A prevailing joke about the area's flat terrain is that South Jersey's highest elevation is a pitcher's mound. Area golf courses reflect that geography. An exception is the Ocean View-based Shore Gate Golf Club, a jewel sporting the rare natural element of undulation. Its slope breeds different lies and shots, enhancing the demands posed by seven lakes and 88 sand traps. Oak, holly and towering pines frame each hole in a picturesque setting.
Shore Gate was named among the "best new upscale golf courses" by Golf Digest, in January 2004, and was one of the "Top 10 You Can Play in America" in the March 2003 issue of Golf Magazine. Both are national publications.
What kind of course appeals to you? This eight-year-old layout offers five tee boxes ranging from 5,284 to 7,277 yards with varied fairway conditions.
"People are still attracted to elevation change," says Harry Bittner, Shore Gate general manager. "There is a tremendous amount of it here, which many area courses don't have. People tell us about the different lies and shots they get on the course.
"Everything is natural here. We have seven lakes and a lot of sand, but we are just far enough from the shore, I guess, so that we have the natural elevation. It's beautiful."
The monstrous par-5 ninth hole is Shore Gate's signature challenge. It's the Testosterone Teaser, a crazy 648 yards from the back tees. From the white, which most people play from, it's still a formidable 577 yards.
Water borders the entire left side, resulting in an eerie similarity to the 18th at famous Pebble Beach, Calif. The lake, coupled with a narrow landing area, prompts players to safely nudge tee shots to the right. One can flirt with left-side bunkers and the water to obtain more distance in a demanding risk-reward scenario.
A second shot should be safely played up the fairway to accommodate a high- to mid-iron approach shot to the water-guarded green.
"Many players get defensive off the tee and hit the shot right, which is fine for them," Bittner says. "It's a three-shot hole anyway, so placement is important. We might see some young guy kill the ball, but it's still an iron shot into the green on his third shot, which makes a nice challenge for him."
Beware of a flubbed tee shot, however. The imposing yardage entices the overswing that finds water, or the dribbler that puts the green in a different zip code. Either is a nine or 10 waiting to happen.
After navigating the fairway, players see a 55-yard green guarded by several traps on the left. It is a two-tiered surface, and when the flag is in the front, the likelihood of a severe, sharp downhill putt exists. Escaping here with bogey or double-bogey is an accomplishment.
Another interesting hole is the 15th, a par 4 with a subtle dogleg right. Cut off distance and risk water by hugging the right edge, or play it safe by hitting the tee shot to the left and having a longer shot to the green. Players often hit a 3-wood off the tee to ensure accuracy.
35 School House Lane, Ocean View
Rates: To June 18 - Monday to Thursday: $75, $60 after noon. Friday: $85, $65 after 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: $89, $65 after 1 p.m. Saturday, June 19, to June 30 - Monday to Thursday: $75, $60 after noon. Friday: $89, $65 after 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: $95, $65 after 2 p.m.
Amenities: Driving range, putting green, clubhouse, professional instruction
Tee Times: Accepted up to 14 days in advance