An introduction to New Jersey
In our series of blog posts looking at the best public golf courses, this time we head off to New Jersey. There are some stunning public golf courses in New Jersey, a state which punches well above its weight.
New Jersey is one of the smallest states in the U.S.. But boy the quality of its golf courses are good. Indeed, many consider Pine Valley in New Jersey the greatest golf course in the world.
Yet sadly, that is a course which is distinctly private. As are many of the best golf courses in New Jersey.
Here however is a list of courses you can play, with the green fees ranging from very affordable to punchy.
|Groups||Crystal Springs Resort|
|Value for money||Neshanic Valley Golf Course|
|Clubhouse||Atlantic City Country Club|
|Views||Seaview Golf Club|
The best public golf courses in New Jersey
|1||Atlantic City Country Club|
|2||Crystal Springs Resort (Ballyowen & Wild Turkey)|
|3||Neshanic Valley Golf Course|
|4||Scotland Run Golf Club|
|5||Seaview Golf Club (Pines)|
|6||Twisted Dune Golf Club|
|7||The Architects Golf Club|
|8||Rock Spring Golf Club|
1. Atlantic City Country Club
In Northfield, just over the Margate Toll Bridge from Atlantic City, is Atlantic City Country Club (ACCC).
This is a club whose roots date way back to the late nineteenth century and as a result ACCC is one of the oldest golf courses in the United States.
The driving force behind the creation of ACCC was actually due to the declining business of Atlantic City itself. It was thought (hoped), that the creation of a top class golf course could appeal to a new clientele and inject some much needed hype to the resort city.
The professional golfer John Reid oversaw the development of the course and within no time the first nine-holes were completed in 1898. Despite not even having a full 18-holes, the course was an instant hit.
The course has some magnificent views across to Atlantic City. As such, the best holes are the coastal ones, inland links in style and super fun. The inland holes twist and turn and are littered by a litany of bunkers.
As a twist of fate and after decades of being open to the public, in 2022 the club decided to switch to a private membership for the golf. I’ve kept it in here as you never know what will happen in the future. Watch this space…
2. Crystal Springs Resort (Ballyowen & Wild Turkey)
The luxury Crystal Springs Resort is one of the finest and most popular golf resorts in the state. This place is huge and has the amenities to match.
Driving out into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the resort is just under a two hour drive northwest from New York City. This has to be one of the most scenic spots in the state.
All the guest rooms and suites enjoy magnificent mountain or valley views. There are ten dining outlets including a four-star restaurant. There are also two award-winning spas. This is impressive stuff.
But to top it all off, it has an epic six championship golf courses! And these weren’t designed by any old run-of-the-mill architects, but some of the finest out there. Robert Von Hagge, George Fazio, Robert Trent Jones and Roger Rulewich.
Of the six, Ballyowen, designed by Roger Rulewich, is widely accepted as being the best. The course takes its inspiration from the finest heathland courses in Ireland and Scotland, producing a mightily impressive links-style layout.
The routing takes it through 250-acres of rolling farmland and open meadows. In true heathland style, long wispy rough lines most fairways, so beware wild tee-shots.
The equally impressive Wild Turkey, yet another Rulewich design, offers a truly challenging test. The topography creates the perfect setting for a golf course. Part basin and part mountain ridge, there is a real variety of holes on offer.
Both these courses have received plenty of recognition as being the best public golf courses in New Jersey. And that’s before you even start exploring the other courses at Crystal Springs Resort.
3. Neshanic Valley Golf Course
Just five minutes from Route 202 in Neshanic Station, is one of the finest Municipal golf courses in the state. Neshanic Station is kind-of equidistant between Trenton and Newark, literally 45 minutes drive from either.
There are 27 holes of golf here, all designed by the design duo of Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry. This is the duo with the 2017 U.S. Open venue Erin Hills on their portfolio of creations.
The three loops of nine are called the Meadow, Lake and Ridge, each a par-36. Depending on the routing and tees you choose, the course can stretch to just under 7,100 yards.
The site is vast, all 420-acres of rolling farmland, which Hurdzan and Fry diligently maintained and used as part of their design. There is also a nice variety in the routing. Traditional parkland holes featuring plenty of water contrast holes that are inland links in style, wide open and with long wispy rough.
The venue was chosen to host the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, another testament to its quality. For those patient enough, you’ll easily find green fees for under the $100 mark.
4. Scotland Run Golf Club
Around 17 miles south of Philly in Williamstown, is a course which has heaps of Jersey character. This is Scotland Run Golf Club.
It is located on an old sand quarry which gives the course a real links-style undercurrent. There are large sandy waste areas, wide-open fairways and exposed rock outcroppings.
