Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

The Traveling Golfer

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New Jersey

Renovations continue at Shore Club

Written by Steve Gordon on .



A recent visit to The Shore Club revealed that the rebranding from the name of Wildwood Country Club is much more than just a new name.

In a long term process it is continuing to improve both the club house facility and the golf course. The club has a history going back to it’s opening in in 1923. Walter Hagan played there and Arnold Palmer, when he was serving in the Coast Guard in nearby Cape May, was a frequent visitor.

Even as construction of the Garden State Parkway disturbed the original course, it has retained much of its character with adapting and putting in new holes.

Part of the renovations to the golf course is to restore the bunkering. Over time the bunkers developed higher faces than they had. The work on the front nine is complete and those high faces have been modified with the turf growing on the slopes and running down to the bunker edges, back to how Wayne Stiles originally constructed them.

This is not a long golf course by today’s standards playing 5829 yards from the white tees and 5262 yards from the more forward green (senior) tees.  It can play longer than the listed yardages so don’t let the numbers fool you. The club is focused on being family orientated and attracting more women and junior players and it has a 3765 yard course in that regard. Now all that said it can stretch out to 6,714 yards which will test the best players to challenge par.

The biggest variable is the wind, which can briskly flow from the bay and cause a one or two club difference to expected carry. This makes the Shore Club a little different each and every time one plays.

In addition to the bunker restorations tree removal is an ongoing process. Courses used to think tree line fairways were the thing to have because a lot of the old courses were built on properties that didn’t have a lot or trees. Case in point is Oakmont near Pittsburgh which a number of years ago brought the club back to its roots by removing nearly all trees.

The most notable area where trees were removed come on the par 5 12th hole. It’s one of the replacement holes and it just never quite fit into the overall look and feel of the rest of the course. Twelve is a moderate to short par 5 that plays 501 yards from the tips and 441 from the white tees.

Before tree removal it was a driver, short iron and a wedge. Now with a big drive it can play as a long par four because of a massive tree removal project that opened up an avenue to the green. However that long shot to reach the green in two must carry water that caresses the front of the green complex. Think Tin Cup and ultimate risk reward.

The illustration below shows the hole and where the cart path runs was surrounded by trees forcing a layout to about 90 yards out. The next phase on the renovation of this hole is to add tall fescue for aesthetics near the pond.

The addition of fescue isn’t limited to this one area however as several other areas have been identified to grow in areas that would not normally be in play but in areas that would just add some character of a shore course.

In that vein, on holes that are up against the bay there is a desire to open the vista to see the water and the view of Wildwood on the other side. That is going to take time as those areas are sometimes not accessible and too wet to get to. Standing in the club house with Director of Golf Fred Reidel pointed to one big tree on the 7th hole and several in the distance they would like to clear to have a clear view of the bay from the MacKissic’Pub.

Marketing and Membership Director Amanda Ruhl said it best. “Some places make promises and don’t follow up on them. At The Shore Club we are doing it.” Membership is on the upspring as The Shore Club offers a fine practice facility, golf course, food and beverage.

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Shore Club an invigorating experience

Written by Steve Gordon on .

