ATLANTIC CITY. N.J. — The expression, "I've got a 'game' at the club tomorrow," might sound a bit odd to the untrained ear, but it means just that. Golf is something fun: Something to be enjoyed — something on which you can bet ... and win.
As it is defined, this "activity providing entertainment or amusement" certainly has to rank it up there with the best of them. This is especially true as it applies to the masses. Most anyone can play the game at some level no matter his or her age and have lots of fun doing it.
So why not, when opting for your next golf vacation, head to the city where gaming has been pumping through its veins for decades? That center of the gaming universe is known as Atlantic City, a vibrant city located on Absecon Island in southern New Jersey.
Fact is, the real stars come out at daybreak in Atlantic City.
For all the glitz and glimmer of the high-rise gambling casinos that light up the night across this unique Atlantic Ocean-side city, there's another side to the destination — a daylight version beyond the reimagined world-famous boardwalk and beaches. Sprawled across its tranquil surroundings are no less than 20 artfully-crafted and meticulously-maintained golf courses of all makes and varieties. These layouts range from links style to parkland style to classic gems to out-of-control modern marvels.
Whatever your passion, every golf course within the Atlantic City arsenal has been ordered to deliver an experience that you will not soon forget.
Garden State Glory
Ever wonder why golf course designers are called "architects" and why golf course caretakers are known as "superintendents?" That's because golf is a special game with special needs. The courses you play are big-budget, finely-manicured works of art. The canvasses they require have to be inviting, exciting and delighting.
Turns out, these are just some of the ingredients that make a destination like Atlantic City so exceptional. And that's why it's time for all those who haven't played golf in Southern Jersey in a while to return for something fresh and new.
History is a big part of the fabric that makes up the golf landscape that slaps up hard against the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the earliest competitors from the United States heading for the British Open tuned up their games at the links course at Brigantine. Legends like Walter Hagen and Harry Vardon at Brigantine, Ben Hogan at Atlantic City Country Club, Sam Snead at Seaview Resort and Arnold Palmer at both Atlantic City and Wildwood Country Clubs walked the sandy soil of New Jersey during their golfing days. And designers like Donald Ross and William Flynn made it their goals to allow others to fulfill their dreams.
Modern-day golf course architecture has helped create a new manner in the way the game is played in a region more known for the blackjack table than the water table. Esteemed designers like Stephen Kay, Ron Fream and the duo of Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry have found their ways to the New Jersey shore to help spread the entertainment value beyond the casinos, the boardwalks and beaches.
The golf course is not necessarily the place you want to go to hang out and party, especially if you're planning on holing a bunch of putts. Atlantic City, in terms of golf and partying (or at least enjoying one's self), is tough to beat in this regard — due primarily to its multitude of seaside and inland challenges. For instance, at Vineyard Golf at Renault (located a pleasant 25-minute drive from the city), you can play through an actual vineyard and finish near a winery with roots dating back to the Civil War era. Or, you can choose to swipe your way across the hills and dales of a former landfill at McCullough's Emerald Golf Links where an Irish-Scottish replication unfolds before you.
Aficionados of Donald Ross (possibly the most famous golf course architect in the history of American golf) will enjoy the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Resort and Golf Club, which serves as the home to the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Then, of course you have the venerable Atlantic City Country Club, where the term "birdie" was coined and where celebrities from all forms of entertainment have played or visited. And these options are just a start.
Dave Ungrady, a near scratch golfer who now lives in Northern Virginia, grew up playing junior golf in New Jersey. He had the good fortune of learning to play the game at private courses in the central part of the state. "They rarely stretched more than 6,500 or so yards, were decades old and to this day prompt thoughts of old-course golf, with rolling terrain protected by imposing tree lines that provide a blanket of traditional comfort," said the Trenton-area native. "It wasn't often that we thought of venturing to the southern part of the state to test a new layout because, aside from Pine Valley, there was not much to offer."
Then one day as an adventuring adult, Ungrady abandoned the comforts of his inland childhood and scheduled a trip to the coast of his native land. "That has changed there with the evolution of upscale, all-access golf in the Atlantic City area, which know boasts many top-quality courses," he said. "Thanks to pleasurable experiences at courses like Harbor Pines and Sand Barrens, my first golfing trip back to southern New Jersey opened my eyes to the more complete golfing wonders of the Garden State."
During a recent visit to one of the more "hidden gems" of Atlantic City, a player fresh off the course had this to say. "It's very nice," he said of the Ballamor Golf Club. "It's the first time I've played it. I'll definitely be back." Like its sister course Scotland Run (which is a great "on the way to the coast" challenge), Ballamor is one to be strongly considered as a part of your next Atlantic City golf package.
Of course, as a repeat player or first-time visitor, you too can soon discover firsthand what Atlantic City golf is all about. Who knows? You may just discover that you have a bit more "game" inside of you than you ever believed possible.
Learn more about all 20 Atlantic City courses and book your fall golf getaway at www.PlayACGolf.com.
Martin Armes, 919-608-7260, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad King, 336-306-9219, email@example.com