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.