Making a Splash
Salt air, sea breezes and spectacular courses define golf near the ocean. Close to home, the Jersey Shore and Ocean City, Maryland, beckon with tracks for you, as well as diversions for the rest of the family
Ocean City, Maryland
Until the 1970s, Ocean City, Maryland, was a family resort and fishing village that was content to be left alone, a sentiment shared by many on what Eastern Shore Marylanders refer to as their “sequestered paradise.”
In the acknowledgements to his novel “Chesapeake,” James Michener wryly noted a wish among locals that he “would quit the project and go elsewhere, lest my writing awaken the rest of the world to the Eastern Shore.”
That Michener enjoyably remained two years to write the story is a testament to the polite acceptance of visitors, so when you see one of those bumper stickers that read, “Welcome to the Eastern Shore—now go home,” take it as a bit of bucolic charm.
Ocean City has positioned itself as a beach and golf destination to rival any in our region, including the glitzier Atlantic City. And with golf available year-round, the community is one of the most versatile destinations you’ll find. It remains a great place to take the whole family. And the low-key lifestyle that defines the Eastern Shore will have you hankering to come back again and again to enjoy quality golf in a relaxed and neighborly setting.
There is, however, one particular plot of marsh where it appeared golf would never appear. For almost 30 years developers and environmentalists squared off over 1,000 acres of pristine woods and wetlands on the western side of Assawoman Bay.
Sufficient concessions to environmentalists, which included construction of a quarter-mile long wooden cart bridge (reportedly the longest in North America), finally permitted Arthur Hills to fashion The Links at Lighthouse Sound in Bishopville, Maryland. The course offers 18 marvelously designed holes that mix open links with thick woods to give golfers a variety of looks and, sometimes, fits, especially when the wind is more than just a gentle bay breeze.
The course was definitely worth the wait, if for nothing more than the stunning views of the bay and, beyond, the glistening white
If Lighthouse Sound is the jewel in the crown of
Overall, Eagles Landing seems aptly named because it manages to soar above its presumed limitations. It’s a true “muni,” but with an upscale commitment to maintenance and manicuring. It is a modest layout that allows for a personal best, yet contains a collection of doglegs and carries that will challenge you. There are a few tricks up its sleeve, but it doesn’t seem all tricked up.
Playability, especially for the average player, is an obvious key ingredient at the
At a relatively modest 6,705 yards from the tips, with a slope of only 128 and greens that are, for the most part, as flat as those at Eagles Landing, the course invites the average player to get his or her arms around it by playing safe short shots. The skilled player can launch lasers off the tee to ribbony landings farther down the fairway.
Playability is not always on the front burners of the family Dye, but at Rum Pointe, on the Sinepuxent Bay in nearby Berlin, Maryland, father and son left most of their “cheerful sadism” for other projects. Featuring greens that are quite flat and puttable (by Dye standards) and fairways that are mostly open and generous—at least for the shorter hitters—Rum Pointe must be one of the few Dye venues that actually favors the average player. Views of the Verrazano Bridge to the Assateague National Seashore, visible from much of the course, are a bonus.
The Grande Dame of Ocean City is the Ocean City Golf and Yacht Club, about a mile from Rum Pointe. The original 1959 Seaside Course, a William Gordon and Russell Roberts collaboration, is more of a traditional parkland layout, with more mature trees and smallish greens. (Seaside will play to a par 72 from its previous par 73 beginning this year.)
The other 18 holes here,
A relatively new kid on the block is the 36-hole GlenRiddle Golf Club, which opened in Berlin in 2006. The 18-hole War Admiral Course is for members only, but the Man O’ War course is a daily fee that features an open links style layout with some distinctive Scottish features, including pot bunkers, sand dunes and a stunning variety of native grasses. Watch out for this one when the wind is up.
Ocean City Golf Getaway (www.oceancitygolf.com) offers in-season packages, along with some off-season deals to lure you out of hibernation. Packages include other venues, such as The Easton Club, The Beach Club, The Bay Club and Ocean Pines. Delaware seashore courses, including Bayside, Baywood Greens and Bear Trap Dunes, can also be bundled into your golf package. All are close, and each offers a mix of playability and open links-style terrain that should play easier on games not yet in peak condition in spring or have mysteriously fallen apart by the end of summer.
As a family resort, with 10 miles of beach and a three-mile boardwalk of shops and attractions, Ocean City offers plenty for your family to do while you play golf. For golfers who have discovered Ocean City golf, however, that relaxed atmosphere provides a strong attraction to come back again.
GlenRiddle (Man O’ War)
Links At Lighthouse Sound
Ocean City Golf Club
The 18th hole at Cape May National Golf Club
in Erma, New Jersey
The Jersey Shore
In spite of its historical position as the jewel of New Jersey’s 127 miles of Atlantic coastline, Atlantic City had lost much of its luster by the 1970s.
Crumbling neighborhoods, crime and a tourist industry that had rested on its laurels for too long threatened to turn the place into an urban ghetto with an ocean view.
