Imagine this statement to friends:
“Today, we’re playing Pebble Beach. Next week it’s Oakmont and then maybe Torrey Pines.”
Is that possible? In a virtual way, yes, as someone can actually experience more than 80 renowned courses via simulation in the Club 1897 Virtual Golf and Sport room at another famous establishment, Atlantic City Country Club.
The indoor venue was launched last summer and named in honor of the year Atlantic City Country Club began operations. History casts a long shadow here, as this was the birthplace of the birdie along with the modern-day Seniors tour. The late Leo Fraser, who owned this club, was once the president of the PGA tour and brought the biggest names in the golf and sports world to this Northfield facility.
The outdoor and indoor worlds have now come together.
“We incorporate the rich history with what customers also love now,” Mike Burke, the club’s director of golf, says while observing banners in the 1897 room denoting both recent local champions and the 1980 tournament win by Don January that launched golf’s Senior Tour.
The indoor facility, informally baptized with a public seminar last summer from Golf Channel commentator Sara Brown, has found an additional niche: leagues.
Burke says they caught on over the winter and they will begin anew in late October.
“You can have two-member teams,” he says, “and you play against other teams for a season of perhaps eight to 10 weeks. There’s not only the beauty of experiencing a famous course, but you can gather in there and compete against your friends.”
The events unfold via the use of simulators (which have an additional use for golf lessons). The simulators take patrons through the course they can “play”. The screen will guide one’s shot through the visual terrain of famed courses. Varied wind conditions and arrows denote yardage to the green and a putt’s projected break, bringing the video-game element into play. Other games offered here include Home Run Derby, High Heat Pitching, Quarterback Challenge, Field Goal Kicking, Basketball Shoot Out and carnival games.
The room is an arcade, a golf course and meeting place.
“We have the space to do it here and that’s an important consideration,” Burke says. “We have had junior clinics all sorts of social activities and now the leagues. They are a lot of fun.”
Indeed. Think of winter conditions or time constraints that would normally discourage someone from playing a full round. This can be accomplished here in about an hour for a nine-hole experience, although times vary.
Outside, Atlantic City’s actual course maintains its mystique. The national magazine Golfweek lists it as the New Jersey’s top course you can play in its 2019 edition. Sister courses Ballamor in Egg Harbor Township and Scotland Run in Williamstown also made the Top 10.
“I would put this layout up against anybody’s,” Burke indicates about the Atlantic City course using four tee boxes ranging from 6,577 to 5,228 yards. “It is memorable because the front is more traditional and the back has all the terrific views.
“You may also be surprised when you look at the yardage from the back tees and think that 6,577 isn’t all that long,” he adds. “That may normally be true, there are some very long par-4’s (417-436 yards) on the front nine.”
Some holes here 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 mid tees most people play are 6,175 yards.
Burke loves the seventh, a 425-yard par-4 that requires two long shots to the green. The approach will be in the neighborhood of 200 yards for most and he advises playing the left side when approaching the green, which slopes to the left. This strategy will often allow an uphill putt on the green.
The ninth is considered the toughest hole with a severe dogleg left and a demanding 436-yard, par-4 distance. This hole is an excellent representation of how one views his/her ability. The right side is safer, avoiding trouble, but also adds to the length of the second shot. Flirt with the edge of the dogleg if you like, and risk out of bounds or a bad lie.
All season long now, a variety of choices are here. This fall, one can “tee off” at Pebble Beach, Oakmont and Torrey Pines.
But don’t forget Atlantic City.