Pack the clubs. Cohanzick Country Club is a worthwhile road trip from the shore. Golfers may already drive at least an hour to play a nice course, but Cohanzick further justifies the journey. This friendly establishment just outside Bridgeton provides a recession-busting greens-fee menu from $24 to $29 Monday through Friday, including cart. The fees go up to $39 on weekends. The layout is a confidence-building - yet sufficiently challenging - assignment.
And its yardage - 6,127 yards from the back tees - enables players to hit long drives and short irons to the greens. But don't be fooled by a course that looks innocent.
"You have to keep the ball in play here all the time," says Stan Nunn, the pro-shop attendant for Cohanzick. "Holes look simple off the tee, but you see a tendency of younger players to overplay the course. Golfers want to pull out that driver and go big off the tee, but sometimes they will hit the ball too far and go right through the fairway and into trouble. They might be better with a fairway wood from the tee. You really have to be good with your placement here. If you try to overpower the course, you're going to get in trouble."
Mainly, you'll visit the Cohansey River, which comes into play on six holes, primarily when players overdrive the fairway.
The second hole illustrates Nunn's point. It is a short, 340-yard par 4 dogleg left. Although the hole plays short, the drive must be positioned to set up an uphill shot to the green. A tee shot that goes 280 may run through the fairway, into the woods or water, and become a lost ball. A drive of 240 yards often will give a better view of the second shot uphill.
Cohanzick's third hole is a par 3, 168-yard test that essentially becomes a tee-to-green hole. It fashions a deep ravine, as well as water and woods between the tee and green. There is a small landing area just off the green on the right side that will hold drives that nearly reach the putting surface.
If the tee shot doesn't land on the green, players will be struggling to pitch on to it for a par or bogey. Wind often kicks up on this hole, bringing additional club selection into play. The severity of the breezes has players choosing anything between a seven iron and 5-wood for their drive.
The fourth is Cohanzick's signature hole. Nunn jokingly calls it his "non-favorite hole." It is a 384 yard, dogleg right with a waste bunker all the way down the right side. The layout goes uphill on the drive and downhill for the approach shot. A strong wind in the golfer's face can knock down tee shots before they reach the top of the hill, where the view to the second shot occurs. A wind too far at someone's back can push shots through the fairway.
Nunn accurately stresses the scenic beauty of this course, which was built in the 1950s. And, the price is right.
Players tend to score a little better here than at many other courses. One reason is the absence of the fairway bunkers, found in newer courses, which trip players up. Fees are quite reasonable at Cohanzick, but always check with courses before you go to ensure the prices haven't changed.