Don't expect the ghosts of Archie and Edith Bunker to emerge in Erma, just north of Cape May. But a golf version of "All in the Family" does exist there.
Cape May National Golf Club, founded in 1991 by Bob Mullock, is a rare family-run golf business. A total of seven family members, including the owner's wife Linda, work there. Mullock's son Zack grew up performing duties at this club and became its director of golf.
"When we first opened, there were not any upscale public courses in the area," Zack Mullock says. "We've strived to keep it special over the years. We've invested a lot more in equipment, and last year we finished a several-hundred-thousand-dollar irrigation project."
The course is built around a private, 50-acre bird sanctuary and has no homes on it. It is scenic, peaceful and demanding.
"It's a championship-style course," Mullock says, noting the course's 6,900-yard length from the back tees. "It's a nice mix of links (Scottish) style and traditional holes. Some of them come from classic courses, turn of the century. It is hilly, the fairways are generally flat and around the sides you will see a lot of mounds. You don't have to worry about the woods too much, but the big problem is the rough. If you get into the fescue, you're probably taking a drop (a penalty)."
Players can make it a long course at 6,900 yards or a relatively short one at 6,063 from the next forward set of tees.
Cape May National's signature hole is the fourth, 554 yards from the back. Players must clear the marshes with a tee shot 200 yards from the back tees to reach part two of this hole, a dogleg left. The second shot is more of a positioning play, trying to place the ball to between 100 and 150 yards of the green. The third stroke approaches a small green flanked by a deep bunker on the right.
The course features a formidable 18th hole, a 446-yard par 4 from the back tees. Water runs down the left side, but offers a proposition: drive the ball left, flirt with trouble and cut out significant yardage for the second shot, or find water and your hole is ruined. Mullock likes to play the tee shot out to the right to gain a right-to-left angle on the approach.
"One of the reasons it's a great finishing hole is that if you come into this hole one down or tied; it's a swing hole," Mullock says. "You can get a shot or lose one very easily. Even if both players hit the green in two, it is two-tiered."
Therefore, depending on pin placement a player can miss his putt and either roll off the green or down to another tier. Three- and four-putts are common on this hole.
As the course approaches its 20th anniversary, Bob Mullock, one of the course's original designers, is proud of the standards Cape May National established and has maintained, whether it's the upscale experience, the use of multiple tees or creating a natural golf course.
"Everyone started calling us, 'The natural,'" he says. "Because at that time courses were permitted to destroy wetlands, to fill wetlands. We were the first golf course that went the other way.
"It's kind of nice that a little golf course from Cape May County can start some national trends, and we're proud of that fact."
Cape May National Golf Club
Route 9 and Florence
Rates: $85, $65 after
11 a.m., $50 after 2:30 p.m.; Starting Sept. 7 - Weekdays, $55 before 2:30 p.m. $45 after 2:30 p.m. Weekends, $70 before 2:30 p.m. $50 after 2:30 p.m.
Tee Times: Accepted up to 14 days in advance with credit card.
Amenities: Pro Shop, Lessons, Driving Range Grass tees, largest putting green in New Jersey,
18 holes. Clubhouse, locker-room, fitness center, steam room, meeting room.