Recently I had the privilege to play a round of golf at The Shore Club, formerly the Wildwood Country Club. After the round my playing partners and I found it to be exactly what Director of Golf Fred Riedel said it was, “a fun golf course to play.”
With the new ownership and physical upgrades to the clubhouse, the 18-hole Wayne Stiles golf course that opened in 1921 isn’t getting overlooked. It’s gone through some changes over the years including the major loss of four holes in 1952 when the Garden State Parkway expanded. But through that and the addition of new holes and the rerouting of the course, it has maintained itself as a quality layout. 
These days The Shore Club offers a must visit experience, whether for challenging golf, a special banquet/wedding occasion or a nice meal as every area of the club has been or is in the process of being spruced up.
While the facilities have been improved, the golf course has not been forgotten. Work has started on bunker renovations and non-essential tree harvesting. While some golfers like well-defined tree lined golf courses but there is a point when trees become obstructions over the character of a golf hole. Eleven and twelve are two replacement holes that fall into that category along with not really having quite the same look and feel as the rest of the course.  
Reidel explained that for a couple years after those holes were built they weren’t used because there were issues of turf conditioning. Those issues were resolved and the holes were incorporated into the course and they are good golf holes. However now there is a plan to make them fit in better with the true nature of the course.
 The plan begins with shortening the 441 yard par 4 (members white tees) 12th hole to about a 360 or 370 risk reward par 4. Then the heavily tree lined left side between it and the 11th hole will be mostly cleared to give it more of an open feel. The end result will be a shorter hole that will retain the water hazard guarding the front of the green and a large specimen tree guarding the dogleg.  
 The preceding 360 yard par 4 eleventh hole is likely to remain as is with some tree removal. However Reidel indicated that there are some at the club who would like to rework it to make it a par 5. This would retain the course as a par 72, but that is a minor issue for this golf director.  The hole is a challenge as it is as the sixth rated handicap hole on the course.
 As for the bunkering, the biggest and most noticeable part of the makeover for members, it has started on holes three and seven. “Primarily the bunkers will be rebuilt and the style will be consistent throughout the course,” Riedel explained. “The floor of the bunkers will be relatively flat and the sod will be rolled down to the bunker much like what was here before.” Holes five and six are next to be done in the ongoing cycle.
 A trip around The Shore Club finds a nice mix of long and short holes in a combination of straight and and tricky doglegs. There are two par 5 holes (two and fifteen) which could be reachable in two with excellent shots and favorable wind conditions.
 Reidel cited the 15th hole a favorite of his and a lot of his reasoning has to do with the green. “It has a lot of character,” he commented in addition to the challenge of negotiating the way to the green sandwiched between unplayable areas down the left side and a water hazard in play on the inside of the slight dogleg. Wind is a big factor in coastal golf courses and Reidel said he has seen the 15th play really tough and long and getting on the green in regulation can be a challenge.
 Risk reward holes dot the course for the long hitters with strategic placement of water hazards, bunkers and sharp doglegs. In general we found just pulling out the driver wasn’t the way to play some of them which followed another thing Reidel commented on after our round. “If you play smart and hit to the middle of the greens you can do well here,” he explained.
 One thing players will remember are two par-3 holes in five and sixteen, both featuring water hazards. While they are mild yardage holes playing 133 and 121 yards from the white members tees (170 and 155 from the back tees) you can walk up on the tee with three clubs in your hands and stand there trying to figure out which would be the right one because of the wind conditions on any given day.
 “There really is no prevailing wind,” Reidel said. It can be a North or Northwest wind or it came come up from the south, and then there is the east wind coming in off the ocean. Add to that the infamous Jersey shore green heads. “We don’t have bugs all the time,” Reidel said and added that the winds can and do help with the bugs.
 The course record was set a few years ago by a then 19-year-old local player, Alexander Hicks, who is now chasing the dream on the Canadian tour. “He came in one day with a score of 64 which would have broken the existing course record,” Reidel said, “but one of the holes was set up short so it really didn’t count. About a month later he came in with the 62.”
 The Shore Club is private but there are seasonal memberships has reciprocal arrangements with other clubs. Call Amanda Ruhl, Director of Membership, Marketing and Events, at 609-465-7824 to explore the options available.
 The new and improved Shore Club is a real treat.
Editor's Note: The Shore Play is a must visit facility. 

The Shore Club a "can't miss" venue

Written by Bob Oliver on .

