Green Tree Golf Course lifts a golfer's psyche. It is not intimidating, via length, with back tees measuring just under 5,600 yards. It is not punitive, regarding the position of traps, extra deep rough or tough pin placements.
This Atlantic County owned course indeed presents an invitation to score. But not a guarantee.
"It's a fun golf course in my eyes, because the average golfer doesn't make that many pars or birdies and that person has the opportunity to do that here," says John Hammer, Green Tree's general manager and head PGA professional, "but you've got to hit the ball straight."
Hammer, serving his fifth year at Green Tree, has shown a flair for understanding his clientele. He brought the course into the online tee-time booking era earlier this year. Hammer also added a nine-hole Wednesday night open league to augment women's leagues that run Tuesday morning, Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. The Wednesday night league does not require a commitment. Every week is a separate competition.
"With the Wednesday night league, you might see you are just getting off work and now you can come out and be part of it," Hammer says. "For $16 to walk or $22 to ride, you have golf, range balls, prizes and food. We started that just a little while back and the participation grows every week."
Another innovation - course structure - stemmed from his gut. Green Tree once opened with a 450-yard, dogleg right, par 4. Hammer moved the tees back to 468 yards and made it a par 5.
"Maybe 5 to 10 percent of the people could score par when it was a 4," he says. "You think about the mindset of the player, who rushes out of the car, doesn't hit balls and now here is his first shot of the day. You might be lucky to get that one airborne, let alone straight enough and far enough to set up the next shot. Now at least, if you hit the first shot into the woods, you can chip out and still think about trying to make par. That's important, because if you shoot a 7 on a par-4 to start the round, you might not recover from that."
The course is loaded with interesting scenarios. A straight, par-4 follows the opening hole and then customers meet one of the longest holes they will ever see: a 676-yard par-6 from the back tees. That's an ironic distinction for a short course.
Try breaking this assignment into small parts. Don't consider it a hole that goes on forever. One can think of it as 220-yard drive and three medium-range irons getting the player to the green in four shots. The landing area is generous and a player is not likely to be buried in wooded areas.
Green Tree immediately shifts from the longest hole to the shortest. A par-3 fourth measures 100 yards, not enough to take a full shot. There is no comfortable swing pattern on this hole. Anything less than a delicate touch will bury a shot in water to the front and woods in the back. The green is small. This hole looks easy, but plays differently.
The first four holes of this short course thus offer a challenging dogleg right, averaged-size par 4, monstrous par-6 and a tricky par 3.
Hammer favors some of the back-nine, risk-reward challenges. The par 4 12th and 13th holes, for example, can be reached from the tee. Both greens are partially guarded by water. The tee shot has to be flown on and then hold. Even a line-drive tee shot may run through the green into trouble behind it.
"You can try to hit it on the green and think about an eagle, or you can get into trouble and be faced with a double bogey on those two holes," Hammer says. "They give you a nice choice."
Green Tree Golf Club
WHERE: 1030 Somers Point, Mays Landing Roadd. Egg Harbor Twp.
HOW MUCH: Atlantic County residents with paid annual identification card offered discounts. Weekdays: $15 resident, $22 non-resident, without cart. Weekends and holidays: $18 resident, $27 non-resident. After 2 p.m. weekdays: $13 resident, $19 non-resident. After 11 a.m. weekends: $15 resident, $22 non-resident. After 5 p.m.: $10 resident, $15 non-resident. Resident Golf ID card $20, $15 for renewal. Electric cart $16 for 18-hole round, $9 for nine-hole and twilight rental.
AMENITIES: Pro shop, driving range, putting green, chipping green.
TEE TIMES: Available to public and online 7 days out.
MORE INFO: Call 609-625-9131 or go to GreenTree.aclink.org