So city fathers decided to take a big gamble—as in casino gambling. The rest has been a story of rebirth, rejuvenation and redemption. It’s not a perfect story with a fairy tale ending, but Atlantic City has gotten its sea legs back under itself and, with them, something it can see clearly on the horizon again: a future of possibilities and hope.
But something was still missing, and that something was golf, especially upscale public golf. Outside of Greate Bay, Brigantine Golf Links, Mays Landing and Cape May National, there was little to attract the public golfer.
That changed in 1993 with the opening of Blue Heron Pines, a Stephen Kay design that was the first to tackle environmental protections on New Jersey’s 1.1 million acres of Pine Barrens. At Blue Heron Pines, near Cologne, many of Kay’s unique touches—optical bunkering on short par 4s and a series of holes designed to help you post red numbers—are present here.
When completed, Blue Heron paved the way for Harbor Pines (1996), Sand Barrens (1997) and Pine Barrens (1999). Since then, Sea Oaks, Twisted Dunes, Shore Gate and a new nine holes at Sand Barrens have all joined the rota of high-end, daily-fee venues on the South Jersey coast.
Sculpted from pristine pine forest in Egg Harbor Township, another Stephen Kay effort, Harbor Pines, features spacious fairways, short, Augusta-like rough, and five sets of tees. The fairways invite you to use the big lumber throughout, but make up for that generosity with large, undulating greens that average 10,000 square feet.
Kay also shows you his softer side with a series of holes beginning at 11, where you face two par 3s and three short par 4s that allow the average player to go on a par run and let the better player feast on birdie putts.
Marriott’s Seaview Resort fully restored a Ross gem on its Bay Course. The restoration utilized the original architectural drawings from 1912. Provided by the Donald Ross Society, the drawings now adorn the hallways of Seaview’s prize-winning pro shop. The resort is also home to the Pines course, 6,731 yards of narrow, rolling fairways cut through the tall yellow pines of Absecon’s Back Bay area. This spring, Seaview will also become home to a new John Jacobs Golf School.
In what may strike golfers as more appropriate in Arizona than New Jersey, the 27 holes at Sand Barrens feature 7,100 yards of a wind-assisted adventure among 30 acres of bunkers. Built by the Midwest partnership of Hurdzan and Fry, Sand Barrens made Golf magazine’s Top Ten You Can Play in 1998.
The layout ranges from 6,885 to 7,092 yards, depending on the combination of nines you play). And they demand distance and accuracy, unless you’re the type to appreciate extra work on your sand game. Greens are fast, large and undulating. And check this out: The double green that connects 2 North with 4 West is 55,000 square feet, with 150 feet of combined depth. Overshoot on either and you may need a fairway wood for your first putt. While fairways are generous and mostly flat, the presence of sand along and through the fairways can give the average ball sprayer a terminal case of claustrophobia.
The Jersey Shore continues to offer more to every level of golfer—and non-golfer. Travel to the farthest point south, to where the ocean meets the bay, and discover Cape May. The entire city is a National Historical District, as well as home to Cape May National Golf Club. Stay in one of the many gingerbread bed-and-breakfasts. While your golf widow explores Cape May’s Victorian elegance, you can play 6,900 yards of championship golf that winds its way around a 50-acre bird sanctuary. At Cape May National, see if the 18th—a 446-yard par 4 with water down the left side, and a second shot requiring a carry over at least part of that same water to a steeply stepped two-tiered green—doesn’t suggest in some small way the shot making required at Pebble Beach’s famed No. 8.
Don’t forget Sea Oaks in Little Egg Harbor Township, a 6,900-yard Ray Hearn effort that again adheres to that supremely Scottish vision of building naturally. You may recoil at Sea Oak’s treacherous par-5 16th, a twisting roller coaster down a crowned fairway to a peninsula green before you realize what two great shots in a row are going to feel like.
One of the region’s newest public offerings is Shore Gate. California-based architect Ron Fream’s first effort on the East Coast features natural dunes and bunkering, plus another rarity for shore golf: elevation change. Opened in 2002, Shore Gate is located in Ocean View.
Stretched over 245 acres of secluded woodlands, Shore Gate will test golfers of all abilities. Fream took great care to preserve the wetlands adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, incorporating dunes and exposing natural sand to frame many of the holes and to provide an additional visual and strategic element. The course puts a premium on accuracy. Its seven ponds and lakes, created to provide a challenging but enjoyable round for the recreational golfer, add to the overall beauty.
Finally, architect Archie Struthers moved 2 million cubic yards of earth to bring a true taste of the Scottish Coast to the Jersey Shore. A stunning visual experience, Twisted Dunes features deep ravines, steep, grass-covered mounds, and more than 100 bunkers that will reward a game built on accuracy and good course management.
An après golf evening at Atlantic City’s gaming tables may not bring the success that these shore bets will provide, but golfers headed “down’a shore” will certainly hit the jackpot on these glittering tracks.
Blue Heron Pines
Cape May National
Harbor Pines Golf Club
Sea Oaks Golf Club
Sand Barrens Golf Club