All golf establishments have their selling points. Some are obvious, some subtle. Yet to Rich Taylor, the general manager of Ocean Acres Country Club in Manahawkin, there is no doubt about his course's major selling point:
"Rates, rates, rates, that's what we're talking about right now," he says. "This course gives you one of the greatest deals you can find anywhere. It's not easy to find a golf course you can play, with a cart, for $19."
Ocean Acres offers that special after 3 p.m. during the week. A 3 p.m. tee time throughout September offers a reasonable chance to complete 18 holes before dark. The club's normal rates are good too: $39 until noon and $29 after noon.
This is one of the courses in the All Fore Club ownership group, which also operates the Pinelands, Cohanzick and Buena Vista facilities throughout South Jersey. Ownership is working on a package membership deal for all four locations, probably starting next year.
Located just off route 72 west of Garden State Parkway exit 63, Ocean Acres offers two distinct challenges. The front nine is wide open and the back side is tight. That happens by design, because the 18-hole tract is made up of two separate nine-hole courses that date back to the 1960s.
"You will leave the driver in your bag a few times on the back nine," Taylor says. "You will have to be smart here. Regardless of what hole you are playing, you have to be mindful of the small, elevated greens. This is sort of a challenging and yet fun golf course. It doesn't beat you up like many of the newer courses today, but you still have to hit good shots to score well."
Players can make this course play more than 6,500 yards, a solid test of their driving skills, by selecting the back tees.
Taylor likes the ninth hole, the last on the wide-open layout. It is a tricky, 409-yard par from the middle tees with two significant dips in the first 220 yards. Any shot hit less than 220 may be buried in a ravine or valley, eliminating any chance for the player to reach the green in two. Water sits behind the green, which is interesting because the second shot here may be a fairway wood, a club designed for long distance more than control. Shooting past the green into the water is not uncommon here.
The signature hole is the 10th, a 150-yard par 3 from the white tees. An island green with a twist defines this hole. Water does surround the green, but there are small landing areas in front and on the side of it. A player who narrowly misses the green may be able to pitch a second shot onto the putting surface.
The 15th, a 500-yard par 4, features an incline running up the fairway until about 330 yards. Clear the top of the hill on your second shot and a downward roll can set up an easy pitch to the green. If the second shot doesn't make the top of the hill, a fairway wood may be needed to hit the green.
Seniors receive a $3 discount on many of the rates. Do you have 36-hole fever? Buena Vista and Pinelands are close enough to each other - about a 15-minute drive - they can be played in the same day. The membership package now being worked on resembles casino cross promotion, with discounts and rewards for playing courses in the All Fore family.