Intimate and informal, Avalon Golf Club reflects the pre-casino period during which it was built. Constructed in 1971, it was designed to encourage faster rounds, especially during the hectic summer season. The course minimizes fairway obstacles and keeps the woods transparent enough to locate errant shots, keeping play brisk. While the area's recent population boom does prompt some five-hour summer rounds, those figures would be higher if not for the course's basic design.
Avalon's length is not punitive - 6,172 yards from the average tees and 5,135 from the forward set. Players can make it a long layout by selecting the blue tees, at 6,572 yards. High-handicap players can choose a modest course length, while experts can play the longer tee boxes, but everyone must battle narrow fairways, water and shore breezes. These factors, however, don't tend to slow play much.
The course has three par 3s on the back nine, an interesting twist. Patterned for fun, with enough demands mixed in, this is a relaxing stop on the southern New Jersey tour.
"Our golf course is player-friendly," says Ted Wenner, director of golf and head professional at Avalon. "We reward good shots and penalize bad ones. We are fair. You have to play the game in order to score, but we're traditional in the sense that if you hit it straight, you will be okay. Our players like that.
"The trend for a lot of courses in the 1990s was different. It was target golf. You have that landing area and forced carries into the green, and the average golfer can't handle that. It's not fun for them to have to hit that shot."
To keep things interesting, however, the course has a forced carry or two. One of them creates the difficult par-3 17th, a challenge at either 166 or 151 yards. It is practically a tee-to-green assignment, with a lake in front of the green, out-of-bounds behind it and a minimal landing area in front. A rare set of thick woods looms on the right and left. Players cannot retrieve shots hit into them. The elevated men's tee area can throw off a player's sense of trajectory.
Another good test is the sixth, redesigned because of townhomes on the course perimeter. It is a 408-yard dogleg right from the back tees. The tee shot must clear trees on the right to cut off yardage. Playing safe on the left side makes sense, but shots must flirt with fairway bunkers. Down the middle, of course, is a fine spot.
A sizable iron shot is required for this two-tiered green, surrounded by bunkers and marsh. Woods are dense here. Thus, there is no forgiveness for a sliced or hooked shot. You spray, you pay.
The greens are designed to challenge, but not punish.
"They are medium-sized and accessible," Wenner says. "There are breaks and most of them are tilted one way or another, but they are not treacherous."
Avalon Golf Club
1510 Route 9 North, Cape May Court House
Rates: To Sept. 6 - $84, $69 after 1 p.m., $54 after 3 p.m. Wednesday: $59.95.
Amenities: Clubhouse, grill room, putting area, lessons, 250-seat banquet facility.
Tee times: Accepted up to 14 days in advance.