Value Golf: Good Deals on Great Rounds

Just as good golfers use strategy to reduce their strokes per hole, smart golfers do the same to lower the sport’s high cost.

Neshanic Valley
Neshanic Valley finished as the top-rated county course and also won for best practice facilities (left, a golfer on the practice green) and best-conditioned publicly owned course.
Courtesy of Somerset County Park Commission.

There are three easy ways to keep greens fees from giving you the blues. The first is to register with your county system. Most New Jersey counties run courses that provide relatively inexpensive golf for registered residents. Many of the courses are top-notch; in fact, 18 county-owned courses made our Top 40. In Monmouth County, for example, a resident paying $44 for an annual membership gets steeply discounted rates (typically $20 to $30 off) at six county courses, including Hominy Hill, our No. 5 course overall, and three other Top 40 tracks.

The second tactic is to avoid the most desirable tee times—typically weekend mornings. Most courses reduce greens fees in the afternoon; some start reducing fees as early as 11 am. And almost all offer ridiculously low twilight rates, typically after 3 pm. Weekday rates are cheaper still.

The third way to save is to walk the course. A cart usually adds $14 to $18 to the cost of your round. Finding courses that are relatively flat and easy to walk (usually older courses, where the next tee is just steps away from the preceding green) saves you money, adds another dimension to the experience and throws a good workout into the bargain.

Take Mattawang, a privately owned course in Somerset County that is number 31 on our Top 40 and No. 4 on our list of value courses under $80. Weekend mornings at Mattawang run $69 with cart (required until 10 am). At 11 am, the price drops to $64; at 1 pm, $58; at 3 pm, $48; and 5 pm, $34. Walk and you’ll save the $19 cart fee. As at all courses, prices at Mattawang are lower Monday to Friday, when fees slide from $53 with cart in the morning down to $15 walking after 6 pm.

Some courses also offer frequent-player discounts. Sign up for a free membership in the Players Club at Bowling Green, a privately owned course in Morris County (No. 23 on our Top 40), and every fifth round is free. Bowling Green also offers reduced rates for seniors and those who want to play only nine holes ($38, Monday through Thursday, walking).

Wherever you play, you often can get the best rates by booking about a week in advance (depending on course rules). Go online and grab that first tee time at the reduced afternoon rate. In many cases, your foursome will pay as much as $100 less for its round than the quartet in front of you.

The accompanying lists of Value Golf indicate good deals at three different levels of play, based on prime-time prices. The fees will go down if you follow our guidelines, making each an even better deal.

Click here to return to our golf package.

 Rankings based on panel votes and additional research. All prices are for weekend mornings with cart.

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Top-40 courses for under $80
1 Heron Glen (9) $77
2 Mercer Oaks (13) $70
3 Francis Byrne (26) $66
4 Mattawang (31) $69
5 Galloping Hill (33) $76

solid choices under under $70
1 Rutgers (Piscataway) $64
2 Bunker Hill (Princeton) $65
3 Farmstead (Lafayette) $68
4 Rockleigh (Rockleigh) $64
5 Hillsborough (Neshanic Stn) $59

bargain rounds Under $50
1 Apple Mountain (Belvidere) $49
2 Buena Vista (Buena) $43
3 Ocean Acres (Manahawkin) $43
4 Cedar Creek (Bayville) $46
5 Rolling Greens (Newton) $49
6 Miry Run (Robbinsville) $48
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