It began with a landmark.
Shore Gate, draped in accolades since its 2002 opening, unfurled the golf version of a tourist attraction. Its 648-yard, par-5 ninth hole gained notoriety among golf insiders, luring them to the Ocean View property.
Golfers had to challenge this mammoth dogleg left with the large body of water down the left side, the narrow green, and the necessity of stringing three tremendous shots together.
The hole remains a selling point and the course has grown around it, with added tee boxes opening the facility to more skill levels and the removal of some trees aiding air flow and sunlight.
“We like to think we have created a memorable course,” says Harry Bittner, general manager of Shore Gate Golf Club. “It gives people something that reminds them of Oakmont, Pebble Beach or Pine Valley,” he adds. “We still hear comments about the ninth because players tell us they want to come back and get even if they didn’t play it as well as they wanted to.”
Golfweek magazine, a national publication, ranked Shore Gate No. 5 on its list of the top courses you can play in New Jersey for 2019.
Players find a variety of challenges here. Shore Gate stretches 7,227 yards from the back-tee range recommended only for professionals or for those who can shoot close to par. The white tee boxes of 6,391 are the most used. There are 88 bunkers, seven ponds and lakes and an emphasis both on length and accuracy.
How does one play the ninth, one of best holes in all of southern New Jersey? Pros often advise approaching long holes in segments, simply advancing the ball with reasonable distance on each shot. A short, dribbled tee shot on this hole, for example, can lead to an eight or a nine. But even three shots of 150 yards each would leave one with a wedge to the green and two putts for a bogey, one for a stolen par.
Water runs all the way down the left side and the tee shot must get past a number of bunkers. Ideal strategy is a long drive to the right side, a second shot to set up positioning and a third, often a mid or low iron to a narrow green. Sand and water penalize any shot that’s too far left in the green area. The rough sits just off to the right. The few birdies scored on this hole have been set up with three woods to the green.
The 14th, by contrast, is considered the best birdie opportunity. Yardage is short on this par-3, 112 yards from the mid tees, but the green is encircled by seven traps. One can’t run this ball onto the putting surface. A well-hoisted tee shot must land, and stay, on the green.
Twelve is a par-4 at 355 yards. The green is elevated. It sits on a peninsula, with traps left and right. Water also marks the right side. The putting surface is open at the front, but it is fairly narrow.
On 15, a 350-yard par-4, the tee shot placement is critical. A longer hitter trying to cut the dogleg right faces the possibility of water, which runs up most of the right side. Players may select a 3-wood over the driver just to keep the ball in play. A tee shot positioned on the left side of the fairway adds yardage, yet safety to the approach shot.
The course has long par-4s at the 10th and 18th. It is important to hit long, playable tee shots here. Nine-hole rate of $40 after 1 p.m. can accommodate busy schedule. Call to check updates.
‘Fore’ our four-legged friends
Mark Aug. 15 for a four-person shotgun scramble at Blue Heron Pines, put on in conjunction with the Funny Farm Rescue and Sanctuary, which saves and enhances the lives of countless animals.
The event has a noon registration and a 1:30 p.m. start. Players can also register online. The $125 entry fee includes golf, a cart and Italian dinner buffet. Awards include closest-to-the pin, longest drive, 50/50 and a basket auction.
Sponsorships for different holes also are available.
For more information, contact the Funny Farm at FunnyFarmRescue.org.