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|The Vineyard Course provides a prefect complement to the Renault Winery Resort & Golf experience. (Courtesy of Renault Winery Resort & Golf)|
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Vineyard golf is a phrase familiar to those who travel through the Napa Valley of California, but it's not something associated with golf on the East Coast — at least until now.
Renault Winery Resort & Golf, 16 miles west of Atlantic City, has opened its Vineyard Golf Course and a new way to look at the game in South Jersey. This has become the latest amenity added to this self-contained resort almost shouting distance from Atlantic City's famed casinos.
"The golf course has been sort of a natural outgrowth as the resort has evolved," Renault Marketing Director Kevin McCarty said. "The holes that play around the vineyards seem to be in a perfectly natural setting."
The Renault Winery began producing champagne shortly after the end of the Civil War and was, for a time, the nation's No. 1 producer of the bubbly. Louis Nicholas Renault left France during an outbreak of parasitic infestation that nearly destroyed the country's wine production. He bought South Jersey property and began selling his signature New Jersey Champagne in 1870.
Renault Wine Tonic was sold in drugstores nationwide during prohibition. The product had an alcohol content of 22 percent and the label carried the admonition not to chill or it would become wine. You wonder how often that warning was ignored.
Current owner, Joe Milza bought the 1,000-acre winery in 1976 with the intent of converting the property into a major residential development. When local restrictions on development were put into place, Milza began developing Renault into the resort it is today.
He restored the winery building for tours and then catering. In recent years a boutique hotel with two gourmet restaurants was built. Now a championship golf course has been added, and the winery can now finally lay claim to being a full-fledged golf resort.
The course opened in 2004 and only after some trials and tribulations. Arthur Hills was brought in to design the course. He did the routing and had to drop out of the project. Regional designer Ed Shearon had to finish the job and add his own touches to the final product.
The result is a course that won't beat up the average golfer, but there is enough to hold their interest. The Vineyard is accurately described as a resort golf course.
There are five sets of tees. Most golfers will choose the white tees at 6,296 yards and some will back up to the blue tees at 6,746. The whites slope at 123 and the blues at 128.
"The theme of this course is angles," Shearon said. "Each golfer has a decision to make: circumvent the diagonal hazards, or attempt to go over them to gain a better angle to the green."
As a resort course, the fairways tend to be wide, greens don't have wild undulation and the traps are not devilishly deep. But you've got to hit your shots to post a good score.
"This is the third straight day I've played this course and I love it," said golfer and resort guest Walter Griggson of West Chester, Pa. "I don't want to feel like I went 15 rounds with Mike Tyson when I'm finished playing 18 holes. My wife played the forward tees and had a great time. This is excellent resort golf."
The course is in good shape tee to green. There are some areas which still need growing in, but the head superintendent has a five-year plan to do just that. Mike Renk was an assistant at Pine Valley Country Club, the consensus No. 1 course in the world, before he began work at the Vineyard. With that background he's likely to be able to make the necessary improvements.
Vineyard Golf at Renault is best appreciated when taken as part of the larger resort experience. The course itself won't knock your socks off, but it's in a pretty setting and it won't beat you up. But like a good wine complements a great meal, the course provides a prefect complement to the broader resort experience.
Stay at the Tuscany House, drink some wine, eat some gourmet food and play some golf. Sounds like the ingredients for a fantastic long weekend. The Renault Winery Resort is upscale, but it has elegance without being pretentious.
The Tuscany House Hotel is just across the street from the golf course and part of the Renault Winery Resort. It's a boutique hotel with 45 guest rooms and a definite European style.
The Mediterranean ambiance is in evidence from the courtyard to the patios and to the two outdoor pools. None of the guest rooms are alike, but each features Internet access and has a separate sitting area.
The resort boasts two very good restaurants. Executive Chef Joseph DeGennaro oversees the Italian influenced Joseph's Restaurant. Order any dish with veal and it's a special treat.
Then there's the Gourmet Restaurant at Renault Winery. The Sunday brunch is transcendent and the champagne is a reminder of the resort's roots. The resort also hosts theme dinners once or twice a month that blend food and wine.
May 22, 2007
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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