Greens with Envy

After completing those trying evaluations for our inaugural New Jersey Golf Awards, it was hard to find any losers. Check out the golf course nominees—and the winners.

After completing those trying evaluations for our inaugural New Jersey Golf Awards, it was hard to find any losers. Check out the nominees—and the winners.

“Welcome to the inaugural Garden State Golf Awards. Since we’ve got more superstar golf courses than Hollywood has actor-waiters, every person and place nominated on these pages is a winner. (Those who weren’t selected have been acknowledged for their contributions to our golf scene too. If they’re not happy with that, they can get their publicists or club secretaries to whisper some nasty dish about the winners to the gossip columnists.) In the interest of brevity, we’re supplying the acceptance speeches ourselves, lest the winners hold forth with their political views or thank every player who has ever swung a 4-iron on their course. We could afford neither Jon Stewart nor a band, so you’ll have to make do with your imagination—which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad approach to use on these courses.

So, without further ado, the nominees (and the responses we’d expect) are…

BEST PUBLIC COURSE/NORTH

Ballyowen GC, Hamburg
Bergen Hills CC, River Vale
Berkshire Valley GC, Jefferson Township
Flanders Valley GC, Mount Olive
Wild Turkey GC, Hamburg

The Golf Academy also wishes to acknowledge Great Gorge CC, Vernon; Passaic County GC, Wayne.

And the winner is… Ballyowen!
“To paraphrase Cuba Gooding Jr., we love you, we love you, we love you! Seriously, though, we’d like to thank Roger Rulewich for taking an old farmer’s field and fashioning a links-style design that does as good a job as anyone could wish for in bringing Scotland to New Jersey—beat that, special-effects guys!—and makes a round enjoyable for good golfers and not-so-good golfers.

“The elevated tee boxes bring us a little closer to the golf gods—and offer some fine Skylands views. We promise to do our best to be back on this podium next year.”

BEST PRIVATE CLUB/NORTH

Baltusrol CC (Lower), Springfield
Canoe Brook CC (North), Summit
Essex County CC, West Orange
Plainfield CC, Edison
Ridgewood CC (East/West), Paramus

The Golf Academy also wishes to acknowledge Alpine CC, Demarest; Arcola CC, Paramus; Crestmont CC, West Orange; Hackensack GC, Oradell; Knickerbocker CC, Tenafly; Montclair GC, Montclair; Morris County GC, Morris Township; Mountain Lakes CC, West Caldwell; North Jersey CC, Wayne; Suburban GC, Union.

And the winner is… Plainfield!
“Wow, we didn’t prepare a speech. We expected Phil Mickelson to carry the day for Baltusrol. If Donald Ross, the brilliant architect of our timeless layout, were still around, he’d no doubt pay homage to the talents of A. W. Tillinghast, designer of both Baltusrol and Ridgewood; Essex County’s Charles “Steamshovel” Banks; and Canoe Brook’s C. H. Alison. Then he would go pour himself ‘a wee dram’ in this lovely silver winner’s cup. Here’s to the original Donald!”

BEST PUBLIC COURSE/CENTRAL

The Architects GC, Lopatcong
Charleston Springs GC (North), Millstone Township
Hominy Hill GC, Colts Neck
Howell Park GC, Farmingdale
Royce Brook GC (East), Hillsborough

The Golf Academy also wishes to acknowledge Hawk Pointe GC, Washington Township (Warren County); Rutgers University GC, Piscataway.

And the winner is… Hominy Hill!
“Well, well, who says government doesn’t work? For a muni course to win this honor—and for three muni courses to be nominated—well, everyone in the audience should pay his taxes this year! No, really, that we’ve been honored to host two U.S. Pub Links championships speaks to the enduring quality and challenge of our Robert Trent Jones course. Hey, Trumpster, how many USGA events have your Trump Nationals hosted? [Laughter, as Donald Trump offers an inscrutable smirk.] We kid, because one day it’s gonna happen—and because he’s got all the money we wish we had. Thanks to the Academy and to all the early-rising public golfers, to whom we dedicate this award.”

BEST PRIVATE CLUB/CENTRAL

Deal Golf & CC, Deal
Hamilton Farm GC, Bedminster
The Ridge at Back Brook, East Amwell
Somerset Hills CC, Bernardsville
Trump National GC, Bedminster

The Golf Academy also wishes to acknowledge Bamm Hollow CC, Middletown; Due Process Stable, Colts Neck; Forsgate CC (Banks), Monroe Township; Hollywood GC, Deal; Springdale GC, Princeton.

And the winner is… Somerset Hills!
“It seems fitting in a year when Winged Foot, another Tillinghast masterpiece, is hosting the U.S. Open that our course should be so honored, if only because it underscores Tillie’s range. If brutish Winged Foot is the quintessential Open host, Somerset Hills may be the quintessential members’ layout. Few courses offer such a delightful array of terrain, hole types, lengths, interesting greens, elegant par-3s, and vexing short par-4s. We remain honored to protect its legacy—oh, and thanks to all our spouses for letting us play it so often. Thank you. Thank you.”

