13 Great Golf Courses on the Jersey Shore

Prefer sand traps to sandcastles? These public courses—all an easy drive from the oceanfront—will satisfy your craving.

golf courses
Somerville attorney Jim Heyl, a 7 handicap, tees off in his plus fours at Colts Neck. Photo by Christopher Lane

Among its many pleasures, the Jersey Shore offers easy access to an ample range of daily-fee public golf courses to satisfy players of all skill levels. We consulted the experts and tried the better-known courses—some county run, some semi-private. Here are our picks for the the top courses within a quick drive of the ocean. They range from woodlands to sandy links; all are challenging. Granted, nabbing a weekend tee time in summer is itself a challenge. Weekdays are easier, but with some advance planning (and a willingness to play late afternoons) you can get out on weekends, too. 

The courses are listed roughly north to south. All course data is based on the middle tees.

Monmouth County

COLTS NECK GOLF CLUB

Designer: Mark A. Mungeam, 2000
Rating: 67.8; slope: 124; yardage: 5,689

A lush, semiprivate course, Colts Neck maintains many of the rustic features of the farm that used to operate here—including the silo at the rear of the large clubhouse. The course is designed to challenge the single-digit handicapper, but forgive the recreational golfer. Among the memorable holes: the 400-yard, par-4 11th, and the 187-yard, par-3 18th—as tough a closing hole as you might find. Director of golf Ed Mellor calls it a “knee-knocker,” especially for those who play from the blue tees, which require a 200-yard carry over water.—Ken Schlager

50 Flock Road, Colts Neck; 732-303-9330

HOMINY HILL

Designer: Robert Trent Jones, 1964
Rating: 71.5; slope: 126; yardage: 6,456

Developed on the site of an old dairy farm, Hominy Hill is highly regarded locally as a challenging but walkable course without any significant elevations. The course is fairly wide open, but strategically placed bunkers amp up the need for accuracy. A small lake skirts the left side of the memorable 11th hole, a 162-yard par 3 (197 yards from the blue tees) with a kidney-shaped green. For a final challenge, Hominy Hill’s 384-yard, par-4 18th takes a dogleg right as it heads toward an elevated green. Like all of the Monmouth County courses, nonresidents must buy at least a one-year county membership ($48) to book tee times in advance—or you can try your luck as a walk-on.—Ken Schlager

92 Mercer Road, Colts Neck; 732-462-9222

CHARLESTON SPRINGS SOUTH

Designer: Mark A. Mungeam, 2002
Rating: 71; slope: 127; yardage: 6,377

Pick your challenge: Charleston Springs South is a woodlands course that emphasizes the natural features of this forested area about 22 miles west of the Asbury Park boardwalk. Its neighboring North course is a slightly tougher links-style layout with ample bunkers and water hazards. Factor in the warm-up range, large putting area and snack bar, and you’ve got one of the most accommodating public golf complexes in the state. The courses are part of the Monmouth County system (see tee-time info for Hominy Hill, above.)—Ken Schlager

75 Woodville Road, Millstone Township; 732-409-7227

Atlantic County

SEAVIEW BAY COURSE

Designers: Hugh Wilson and Donald Ross, 1914
Rating: 68; slope: 118; yardage: 6,011

Site of the annual ShopRite LPGA Classic, Seaview Bay is itself a classic. The links-style layout, designed by the great Donald Ross, features deep pot bunkers, berms of ball-swallowing rough and small, undulating greens. The two-tiered green on the par-4 sixth offers one of several unbroken views of the Atlantic City skyline across Reed’s Bay. Take in the view, then hold your breath on the par-3 seventh, a 180-yard tee shot over water. For a slightly different experience, try the neighboring Seaview Pines course, a woodlands layout where Sam Snead won his first major tournament back in 1942. Both courses provide access to a huge practice area  with driving range, chipping and putting greens. At the center of it all is the freshly renovated Seaview Dolce Hotel, which adds a golf shop and grill room to the amenities.—Ken Schlager

401 South New York Road, Galloway; 609-748-7680

BLUE HERON PINES

Designer: Stephen Kay, 1993
Rating: 69.6; slope: 127; yardage: 6,207 

The bounty of upscale daily-fee golf we enjoy on the Shore arguably began with the opening of BHP in 1993. Designed by Jersey native Stephen Kay, the course offers variations on famous holes from Pine Valley, Pinehurst No. 2 and Bethpage Black, along with stimulating greens and the amenities of a nice clubhouse. Looking back at his creation, Kay says, “It’s easy to break 100, but very challenging to break 75.”—Eric Levin

