Calling all opportunists: bargains beckon. Greate Bay Country Club believes there is no better time than the fall.
The classic Somers Point facility, which once hosted the LPGA Shop Rite tournament and has welcomed the likes of Arnold Palmer, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, recently launched an intriguing promotion. Commitment to a 2018 membership, which runs from April 1, 2018, until March 31, 2019, enables participants to play now. No membership payments are due until next April, according to Ron Ralston, the general manager of Greate Bay. This amounts to an extensive perk for someone with a stretch of free time. The announced promotion expires Sept. 30.
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“These next three months in particular combine the best three months at the shore in terms of weather and the best conditions at the golf course,” he says. “You will be coming to a club with unbelievable camaraderie and atmosphere.”
Greate Bay’s membership platform includes corporate, weekend, weekday, intermediate, junior and associate tiers. A social membership for $17 per month enables attendance at practice facilities and club events. The establishment has a major banquet facility for weddings and special events and recently joined forces with Ocean City Yacht Club to bring stunning waterfront views and a nautical theme to special events there. Greate Bay owns its own fitness center just up the road from the golf course, with services spanning high-intensity interval training to yoga, tabata and spin.
What about the golf? The course was built in the early 1920s by Willie Park Jr., a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. It plays 6,654 yards from the back tees, 6154 from the mid-tees most people use, and 4,841 yards from the most forward set. This is a classic layout, reflective of the time in which it was built. The course has wide open fairways, but the greens are small, tilted and undulating. A precision shot is required to stay on the green and be in a good putting position.
The wind sometimes benefits the players and occasionally blows in their face, but is always good for one thing, Ralston says with a grin.
“The breeze kills the bugs,” he says. “There are no bugs here. No matter which way the wind is blowing, it eliminates them.”
Eighteen is a classic finishing hole and a signature endorsement within golf circles. When the LPGA tournament was here, this was one of the most difficult holes on the entire tour. The par-4, 398-yard averaged a 4.76 score, nearly a bogey, for an entire field of pros. Out of bounds marks the left side, over-hanging trees pinch in from the right and the terrain naturally runs right. A shot that lands on the right edge of the fairway can dart into the trees area, requiring a punch out.
John Petronis, the PGA Head Golf Professional here, advises a drive to the right center and a knowledge of the green’s pin placement. If it is stuck in the back, an extra club may be required on the approach.
Betsy King stamped her LPGA Hall of Fame ticket with a rare birdie on this hole in 1995. From 150 yards out, she placed a shot within 15 feet of the hole and drained it, winning the tournament and reaching the final induction milestone.
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The 13th is a 152-yard, par-3, well guarded by traps. It will require an accurate shot, on the green, to establish a putt for birdie. The lofted shot must clear sand bunkers and may avoid the sand but will probably “run through” or past the green.
Players find an interesting challenge on the third hole. It runs only 114 yards from the mid-tees, but the small green is not easy to hit. While it is listed as the second easiest hole at Greate Bay, this par-3 may be, in Petronis’ words, “the shortest par-4 in America,” meaning that a bogey is likely.
TAP INS: A number of holes have what Ralston describes as “push-up greens,” meaning they are slightly elevated at the front. A shot that barely reaches the front edge, for example, may roll back down into the fairway. The second is listed as the toughest hole, at 394 yards.