McCullough's Emerald Golf Links salutes famed European courses by designing every hole to resemble one of them.
It also honors longtime Egg Harbor Township mayor Sonny McCullough by naming the course for him. The mayor's tenacity and foresight brought the course to fruition in 2002. This is one of the few courses anywhere to be named after someone.
And now McCullough's has done something nice for the average player on this Links style course. It mowed the rough down on either side of most fairways, creating a buffer zone between that area and knee-deep fescue. This speeds up play and gives golfers a break on some shots.
How significant is the fescue, which substitutes for trees in hampering errant shots? It's another word for penalty stroke.
"You will probably find balls in there," laughs Tom Sullivan, the course general manager. "But you won't find yours."
McCullough's offers a chance to score well. It has four tee boxes ranging from 4,962 to 6,535 yards, and little interference from trees and water on only five holes. The course counters with well-placed pot bunkers - small rounded traps with difficult lips - along with the fescue.
The majority of players will select the mid-tees of 5,700 or 6,132 yards. Sullivan advises first-time players to account for wind and elevations in choosing the appropriate course length.
"The back tees really play closer to 6,900 yards," Sullivan says. "You hear players come in here and think the back tees work for them because of the yardage, but then it plays longer. The winds are tricky here."
The layout is inviting, with significant elevations enhancing the view. One can see the Atlantic City skyline from the 12th tee, the highest point on this course, or envision the resemblance to the Royal County Down's third hole in Northern Ireland. It plays 419 and 434 from the mid tees. Bunkers line the right side of the hole and the shot kicks right. One will be encouraged to come down the left side of the fairway.
Hole three has an intriguing risk-reward challenge. It is a variation of the 18th hole at Gleneagles King Course in Scotland. The McCullough's version has nearly a dozen bunkers and is a baby par-5 in terms of length, 461 and 489 yards from the mid tees. The player who avoids bunkers on the tee shot observes a second-shot opportunity. It will be tempting to try reaching the green in two, but the putting surface is guarded by three traps. Too short is therefore no good. Yet the green also is narrow, discouraging the prospect of hitting a low shot onto the surface.
The eighth is the mayor's favorite hole and is patterned after the 10th at Turnberry in Scotland. It is a dogleg right, 385 to 400 yards, marked by two prominent sand traps inside the final 100 yards to the hole. This encourages a left-side tee shot go gain a clear look at the approach. An elevated tee shot sets up the aesthetic nature of the hole.
The inspiration for seven was designed by award-winning architect Alister Mackenzie. It is a severe dogleg left, 227 and 256 from the mid tees and provides a clear choice off the tee. Play right, hit the fairway and add some yardage to the second shot or try clearing a three-acre waste area to chop significant yardage off the approach. The waste area serves the role of water, which was in Mackenzie's design, but McCullough's is not on the coast.
TAP-INS - Egg Harbor Twp. residents receive a price break. Leagues run Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, late afternoons. Some require a weekly commitment.
McCullough's Emerald Golf Links
WHERE: 3016 Ocean Heights Ave., Egg Harbor Township
HOW MUCH: Until Sept. 2: Mondays to Thursdays $76, $61 after 1 p.m., $46 after 3 p.m., $26 after 5 p.m. Weekends: $86, $66 after 1 p.m., $51 after 3 p.m., $26 after 5 p.m.
Sept. 3 to Oct. 14: Mondays to Thursdays $66, $54 after 1 p.m., $26 after 5 p.m.; Fridays to Sundays $79, $69 after 1 p.m, $26 after 5 p.m.
Oct. 15 to Nov. 15: Mondays to Thursdays, $49, $36 after 1 p.m., $26 after 3 p.m. Fridays to Sundays, $59, $41 after 1 p.m., $26 after 3 p.m.
Discounts available for township residents and casino employees.
TEE TIMES: May be booked 30 days in advance. Book tee times online or by telephone.
AMENITIES: Pro shop, restaurant and bar.
MORE INFO: McCulloughsGolf.com, 609-926-3900