There are even some of the old bits of machinery left around the site. For example on the 16th, a small propeller plane lies to rest in one of the large fairway bunkers.
Being so open, if the wind picks up the course can get challenging. If it’s not wispy rough or one of the litany of bunkers coming into play, there is also water to contend with on many of the holes.
From the back tees it is only 6,700 yards. But any longer and it would be too difficult for the average golfer. Stephen Kay has managed to create a wonderful layout well worth playing.
5. Seaview Golf Club (Pines)
Just down the road from the awesome Tom Fazio designed Galloway National, is Seaview Golf Club. We’re just a 15 minute drive from downtown Atlantic City with spectacular views of the city across Reeds Bay.
Seaview Golf Club goes back a long way, with the first of its two championship golf courses opening in 1914. Called the Bay Course, it was designed by Hugh Wilson and Donald Ross.
But the standout track here is the Pines Course. Opened fifteen years later in 1929, it was designed by William Flynn and Howard Toomey. Where the Bay Course is open and enjoys sea views, as the name suggests, the Pines Course winds its way up into the Jersey woodlands.
This divine layout features numerous elevation changes, narrow fairways and plenty of doglegs. Alongside this the greens are superb, large and sloping, with bunkers used sparingly yet strategically.
In years gone by, the Pines course was even more highly recognised. Host venue to the 1942 PGA Championship where Sam Snead collected his first major. This is without doubt one of the finest public play golf courses in New Jersey.
6. Twisted Dune Golf Club
Another of our courses in South Jersey, Twisted Dune Golf Club is just a 25 minute drive from Atlantic City. Even more conveniently, it is only 15 minutes from Atlantic City’s International airport.
The site is buffered on all sides by dense foliage, but within the site, it couldn’t be more different. True to its name, Twisted Dune is a links-style golf course giving golfers a taste of classic Scottish coastal courses.
It was designed by Archie Struthers, the former assistant pro at Pine Valley, after plans to use Rees Jones fell through. Yet despite Struthers’ relative inexperience designing golf courses, this course is a delight to play.
There are undulating fairways, twisting landscapes and impressive elevation changes. All the while marked by towering grass hills and deep ravines. Over 100 vast bunkers are dotted throughout the 18 holes.
This is a challenging course, especially if you decide to play from the backs. This one choice extends the course to around 7,200 yards. But one of the reasons it is consistently ranked as one of the top public golf courses in New Jersey, is the fact it is also supremely playable for the average golfer.
7. The Architects Golf Club
The story behind the Architects Golf Club is fascinating and one worth celebrating.
The two owners of the club, Dennis and Larry Turco, wanted to open a golf course which paid tribute to the game’s most prolific architects. They brought in course designer Stephen Kay and Golf Digest’s Architectural Editor Ron Whitten, to bring this dream into reality.
Fast forward a few years and the course they created pays homage to 70 years of great golf design. The design influence spans the golden age of golf architecture from 1885 to 1955 and each of the holes is named after a legendary designer. Some of these include Harry Colt, Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and the list goes on.
The style of the course is inland-links and features some magnificent views of Warren County’s rolling hills. It is super-fun to play and although not crafted by the greats, it feels unique and is not at all gimmicky. This is a celebration of styles and the authenticity shows a real passion and attention to detail from Fry and Whitten.
This is a course well worth the detour to play, up in Phillipsburg, on the state line with Pennsylvania.
8. Rock Spring Golf Club
In West Orange, just a short drive from downtown Newark, is the superb Rock Spring Golf Club.
It is one of only two Seth Raynor designed public golf courses in the United States. This is the same legendary Seth Raynor who has a handful of golf courses listed in the top 100 golf courses in the U.S.
Although Rock Spring doesn’t necessarily showcase all the classic features you would associate with the Golden Age of golf course architecture, it was designed in the same era. The course opened for play in 1925. Since then it has played host to a number of New Jersey State Opens.
Some of the trademark Raynor features it does showcase are more on show around the green complexes. Many are raised and feature hidden runoffs where a bunker isn’t lurking. There is even a sunken green which is not something you come across much in modern design.
From the back tees the course stretches to 6,600 yards. Mature trees line most fairways so try not to spray it too much.
It is rare to find a gem like this where you can experience classic golf course architecture. It is even more rare that it is open to the public.
What is the best public golf course in New Jersey?
With Atlantic City Country Club now private, the best public golf course in New Jersey is Ballyowen at the Crystal Springs Resort. The course was designed by Roger Rulewich and is located in Hamburg, just under two hours drive from New York City.