Fun, frolic and some fame comprise McCullough's Emerald Golf Links. The Egg Harbor Township course offers tremendous elevations, scenic water hazards and the fast-rolling greens of a private club - at public-course prices.
That's the fun and frolic. The "fame" part of the equation? Well, that has several facets: The course was designed after well-known golf holes in Ireland and Scotland, including St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Gleneagle, Turnberry and Royal Dornoch. The seventh hole at McCullough's also garnered a unique award in January, being named one of the 18 "most fun holes in America" by Golf Digest.
Award-winning architect Stephen Kay, whose local design or renovation touch includes Blue Heron Pines, Harbor Pines and Linwood Country Club, developed this unique layout. It sits upon a closed landfill on Ocean Heights Avenue, sporting rare hilly terrain for this area in order to satisfy both government and engineering regulations. It is owned by the township and named after longtime mayor Sonny McCullough, whose political efforts helped change the unsightly landfill into an aesthetically-pleasing, revenue-producing golf venue.
The course has a view of Atlantic City on hole 12, 100 feet of elevation on No. 18, picturesque lakes and a notable national distinction. Golf Digest named the 7th hole at McCullough's one of the most fun golf holes in America in January.
"We think quite a few holes on this course are real fun," says Tom Sullivan, the general manager of McCullough's, which opened in 2002. "The views are tremendous and the players are enjoying our greens, which are rolling true. You are really going to enjoy yourself when you come out here. Our course is not only fun, but it is affordable."
Township residents can play for as little as $26 after 3 p.m. during the week. Non-residents pay a few more dollars, but can obtain a rewards card to lower costs.
One of the course's most strategic elements is its small bunkers. They dot the fairways and protect the greens just enough that a ball landing in them essentially becomes a one-stroke penalty.
The seventh hole has an interesting story. Its concept belonged to Alister Mackenzie, who won a national award for it in 1914 and credited that with sparking his career. Mackenzie later designed Augusta National, home of the Masters.
This hole's risk-reward proposition begins with a mammoth sand trap running down the left side. The hole runs 464 yards from the back tees and 422 from the next set. Players can choose the no-guts, no-glory approach, trying to place a drive clear over the bunkers to gain a clear shot of the green. They also can play safe to the right, ensuring no trap but making the green unreachable in two shots. Or, they can try finessing their drive onto an island fairway in the midst of the sand. It would allow a realistic second shot to the hole, but the landing area is small.
While this is the course's most noted hole, McCullough's also has water on five holes and enough length, at 6,535 yards, to challenge long-ball hitters. Overall, the course offers something fun for everybody.
Wednesday's Hump Day special appeals to lovers of par 3s. Every one of them on the course has a closest-to-the-pin contest, and the top players each week are entered in a drawing for a chance to win $1 million in the fall.
McCullough's Emerald Golf Links
Where: 3016 Ocean Heights Ave., Egg Harbor Township
Rates: Resident - $46 weekday, $36 after 1 p.m., $26 after 3 p.m. Weekends: $61 until 1 p.m, $46 after 1 p.m, $41 after 3 p.m., $26 after 5 p.m.; Non-residents - Weekday, $69 until 1 p.m, $56 from 1 to 3 p.m, $46 after 3 p.m. and $26 after 5 p.m. Weekends: $79 until 1 p.m., $66 from 1 to 3 p.m., $56 after 3 p.m. and $26 after 5 p.m.
Tee Times: Available 12 days in advance for non-residents, 14 days in advance for residents.