Centerton Golf Club provides a trip back through time, a peaceful, serene country getaway disguised as a golf course.
Players at the 49-year-old Pittsgrove Township facility near Parvin State Park won't see homes - or many other golfers, for that matter - because wooded areas separate most holes. The layout is inviting: it features old-style bunkers that are punitive, but not deep, and the traps don't affect the landing area for drives. Length from the middle tees only measures 6,142 yards. Few greens are guarded by traps or water, thereby allowing pitch-and-run shots.
On the flip side, accuracy is paramount amidst these narrow fairways. Finding the woods will cost players a stroke, and water hazards do come into play away from the fairways.
You will be challenged here, but can score somewhat better than at other places.
People patronize Centerton for economic reasons, too. Midweek rates are as low as $20 to walk, and the drive is not too far from the shore area.
Centerton's head pro Pat Sweetra does it every work day, commuting from Somers Point.
"We have a group of regulars who come here from Atlantic and Cape May counties," Sweetra says. "This is a wonderful place to come out to. Centerton was built with the idea of being enjoyable and affordable. You can come out here in the afternoon and have a foursome play for about (the cost of) one round at the shore."
Centerton offers several enjoyable challenges. The fourth hole, for instance, is a sharp dogleg right par-5 best played with a drive to the left side. The right side contains woods, a trap and a tall, ominous tree blocking the view of the green. A sand trap sits behind that tree. Players stuck on the right side can try hoisting an iron over the tree and onto the green, or sacrifice a stroke by pitching the shot left to get a good look at the green for their next shot.
Seven is a short par 3, but a shot hit slightly left will roll downhill into water. Wind also pushes many shots to the left.
Fifteen is a neat, midrange par 4 to an elevated green. The 16th hole is considered the toughest, a 400-yard par 4 requiring a right-side fairway drive and at least a long iron into the green. Go left and contend with deep rough, woods and trees blocking the view of the putting surface.
Here's another oddity: if the pin is tucked into the left-hand corner and your shot lands on the right edge of the green, you can be looking at a putt of more than 100 feet. Four-putts do happen here.
The 17th is a picturesque, narrow par 3 over water. The tee shot must be straight. Water consumes most of the area between the tee and green. Woods on the right, left and behind the hole make this a supreme test of accuracy.