BEST PUBLIC COURSE/SOUTH

Marriott Seaview (Pines), Absecon
Pine Barrens GC, Jackson
Pine Hill GC, Pine Hill
Sand Barrens GC, Middle Township
Twisted Dune GC, Egg Harbor Township

The Golf Academy also wishes to acknowledge Blue Heron Pines (East), Galloway; Cape May National GC, Cape May; Marriott Seaview (Bay), Absecon; Sea Oaks GC, Little Egg Harbor; Shore Gate GC, Dennis.

And the winner is… Pine Hill!
“That many smart people compare us to that masterpiece Pine Valley just across the road is flattering beyond belief, and we try not to get a big head about it. We’d like to thank Golf Magazine for making us the highest-rated public course in New Jersey, which never hurts the tee sheet. But soon, possibly by year’s end, we hope to become a competitor to Pine Valley and take the club fully private. So look out, PV, we’ll be gunning for you! In the meantime, area golfers should keep coming out to one of the most beguiling and scenic courses anywhere in the country.”

BEST PRIVATE COURSE/SOUTH

Atlantic City CC, Northfield
Galloway National GC, Galloway
Hidden Creek GC, Egg Harbor Township
Metedeconk National GC, Jackson Township
Pine Valley GC, Pine Valley

The Golf Academy also wishes to acknowledge Merchantville CC, Cherry Hill; Moores­town Field Club, Moorestown; Olde York CC, Mansfield Township (Burlington County); Tavistock CC, Haddonfield.

And the winner is… Galloway National!
“Thank you, members of the Golf Academy, for deciding that Pine Valley can’t win every award every year. In 1969, when 72-year-old Ruth Gordon won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Rosemary’s Baby, she said, ‘I can’t tell you how encouraging a thing like this is.’ We feel exactly the same way, as we did back when Golf Digest named us among the top 100 courses in the world. Under the guidance of our designer, Tom Fazio, our greenside bunker restoration is in full flow, with all new sand, better drainage, and new faces. And if we do say so ourselves, our four-cornered practice facility, newly re-sodded and re-grassed, is no slouch either. From us to you, all we can say is that we hope you know a member.”

BEST RECENT RENOVATION

Alpine CC, Demarest
Atlantic City CC, Northfield
Galloway National CC, Galloway
Mountain Ridge CC, West Caldwell
Essex County CC, West Orange

And the winner is… Essex County!
“We’re the state’s oldest club, dating to 1887, watching those whippersnappers like Baltusrol and Canoe Brook get all the attention. But once people play the course, they start angling for their next invitation. In 2000, Golf Magazine even ranked our 11th hole as one of the 500 most difficult in the world. The work we did began with a review of the master plan of the layout. We brought some bunkers back, renovated the existing ones, got rid of some trees, and restored some of the mounding of the original layout. Our big-boned course is now a little nastier. Who’d believe that you’d be relieved to get to our slick greens? We’re honored to be included in such esteemed company and will be more than happy to take on all comers this season.”

BEST PUBLIC HIDDEN GEM

Beaver Brook CC, Clinton
Cape May National GC, Cape May
Minebrook GC, Hackettstown
Rutgers University GC, Piscataway
Town & Country GL, Woodstown

And the winner is… Cape May National!
“This is the kind of award you hope to win once, before becoming too well-known to ever be eligible again. There are so many great public tracks in and around Cape May and Atlantic City that it’s hard not to get overlooked. Maybe this honor will end that once and for all! We should note that we once were named among the top 50 places in the country for women to play, but men, don’t let that scare you away. You’ll enjoy the beauty of our playable but thought-provoking design and its surroundings—a 50-acre private bird sanctuary with no houses in sight. With apologies to Robert Redford, that’s why the players that do know us call us ‘the Natural.’ ”

BEST MUNICIPAL COURSE

Berkshire Valley, Jefferson Township
Charleston Springs GC (North), Millstone
Hominy Hill GC, Colts Neck
Howell Park GC, Farmingdale
McCullough’s Emerald GL, Egg Harbor Township

The Golf Academy also wishes to acknowledge Heron Glen GC, East Amwell; Hyatt Hills GC, Clark and Cranford; Neshanic Valley GC, Branchburg; Sunset Valley GC, Kinnelon and Pequannock.

And the winner is… Hominy Hill!
“The real winner today isn’t Hominy Hill. It’s the golfers fortunate enough to live in Monmouth County, with its wonderful park system. Hominy Hill is a standout even in a state with so many marvelous, affordable muni tracks. We’ve been so happy to welcome Charleston Springs into our family and have been thrilled at players’ response to that great 36-hole facility. We accept this award on behalf of our other sister courses, Howell Park, Pine Brook, Bel-Aire, and Shark River, and we invite you out to Hominy anytime. It’s $40 on weekends for residents and $80 for non-residents—a bargain at twice the price!”

