it up at two old-school major-championship venues, three Scottish-links-inspired courses, another routed through a vineyard, and even a Pine Valley knockoff. Take that, Sin City.
Course Guide

It's OK if you never thought of the southern coast of New Jersey as a destination for a buddies golf trip, says Charles Fahy, general manager of Atlantic City Country Club.
That's because before 2012, even AC courses struggled to realize the tourism they could attract if they banded together. But last year the 17-course Greater Atlantic City Golf Association (playACGolf.com
) began a campaign to generate business. It was derailed briefly by Sandy: Casinos shut down for five days, and the beaches and many courses needed TLC. But the recovery is complete, and the association is making a big push to lure golfers, including custom packages based on the size and needs of each group. It's not quite as organized as, say, Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, but the Atlantic City group is quickly learning to compete with more established golf destinations using a combination of good golf, affordable prices and ease of use.
If you go, put Atlantic City Country Club at the top of your playlist. The par-70, 6,577-yard course dates to 1897 but has been updated several times, including in 1999 by architect Tom Doak. He did his best to restore many original features, including firm, undulating greens and tall, native grasses that frame bunkers and fairways. Willie Park Jr., the British Open champion in 1887 and 1889, is often credited as the primary designer, though at least four others are responsible for this classic layout. ACCC is routed along marshland and back bays and has the feel of a classic Northeast country club, which it once was. The course has been open to the public only since 1998 when Hilton Hotels bought it. Caesars Entertainment now owns it.
As you play several holes along the shoreline, the neon-and-concrete kingdom of AC looms in the distance. The front nine is a brute with four par 4s longer than 445 yards. One of those, the opening hole, charmingly uses a portion of the practice putting green as its tee box. The back nine is much shorter (3,125 yards compared to 3,452 on the front) but also a lot tighter as you wind your way around the marsh. Several shots bring the hazard into play, and the 157-yard 17th is a blind shot over massive sand dunes.
ACCC is the area's priciest course ($225 on weekends, $195 weekdays), but the experience is worth it. It promises to be a fun and challenging round, and you'll feel like you've entered a golf museum in the clubhouse. ACCC played an important part in the history of American golf. Not only did the terms birdie and eagle originate from rounds played there in 1903, but the course was the site of six USGA championships, including the 1901 Amateur and the 1948 Women's Open won by Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Bob Hope regularly played the course. So did boxer Joe Louis and quarterback Joe Namath. Arnold Palmer spent a couple of summers there in the 1950s while serving in the Coast Guard nearby. Everything from the wood lockers to the spike marks on the 19th hole's floor lets you know that you're experiencing a piece of golf's past.
a 6,247-yard, par-71 layout, has a similar look and feel to Atlantic City Country Club, playing along Reeds Bay with views of the distant AC skyline. Five holes use the marshland as part of their defense. Architect Bob Cupp should get credit for doing a nice job of restoring the original design started by Hugh Wilson and completed by Donald Ross in 1915. Like most Ross courses, the smallish, tricky greens make up for any lack of length. And like ACCC, a visit to Seaview comes with a history lesson: It hosted the 1942 PGA and has been home to the LPGA's ShopRite Classic since 1986. What was once an elite private club is now a 36-hole resort. Room prices start at $129 for a weekend night in mid-April.
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Atlantic City Country Club's locker room

Connections to the past seem to be a theme in AC. It's hard to spend time here and not think about whiskey, bootleggers and the Prohibition era. Nor does it seem out of place to tee it up on a course that pays homage to golf's Scottish roots. Sure, you could get a little feel for what Pine Valley is like at Sand Barrens Golf Club
in nearby Cape May, but any trip to AC should include a round at Twisted Dune.
It looks like a links course, feels like a links and even plays like a links. But I'll stop short of calling it a links. There are too many modern features to make you think you've been transported to County Fife, Scotland. Nevertheless, Twisted Dune
offers enough gnarly lies, bump-and-run opportunities and sand to satisfy. The par-72, 7,248-yard layout has all the bunkers and waste areas you can handle. You'll be shaking sand out of your shoes for weeks. Wind is the course's other defense, which can be problematic on a long closing nine. Even from the white tees, you'll often find yourself hitting hybrids and woods for second shots. Luckily, you can chase them onto many of the greens because there aren't a lot of forced carries. Oh, and speaking of the greens, take a refresher course on lag putting before coming. They're huge.
If you prefer modern layouts, Vineyard Golf at Renault, west of Atlantic City, gets points for creativity and playability. It's part of a resort and winery, and its big Tuscany-style hotel gives the impression that the course has been there for decades. Actually, the par-72, 7,213-yard course has been open only since 2004. Renault is a big course sprawled over 225 acres. Many holes offer risk/reward options with water coming into play on seven holes and hazards designed to make aiming at the premium part of the fairway or green a gutsy play. The most unforgettable hole is the nasty, dogleg-left seventh. You have to play over the vineyard off the tee to a narrow landing area. Trust me on this: Wine grapes are not good to eat.
the Vineyard's 207-yard 13th

The back nine is hillier and more memorable in terms of shots, including the downhill 12th, guarded by water and sand right of the green, and the double-dogleg, par-5 18th.
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Lucy the Elephant

You're probably wondering about the wine. Well, let's just say that if you've sampled the best from Napa, Tuscany and Bordeaux, Renault's selection might not make it past the spit bucket. Still, the novelty of drinking New Jersey wine is worth it for the story. In fact, that's the real charm of a golf trip to Atlantic City: the stories. I'm not going to go all Bruce Springsteen on you here, but AC is a piece of Americana. From the decaying inner city, to the outdated boardwalk casinos, to Lucy, the six-story elephant that has become a landmark, there are few golf destinations that offer the charm, history and, yes, cheese factor of AC.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

ROLL THE DICE
Looking for a gambling experience similar to Vegas? The most popular casino is the Borgata on the north end of town. But the casinos along the boardwalk in the center of town are great for sunsets and people watching. Try Caesars first.
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Knife & Fork Inn

CHECKED OUT
You can eat at any number of big-chain restaurants in the casinos, but for a real experience, head out on Black Horse Pike to the Library LB1. The steaks are good and affordable, and the scene in the lounge is worth any wait for a table (think the Regal Beagle from "Three's Company").
WHERE'S NUCKY?
If you're looking for scene locations from HBO's hit show "Boardwalk Empire," you'll have to travel to the boroughs of New York City. But if you want a taste of Prohibition life, head to the Knife & Fork Inn (right) or the Irish Pub (and ask to see the bootlegger's trap door).

Read more...