It’s easy to see why the Atlantic City Country Club has been a favorite of pros and amateurs alike during its 118-year history. The club has hosted six national USGA championships, and everyone has walked its fairways—from Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Sam Snead to Nancy Lopez and Arnold Palmer. The easy-to-say-hard-to-get term “birdie” was coined here, as was “eagle,” at least, according to local lore.
Small greens and big bunkers define the ACCC course and make it a strategic pleasure—or pain—to play. While sandy soil and wind are prevalent conditions, it’s not a links course. You can certainly use a good ground game and it often pays to keep your ball under the wind, but flying the ball into most greens is your best choice.
The grill and locker rooms are real treats for lovers of golf memorabilia. Take a few minutes to check out the photos of the many greats who played at ACCC over the years, including a twinkle-eyed Arnold Palmer in his Coast Guard uniform from 1951. Stop, too, at the great bell, hanging just outside the clubhouse entrance, and imagine the rush of jolly golfers responding to its call for the last trolley back to AC. The club today still rings it at the end of each day to invite you to “play a round with history.”
The unofficial start to the summer golf season in Atlantic City occurs at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club’s newly renovated Bay Course. It’s the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer, which is the longest running professional sports event in Atlantic City.
The world’s top women golfers compete, but the real star of the show is the Seaview Bay Course, a 6,247-yard Donald Ross design that tests every pro or amateur. The track is one infuriating short hole after another, with wind, wind and more wind pushing your ball away from the tiny greens. The course underwent a renovation last year to celebrate its centennial, but it didn’t lose its traditional feel despite adding new tees on four holes and refreshing some of the bunker complexes. It’s still seaside golf
in all its glory.
A hundred years of golf history at Seaview are reflected in the wooden bunker rakes and flag sticks, not to mention the many crowned greens with approaches that reward an effective bump-and-run ground game and a careful reading of putts. There are also vintage photos on display throughout the hallways of the grand hotel: President Warren G. Harding playing at the Stockton, eventual winner Sam Snead teeing off at the 1942 PGA Championship, and shots from various editions of the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Formerly private but now public, Ballamor offers a wonderful golf experience within a few miles of Atlantic City. The 7,098-yard
course has a strong pinelands feel, with routing through and around beautiful, sprawlingwetlands on a 350-acre piece of property without a home in sight. The architect, Dan Schlegel, then of Ault, Clark & Associates, moved a great deal of earth to create rolling terrain out of what was originally a fairly flat, featureless pine forest. The result is a manicured and highly playable golf course.
Ballamor opens with a fairly benign 522-yard par 5 that, like much of the course, features wide fairways and a green to match. One of the most interesting holes on the course is No. 15, a 347-yard par 4 with a mentally challenging tee shot. Water is your first test, but then comes the real choice: Carry the massive bunker on the left corner of the dogleg with a 220-yard drive or play it safely to the right, leaving a long, bunkers-everywhere-in-site second shot?
Playing at Renault Winery Resort is one of many excellent golf opportunities within a short drive of Atlantic City. With a fine hotel, restaurant, and namesake winery, Renault is actually a worthwhile destination of its own.
Architect Ed Shearon designed the unique 7,200-yard golf course, which features intriguing views of the vineyards as it meanders through the South Jersey Pinelands. Every hole seems to offer risk/reward opportunities and thoughtful strategic elements. Wide fairways are inviting but reward the well-placed tee shot. Fairway bunkers and water are in play often enough to provide some variety, and the undulating greens place a premium on an accurate approach game.
The owners of Renault Winery Resort created the golf course 11 years ago, but the winery dates back to the 1864. In addition to a small, European-style hotel, Vineyard Golf at Renault features a gourmet restaurant, a historic winery building that offers tours, lavish banquet rooms for weddings and celebrations and, of course, a golf course that is as fine as the wine.
Shore Gate Golf Club is one of the many under-appreciated golf opportunities on the Jersey Shore. Since it opened in 2002, it’s been named to numerous “best of” lists, which is understandable, once you play the demanding, scenic layout that winds through the pine forests of Ocean View, N.J. Daily fee and membership rates are reasonable, the golf is good, and there are plenty of amenities to add to your experience, including its close proximity to Atlantic City.
The course, designed by Ron Fream and David Dale, was built on 245 acres with plenty of dramatic elevation changes and rolling terrain. Fream and Dale mixed features of parkland and link-style golf to make things interesting. The fairways are tight, the greens are expansive, and you’ll find plenty of water and sand to challenge your game. There are 88 bunkers on Shore Gate, making even the shortest holes a test of your game.
Among the other golfing pleasures of Shore Gate is the impressive practice area. Its multi-tiered driving range features bent grass and artificial tees, a huge putting green, and a practice bunker.
Everything at Running Deer Golf Club is oversized. The fairways are collections of large mounds surrounded by impossible ravines, monstrous bunkers, and/or encroaching trees—sometimes all on the same hole. The greens were contoured with a heavy hand, too, so that even if you reach them in something near regulation, you’ll face a tough two-putt to come close to par.
But then, would you expect anything less from an enthusiastic owner like ESPN analyst and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski? Running Deer Golf Club is one of several golf properties that the sports star has collected under the umbrella of Ron Jaworski Golf Management. Among them are Valleybrook Country Club and Blue Heron Pines, both in New Jersey. Running Deer is his most recent acquisition.
Running Deer measures 7,100 yards from the tips and 6,400 from the more-reasonable white tees. Consider club selection carefully, especially on the short par 4 holes. And bring an extra sleeve of balls, since several holes have water and/or tangled rough not far off the fairway.