Cape May Courthouse, NJ---
It’s summer and the Jersey Shore is bustling with business. The sandy beaches are full of sun worshippers and folks needing a break from the sun’s rays with a cooling dip in the ocean. The boardwalks are full of families looking for treats like salt water taffy, carnival games and special eats.
Golfers visit the shore and seek challenges, and one can’t miss venue is the nearly 100-year-old yet transformed Shore Club just off the Garden State Parkway (exit 9). The name might not be familiar, but when ownership changed hands the former Wildwood Golf Club began it’s revitalization.
“The name changed, obviously, but The Shore Club team wanted a whole new beginning for the historic club,” explained head golf professional Fred Reidel, whose 16-year tenure at the club has seen lots of change. "We took a step back and looked at all aspects of the club and made a list of must do projects that would upgrade the club.”
The early reviews are in. The Shore Club is taking numerous steps to upgrade all facilities and at those changes have already born fruit as memberships at the private facility (with reciprocal arrangements with most other private clubs) have increased.
The Wayne Stiles design has held up well over the years. While not overly long by today’s standards (just over 6,700 yards from the tips) The Shore Club has strategic bunkering, several ponds, small greens and the seemingly ever present winds off the bay which can cause havoc to a player. 
Several bunkers have been renovated as the club will redo most if not all in the near future, and several trees have been harvested to promote better player movement and turf enhancement. Other enhancements are on tap for the club which promises a fun and friendly atmosphere with a golf of players completing their rounds in less than four hours so they still have time to get beach time. 
Still, management didn’t just consider the golf course when it began its improvements. It:
·        Instituted family memberships for full and intermediate members to allow their children up to age 24 at no additional charge;
·        Began an upgrade of club facilities, including landscaping;
·        Improved clubhouse facilities, including a grand ballroom and a renovated patio; and
·        Expanded golf programs and social events that include family golf nights and a kids only art party.
We have surely come a long, long way, but in some respects we have only just started our journey," added Amanda Ruhl, Director of Membership, Marketing and Events. "The Shore CLub has a rich history, and we've left no stone unturned in our desire to make this a family friendly, premier facility."
The upgraded banquet facilities have already led to an increase in wedding and banquet business, and golfers are raving about improvements overall.
"We have been getting positive comments from members and prospective members alike," added Reidel. 
"It going along great," chimed in Ruhl. "We clearly want our members to feel the prestige of belonging to a premier private club facility but by the same token we are hoping for a relaxed, casual setting. Our new MacKissic's pub is a great place to celebrate that strong round, meet with friends or have stellar cuisine in a low key setting."
The Shore Club is a great place for golf and friendship, and a can't miss venue.
CHIP SHOTS: If the walls could talk, their would be great conversation at The Shore Club. Wayne Stiles would be commenting about his nearly 200 golf course designs, while Arnold Palmer would be waxing of his days in the Coast Guard in Cape May when he'd slip over and play the course. Walter Hagen would talk about his 1923 exhibition play at the course while multiple PGA Tour winner Marty Furgol could talk of his days as teaching pro at the club...Ruhl can be reached at 609-465-7824 for details on membership programs. 

Shore Gate a class act

Written by Bob Oliver on .

The Jersey Shore has a wealth of outstanding golf challenges. Wonderful venues that can satisfy each and every level of golfer.

With that in mind, have to give a major shout out to one of if not the finest open to the public layouts, Ocean View's Shore Gate Golf Club.

We at previewed the course elsewhere on the site years ago, calling it a gem. "A Must play".  Years have passed, and this gem is polished and has gotten even better with age. 

A recent visit - Annual Day after Thanksgiving Shootout - saw a couple writers visit this outstanding venue.

Not a single disappointment, as Shore Gate was in perfect shape, the fairways manicured to perfection and the greens rolling like glass. Superb.

The golf boom since fizzled has meant some area courses have weaved their way through bankruptcy and ownership changes. Blue Heron Pines, The Vineyards at Renault and Mays Landing come to mind. But Shore Gate is rock solid and commands a player's attention as a challenging layout with all the fixins.

From the first tee box to the 18th green, Shore Gate is one heck of a golf destination.

Simply stated, if you haven't sampled it, you must, and if it's been a while, get back there.



Running Deer no longer a "secret"

Written by Bob Oliver on .

In the world of golf there are not many secrets, especially when considering the playability and challenge of a wonderful public golf course.


Oh, you hear about hidden gems, but generally those gems aren't diamonds in the rough. Maybe even more rough than diamond. It's all about one's perspective.


This corner has never been one to keep a secret long, though, when it comes to outstanding play opportunities. Heck, we are always looking to keep our readers in the know about happenings in the game of golf. We are relentless in our quest to ensure our readers know about the best local players, trends in equipment and the game. And we are always looking for great places to play.


Okay, here's the secret: Running Deer Golf Club, which is located just off Route 55 near Vineland, NJ, is an off the charts, must play, don't miss destination. It is located just about an hour from Lower Bucks County --- mostly on Interstate highways --- and once there you will find a secluded and challenging layout worth the trip.