Sand Barrens Golf Club presents a rare playing opportunity: The front nine, the back nine and the extra nine. The Swainton course has a unique 27-hole layout, providing golfers additional play without the need to repeat holes. Traffic also flows more smoothly with a third set of holes to accommodate overflow.
This is a scenic course, with significant elevation changes and gaping traps, some so steep they can dwarf the player and literally force a blind shot to the green. Sand Barrens, which opened in 1997, has terrific elevated views.
"When they built the course, they found there was a topography difference of only a foot to two feet from one side of the property to the other," says Dan Redolphy, Sand Barrens' director of golf operations. "That fact, along with the lower water table, allowed them to cut into the grade and essentially carve the course out of the land, which is unusual for this area." (Many courses work in reverse, bringing in fill to make the land level.)
"This allows us to have shots coming in from an elevated standpoint. It adds terrific character to the golf course. You are never looking at the same shot twice. Often, you can feel like you are playing golf in the mountains."
One of the showcase holes is No. 8 West, a par 4 with a slight dogleg left, playing 400 to 420 yards from the middle tees. Left-side trees entice players to cut the corner and reduce the second shot to perhaps 160 yards. Play straight and safe, and you will view an approach shot of about 225 yards. The tee-shot decision on whether or not to cut off distance determines whether the second shot will be an iron or a wood.
Near the green, one lone pine tree guards the entrance. If the pin is tucked left, cutting off distance may not have been worth the risk. The tree will cut off the view from the left side, forcing a player to go for the right side of the green at best.
The last three holes on the North course decide "whether a match can be won or lost," Redolphy says. The seventh hole is a 440 yard par 4, tight, and with a premium on accuracy. If the pin is on the right side, players will have to clear a waste area to hit the green. No. 8 has a split fairway on a par 5, 595 yard hole. Hit two long, straight bombs and you can consider using a wedge for a third shot into the green. The ninth is a par 3 with a green guarded by water on the back, right and front.
The South course has a second-hole, par 3, and 125 to 165 yards from the middle tee boxes. It is well guarded by water, but has a huge green. Flirt with a little trouble for the privilege of putting.
One of the course features is a double green. It serves both the fourth hole on the West Course and the second hole on the North course. The green is one acre large.
"It might be the only time you can ever get in your golf cart between putts," says Dan Redolphy, director of golf operations.
Sand Barrens Golf Club
Where: 1765 Route 9 North, Swainton
Greens Fees: $90 to $100, conditions vary
Tee Times: Up to 10 days in advance
Amenities: 18,000 square foot clubhouse for weddings and banquets, double-ended driving range (one for the public, one for members), putting green, practice bunker, lessons.