BEST PUBLIC COURSE

Ballyowen GC, Hamburg
Flanders Valley GC, Mount Olive
Pine Hill GC, Pine Hill
Sand Barrens GC, Middle Township
Twisted Dune GC, Egg Harbor Township

And the winner is… Pine Hill!
“Like Sally Field, we can’t deny the fact that you like us! You like us! After adding almost 100 members to our club in 2005, we have only about 100 spots left to reach 300 and begin our second act as a truly private club. With these honors, that time may be coming soon. So, to all those who haven’t seen our dramatic Tom Fazio design, with its superior shot values and spectacular views of Philadelphia, get here while the gettin’s good. And if you’ve got $10,000 lying around, stop in at our membership office. We even have an installment plan.”

TOP PRO

David Glenz, Crystal Springs, Hardyston
Ted O’Rourke, Morris County GC, Morris Township
Steve Shaller, Marriott Seaview, Absecon
Doug Steffen, Baltusrol CC, Springfield
Mark Wood, Hamilton Farm GC, Bedminster

And the winner is… Mark Wood!
“Mark couldn’t be here today. He’s too busy giving lessons at Hamilton Farm, where he and his wife, Kathy, are responsible for grooving the swings of their members, men and women who have a lot of leisure time and an intense desire to have their games shine when they tee it up here or at the other member-guest tournaments they play around the world. When he came to Hamilton Farm from Florida, Mark was amazed at the passion New Jersey golfers exhibit, and he’s been doing everything in his power to keep their complex thoughts and neuroses from gumming up their swings—even though it does represent a certain job security for him and Kathy. He’s thrilled to be a member of the New Jersey PGA Section and did ask us to give a little shout-out to Mickie Gallagher Jr., who just took over at Trump National. Ready for a home-and-home match, buddy?”

STRAIGHTEST SHOOTER

The sole nominee—and hand’s-down winner— is… David Baum!
This has nothing to do with keeping the ball in the fairway. Baum, who lives in Short Hills, owns Golf Odyssey, the ultimate insider’s guide to golf travel around the world, and he speaks for himself.

“When I came home from New York on September 11, 2001, to see my wife and children with Welcome Home! signs, I started preparing to leave New York,” Baum says. “I officially left in May of 2003, spent time with the family, and played a lot of golf for six months.” Then he pried Odyssey away from its owner. “I did a lot of golf trips for business over my career and had been a subscriber for five years before I did this deal,” he says. His newsletter has an ultraluxe membership of 1,500, 10 percent of whom live in the Garden State, paying $98 for a yearly subscription. “Because we don’t take advertising, we can be completely honest about every place we go—especially since we know our audience is discerning about everything they do,” Baum says. “It’s a pretty impressive list.”

So Baum and his staffers do the legwork on the world’s great golf getaways—it’s a dirty job, right?—and report back. “There are tougher chores,” he says with a laugh, “but we’re really refining the model. We try to pick things people are interested in, especially people with families. That category was ignored for a long time since most of these trips were guys-only excursions. We need to address the hotel, the spa, customer service, the beaches, the food—everything that makes a trip truly special—or completely miserable.”

Baum is working on a new service of his own, offering Odyssey gift subscriptions with a courtesy gift package for clients. By year’s end, he promises an updated Web model, complete with downloadable issues, blogs, and message boards for golf travelers to recount their own experiences. “We have to walk before we run,” Baum says, “but we’re walking fast enough to work up a pretty good sweat.”

BEST PRIVATE CLUB

Baltusrol GC (Lower), Springfield
Pine Valley GC, Pine Valley
Plainfield CC, Edison
The Ridge at Back Brook, East Amwell
Somerset Hills CC, Bernardsville

And the winner is… Pine Valley!
“Phew. Wow. Let us gather our thoughts here. Wow…Many people might assume that being named the greatest course in the country by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine year after year would mean the most to us, but this is truly the highest honor our golf club has ever received. We’re simple, humble golfers and are tickled pink that our little course out in the sticks has earned the love and respect of so many.

“There are just so many people to thank—all the charming public players who show up at our gates feigning an incurable disease just to play a single hole; our grounds crew, which so perfectly balances the rugged and the manicured; Baltusrol and Plainfield, such magnificent layouts; and our new friends too—Mr. Trump, what a fantastic, strong layout Jim Fazio has built for you. When that second course opens, you may indeed get that U.S. Open you want; the Ridge, well, what can you say? The most discerning Tom Fazio fans know that it’s among his finest work. Is our time up already? If we forgot to mention you, forgive us! Thank you, New Jersey Monthly! Come out for a round this summer!”

[Exit music swells to a crescendo. New Jersey Monthly staff, and this writer, run to their cars and drive to Pine Valley, on the off chance that they’d actually let us play.]

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