550 West Country Club Drive, Egg Harbor City; 609-965-1800

golf courses

Atlantic City Country Club Photo by Christopher Lane

ATLANTIC CITY COUNTRY CLUB

Designers: John Reed, 1897; Tom Doak, 1999
Rating: 69.6; slope: 124; yardage: 6175

Two words: history and wind. Founded as a private club for wealthy vacationers, the course is legendary as the birthplace of the word birdie—although those are hard to come by on this challenging layout. The clubhouse (pictured below) evokes a bygone, genteel era; don’t miss the retro locker rooms. As for wind, it can bedevil you on the back nine, where the view of Atlantic City over Lakes Bay might compensate for the vexing gusts coming off the water. Though pricey, ACCC is a worthy indulgence.—Ken Schlager

One Leo Fraser Drive, Northfield; 609-236-4400

golf courses

The greens at Ballamor, like the par 4 11th, are relatively large and have subtle undulations. Photo by Christopher Lane

BALLAMOR

Designer: Ault, Clark & Associates, 2001
Rating: 70.3; slope: 123; yardage: 6,267

Once a private club, Ballamor offers the seclusion of a wooded course in undeveloped surroundings. The wide fairways and large greens are a comfort for the high-handicapper, but there are enough voracious bunkers and water hazards to challenge anyone’s game, and the greens play faster than most public layouts. The fifth hole, a 551-yard par 5 (a monstrous 625 yards from the championship tees), is a real spine-tingler, with a sloping fairway and deep bunkers flanking a two-tiered, elevated green. Good luck.—Ken Schlager

6071 English Creek Avenue, Egg Harbor Township; 609-601-6220

TWISTED DUNE

Designer: Archie Struthers, 2001
Rating: 71.8; slope: 126; yardage: 6,786

The name says it all. Rated the number 2 most challenging public course in New Jersey in this magazine’s 2013 poll, this tricky links course abounds with dune-like bunkers, rugged berms and sandy waste areas that can indeed leave you feeling twisted. But if you can stand the challenge, it’s outstanding fun in a dramatic landscape. Consider the fourth, a par-5 dogleg right with a difficult uphill shot to a green flanked on both sides by deep bunkers and impenetrable rough. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.—Ken Schlager

2101 Ocean Heights Avenue, Egg Harbor Township; 609-653-8019

MCCULLOUGH’S EMERALD LINKS

Designer: Stephen Kay, 2002
Rating: 67.8; slope: 119; yardage: 5,700

In one of his most entertaining designs, Jerseyan Stephen Kay pays tribute to 16 of the most feared and revered holes in Scotland and Ireland (plus one each in England and France). True to its models, the course is nearly treeless, and the wind will be your friend or foe. First-timers will scratch their heads on the 11th tee. Where to hit? Uh, over the hill in front of you, to a landing area (with bunkers) you can’t see. This reverses the downhill, only semi-blind tee shot of its model at Gleneagles in Scotland. You have to admire Kay’s sense of humor.—Eric Levin

3016 Ocean Heights Avenue, Egg Harbor Township; 609-926-3900

Cape May County

SHORE GATE

Designers: Ron Fream and David Dale, 2002
Rating:  71.0; slope: 137; yardage 6,391

The greens are large, nuanced and quick, the fairways, not as narrow as they often appear from the tees, but rather undulating, with few flat lies. Seven lakes either come into play or make you think they do. On the alleviating side of the ledger, there are five sets of tees, and the front nine is quite walkable. Many players walk the front, take a cart on the back. In between, the halfway house offers grilled sausages with peppers and onions and a full bar.—Eric Levin

35 School House Lane, Ocean View; 609-624-8337

CAPE MAY NATIONAL

Designers: Karl Litten and Robert Mullock, 1991
Rating: 69.0; slope: 125; yardage: 6,063

If birdies here were as plentiful as birds, everybody would finish 18 under. As the course wends its way around a 50-acre private bird sanctuary, you won’t see a single building. The holes twist and dip like birds in flight, but only eight of them steer clear of the seven undulant lakes, which cozy up to the fairways. Fortunately, most of the water is to be skirted rather than carried. That calls for accuracy. The 446-yard, par-4 18th is considered a signature, one of the strongest finishing holes around. The challenge is not the length (just 378 from the whites), but with water left and right. Reaching the green dry is no mean feat.—Eric Levin

Route 9 and Florence Avenue, Etna; 609-884-1563

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