Private establishments like Greate Bay Country Club savor the fall.
This is when they gain a seasonal advantage by packaging deals for the following year. Greate Bay unfurled a promotion on Sept. 1 allowing players buying a 2017 membership to gain course access now. It amounts to a bonus, because the 2017 membership begins next April. There are perhaps three months of solid golf weather remaining this year.
Labor Day's transition greets Cape May County golfers.
Members can attend numerous fall activities and (with some deals), be linked with discounts at nearby Greate Bay Racquet & Fitness. That establishment sports a squash court, tennis courts, the Blue Wave Spa and locker rooms.
Given the golf, fitness and social outlets, Greate Bay shoots the business equivalent of birdie. That's vital for any club seeking patrons to play exclusively on one course in golf-rich southern New Jersey.
“We consider this a lifestyle club with a great amount of camaraderie,” says Ron Ralston, the general manager of the Somers Point facility. “This is a family experience for you out here. These are optimal conditions to be playing golf. We love the fall, we pride ourselves on our greens and we think they are the fastest in South Jersey. They are at their best in October.”
Fast greens tend to improve putting, as players can guide the ball rather than being too forceful.
The course abounds with history. It was built in 1923 by Willie Park Jr., who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013. Greate Bay also hosted the world's best female golfers via the ShopRite Classic from 1988 through 1997. Betsy King qualified for the LGPA Hall of Fame by winning this tournament in 1995.
The 18th hole obtained notoriety by ranking as one of the toughest holes on the entire women's tour. It had a scoring average of 4.76, nearly a bogey. The difficulty of scoring well on the 18th brought drama to previous holes, prompting players to gamble for birdies.
This layout spreads to nearly 6,800 yards from the back tees, and more than 5,500 from the most forward set. It does not feature an abundance of water and wooded areas. It counters with small, fast greens that require finesse. They can easily be reached in regulation, but wind will affect club selection and force certain shots to be started left or right of the putting surface and be blown back onto the green.
The back nine, besides 18, has its share of tough holes. Twelve has become a strong showcase. It's a par-4, dogleg left at 356 yards from the mid tees, yet the course breaks sharply over a large body of water that guards the green. The water thins out as it cuts across the fairway, left-to-right, near the green. It is important to gain enough yardage off the tee to hit an approach shot over the least amount of water possible.
The green slopes from back to front, so players should try for the front of the green and take an uphill putt. Pin placements are occasionally tricky. They might be found on the border of the two tiers, ensuring a tough putt.
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Thirteen is a testy par-3 at 160 yards. The green is narrow at its entry and widens toward the back. Traps guard the green. Pin placements near the front will provide a sharp challenge for accuracy.
The eighth hole, at 406 yards, provides a feast-or-famine approach. A series of traps guard much of the green, only leaving the front open.
TAP-INS: The course has picked up on the recent trend of combo tees. In this setup, some tee designations are from the back set and others from the more forward group. The 15th is an underrated test. It is 535 yards from the mid-trees. Large traps mark the right and left side. This looks like a hole that can be reached in two, but often plays harder than it looks.
GREATE BAY COUNTRY CLUB
Where: 901 Mays Landing Road, Somers Point
Membership: Weekday, seasonal and social memberships available. Call to inquire.
Amenities: Locker rooms, driving range, short-game practice facilities, golf shop and club storage, restaurant.
More info: 609-927-5071; GreateBay.com.