In a hectic age with reduced leisure time, nine-hole golf courses have enabled people to squeeze in a round of golf. Or golfers can play twice, if conditions permit.
Hamilton Trails champions that philosophy with a solid layout of more than 3,265 yards from the back tees and the option of playing again. The second nine only costs $10, and those who commit to 18 holes in advance can play for as little as $29, cart included.
“We think we have a nice niche in this market,” says Jack Bucceri, who runs the Mays Landing establishment along with his son Andrew, the new owner. “Golf research has continually shown that two major factors concerning people are price and time. We offer a nice price for a regulation course. A lot of people think of a nine-hole establishment as a pitch-and-putt, but we have a course that will let you use all of your clubs. And you don’t have to make a tee time. Just come out.”
How rare is that? The informal makeup of the course permits flexibility. Walk in, hit a bucket of balls priced at $5 or $7, pay for nine holes and off you go. One may be paired with other players to comprise a foursome if course conditions warrant.
After nine holes, a player can see how the time scenario progressed. A decision can then be made about whether to go around again.
Conditions have proven ideal not only for those with time pressure, but for leagues.
A Monday night scramble and weekday leagues both for men and women have become popular. They will run through September.
Seniors, generously designated as 60 and older, enjoy a Tuesday discount. Thursdays feature a hot dog and bag of chips for a dollar.
The facility has enough of everything. A driving range, putting green and sand trap supply the practice conditions. A 40-seat clubhouse sets up well for post-round snacks or spreads. Cheri Cottelli, an outstanding golfer who set four individual records at Rutgers University, conducts summer teaching clinics. Silvio, a brown lab named for “The Sopranos” character, is the unofficial mascot. He is often “on duty” at the premises and was once utilized in a rescue operation.
The course is realistic, but not punitive. Good driving distance is essential because there are no “gimme” holes, yet a drive off the fairway is unlikely to find wooded areas. A player has the option to scramble and should not have to spend much time looking for lost balls.
Hamilton Trails opens with a nice dogleg left that produces a quick club-selection decision. Many prefer to hit a 3-wood or long iron here to set up positioning for the approach shot. A drive that travels too far straight may find Ocean Heights Avenue.
The second and third holes are a good-sized par -4 and long par-5 respectively. The third plays 520 yards from the back tees. Four has an elevated green, five is a par-3 from an elevated tee and six is a dogleg right with a risk-reward component. Long hitters can try shaving off distance by clearing the trees on the right. If they do, they will have a short chip to the green. If they fail, the hole suddenly becomes hard. A safe, straight drive and a 9-iron or pitching wedge is a good way to go here.
Seven has a dogleg left element, eight is a straight par-5 and nine is an excellent par-3 forcing players to contend with sand and water. They will need a low iron to reach the green.
Although the golf leagues end in September, a Play for the Cure tournament unfolds Oct. 5. It is connected with the national Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is open to men and women.