Like many private establishments, Wildwood Golf and Country Club in Cape May Court House sees the wisdom of extending a public invitation.
In this case, it’s a membership level known as five-pay. The $250 package entitles a player to five rounds of golf during specific periods, paying only cart fees or reduced greens. Full seasonal and senior memberships are also available.
The five-pay is an affordable taste test for this vintage facility, which is nearly 100 years old. The course is scenic, sitting on more than 100 acres, with several lakes and views of marshland. Players will find deep, lush fairways and fast greens, but not an abundance of woods and fairway bunkers.
“We have quick, small greens and the course defends itself by being right up against the marsh and wetlands area,” says Brian McFadden, the club operations manager for Wildwood. “The yardage would say this course is almost 100 years old, but it certainly does not play that way.”
The club administration was formed in 1916, a nine-hole course emerged in 1918 and the full 18-hole layout opened in 1922. PGA greats Walter Hagen and Arnold Palmer played here. Vin O’Donnell, the club’s first head pro, was also the first secretary for the Philadelphia Section PGA.
The course came to reflect its timeline. Wildwood puts an emphasis on tee-shot placement and second shots that focus more on accuracy than length. This facility rewards precision and putting over sheer power. Yardage demands off the tee are modest, as most members play from 6,128 yards and some select the back tee boxes of 6,714 yards.
What the course yields in yardage, however, it recoups with an accent on positioning. Its small greens, for example, won’t hold the below-average approach shot and wind factors in. As a result, some old-school tactics remain prominent. One of them is the bump-and-run shot, in which players punch the ball up short of the green and allow it to roll on.
“There are still some players who have that shot perfected,” McFadden says. “You keep it below the hole. The bump-and-run is a great strategy if you are putting well and the speed of our greens makes that shot even more important.”
The bump-and-run shot demands more club movement than a pitch, but less than a full iron. It might work from a yardage area of 30 to 60 yards away from the green. Because no clubs are designed specifically for those distances, one’s ability to punch and steer the shot requires distinct skills.
One of the most interesting holes here is the second, a par-5 hole with par-4 distance. It can play 465 yards from the back or 407 from the next forward set. It offers players an opportunity for birdie, but requires a straight shot and an even more precise approach uphill through a narrow fairway. The green is one of the smallest on the course and is guarded by bunkers. The challenge of the second shot is gauging the uphill effect into the power of the stroke. Shots that carry through the green are penalized by a sharp dropoff behind it.
Sixteen represents another creative task. It is a 134-yard par-3 featuring one of the few forced carries on the course. Players must clear water and account for breezes that come into the picture. They must often start the ball over the lake and enable the wind to blow it away from the water onto to the left side of the green.
The 385-yard eighth is considered the No. 1 handicap hole. It has out of bounds to the left and a sloping affect on the right that puts players further away from the hole.