To enhance its future, Atlantic City Country Club spent $5 million upgrading ballrooms, decks and views of the casino skyline. The expansion project includes a stylish, open-air terrace, enhanced entryway, lobby and exterior facade.
To embrace its past, the Northfield facility unveils legends. Dating back to 1897, this establishment maintains an upscale charm preserved by different owners. The course has been played by Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Bob Hope, Nancy Lopez and Mickey Mantle. It was the birthplace of the birdie, the launch site of the national Seniors men’s tour and the headquarters of the late Leo Fraser, who served as PGA president.
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Locker rooms, complete with an on-staff attendant and individualized name plates, rekindle the elegance of a classic age. Memorabilia and videos exist throughout the property.
“To me, this is the history of golf,” says Barry Shewalter, PGA head golf professional for Atlantic City Country Club. “When you think of all the major tournaments, the big names, etc., it’s priceless. The course itself is old style. It’s tough, has small greens and the bunkers are deep. We have the marshes, the wind, which is usually different on the back nine, as you are often playing into it.”
The course sports four sets of tee boxes ranging from 6,577 yards down to 5,228. The mid tees run 6,175 yards. Some holes allow the pitch-and-run shot, in which players can strike a low-trajectory chip shot to land in front of the green and then roll onto it. Other holes are affected by breezes, which influence club selection.
The 15th, from the mid and back tees, is a club favorite. It is a par 3, about 172 yards from the mid tees, with terrain breaking sharply to the right. Wind usually pushes the ball right, toward the marsh area beside the green. The marshes represent trouble, as does the prospect of pulling one’s drive too far left and chipping onto a green that runs toward the marsh. From the back tees, players will have to slightly nudge the ball right to reach the green, but not too much.
“Most of the time the wind is in your face on this hole, so you often have to add a couple club lengths,” Shewalter says. “A par feels like a birdie on the 15th.
The 16th features marsh all the way down the right side of an otherwise short hole, 353 yards. A drive that is straight will set up a short iron to the green, even if the tee shot is not long.
Nine is viewed as the toughest assignment on the course. It is a 436-yard par-4 dogleg left, with the risk-reward scenario of cutting the corner to clip off yardage fashioning more risk than reward. The angle is probably too sharp to nail perfectly and the penalty for getting caught behind the trees is a punch-out, which essentially becomes a one-stroke penalty.
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“This is a tough finishing hole on the front side,” Shewalter asserts. “You even have to be careful of hitting the ball too far straight. Because of the angle on the hole, you can shoot right through the fairway and be in the trees if you go too long.”
From the mid-tees, too long would probably be around 250 yards. A straight drive 210-230 yards will likely be ideal here. The approach shot is uphill.
“If you are putting for a birdie on this hole,” Shewalter says, “You have hit two excellent shots.”
Atlantic City has an unusual distinction of five par-3’s. They are the 4th, 8th, 12th, 15th and 17th. Seventeen is a blind shot uphill. Although the yardage is not difficult, the guessing game of club selection is.
TAP-INS: Atlantic City is open to the public, with rates ranging form $99-25. Memberships also are available, which includes access to sister properties Ballamor in Egg Harbor Twp and Scotland Run in Williamstown.
“If we have an outing here or you find it hard to get on, you can easily get on one of the other courses,” Shewalter says about membership privileges.