Checking in at Cape May County's highly rated course
If you've had enough of the glamour and glitz of Atlantic City, call and make a reservation for a tee time. Head south on the Garden State Parkway to exit 17, make a left at the bottom of the ramp, cross over Route 9 to the end of School House Lane and welcome to Shore Gate Golf Club, the most beautiful golf course in South Jersey.
What's new here this season? I asked the general manager and director of golf Harry Bittner, who came over to Shore Gate from the Stone Harbor Golf Club in March 2005.
"This [glass enclosed] dining area was just completed this February," says Bittner. "In fact, this carpet was just laid four days ago." Bittner began his golfing career as a caddy in Pennsylvania. He's a Quarter Century Member of the PGA and an Associate Member of the Club Managers Association. He was the Golf Professional at Seaview Resort before going to Stone Harbor.
"We have been rated among the top 20 courses in the state of New Jersey by Golf Digest [in] 2006. We are rated 18th. The first 16 are private courses. We're the only four and a half star course in Atlantic or Cape May County."
When I asked Bittner if there are any plans for housing development on the property, he told me there are too many environmental issues to deal with for that to happen. "I'd have to say no," he said. "This is a pure golf experience."
This par-72, premiere, championship course has five sets of tees and is 7,227 yards from the back tees and 5,384 yards from the front. It has eight lakes and 150 sand bunkers, which enhance its beauty but make it more challenging.
At the first tee, Bob Curtin, the starter, went over the rules with me regarding carts being allowed only on the cart paths -- except for six holes that he had circled on the score card -- and raking the bunkers and flag placements. "If your ball lands in one of the environmentally sensitive areas, you have to leave it there," he added. "You wouldn't want to go in there anyhow. They're full of ticks, bugs, worms, snakes -- and VD!"
The course isn't easy and I only managed to bogie four of the first eight holes. The signature hole, the 648-yard, par-five ninth is a beauty. A huge sand bunker on the left stretches from the black tee to 150 yards in front of the red tee. There's a lake from there to the green and a bunker to the left of the green. The fairway makes a sweeping turn to the left around the lake.
Bittner's tip on how to play the hole was, "Play it conservatively ... it's definitely a three-shot hole."
For me it's not. The fairway slopes toward the water so I took Bittner's advice and kept my drive to the right, but a little too far to the right. My first two shots went through the trees without hitting any and my third shot just cleared three small bunkers on the right and rolled into the middle of the fairway. My chip shot left me 10 feet short of the pin and an easy putt for par. But I pushed the ball to the left and came away with another bogie.
My signature hole is the par-five 13th and the approach to it. You go through a dark, eerie, dense environmentally sensitive area on a long metal bridge. When you emerge into the sunlight, you are dazzled by sand and a lake on the right and 15 elevated bunkers on the left -- the length of the fairway to the green -- 556 yards away. This hole exemplifies the course's motto: "Elevated above all the rest ... Naturally."
Call 624-8337 for detailed information, tee times, memberships and golf outing reservations.
Atlantic City Golf Association (GACGA)
1-800-GOLF-222. This association includes 10 of New Jersey's best golf courses and enables golfers to custom create their own golf outting. Golf packages vary to suit every mood, include lodging accomidations,entertainment and relaxation. Reservations can also be made to schedule tee times. For more information or to book a package, go to www.gacga.com.
Good Golf Guide
Atlantic City Country Club 1 Leo Frasier Dr., Northfield. 641-7575. One of America's oldest and most prestigious golf clubs. Open daily, 8am-3pm. Rates range between $100-$200 based on availability and day of week.
2012 Good Golf Guide
Golf, Girls, Gaiety
Time for Tee
Good Golf Guide 2011