County courses provide an interesting niche for the golf world.

Subsidized by local governments, they maintain a strong product, provide inexpensive greens fees for county players and offer reasonable rates for nearby residents.

Ocean County Golf Course at Atlantis is no exception. Built in 1960, this Little Egg Harbor Township facility keeps going strong. It will test low-handicap golfers with back tees of 6,848 yards, accommodate beginners and juniors with forward tees that have now been moved up to 4,900 yards and represent a fair test for the average golfer at the mid-tee range of 6,432 yards.

It was designed by George Fazio, a Canadian Open champion who also built PGA National in Palm Springs, Fla., Turtle Bay in Hawaii and Pinehurst No. 6 in Hilton Head, S.C. The course is classic and traditional in the sense of demanding long, precise tee shots to set up the holes. It will be difficult to scramble here if the driver isn't working.

This course offers strong value and a stiff test.

“We have a traditional style facility in that it is not gimmicked up, as a lot of new places are,” says Sean Hennessy, the golf facilities manager for Ocean County at Atlantis. “You don't have a lot of waste bunkers, and there is not a lot of undulations in the green and the fairways. This is a fair golf course and it is quite challenging. Some of the holes are cut through tree-wooded areas and the fairways are narrow. We have water holes, too.

“There are people who play 100 to 150 rounds a year telling us that Atlantis is one of the best layouts in New Jersey.”

Fun is sprinkled in, too.

The sixth hole is a tantalizing par 3, about 150 yards from the mid tees. A substantial pond sits in the middle of the hole, large enough to bother a beginner, but small enough for an average player to hit over and onto the green.

The 11th features a longer version of this challenge. It is a 179-yard par 3, nearly completely over water. The good news is the presence of a bi-level green that is long and narrow once players clear the water.

Scott Binkley, the Atlantis golf superintendent, says 15 offers an interesting choice. It is a 338 yard par 4 from the mid tees and the fairway narrows closer to the green.

“The drive can be hit two ways,” he says. “You can go with a short iron into the narrow fairway and have a longer second shot or you can try to shorten the approach shot by hitting a driver, but there are staggered grass bunkers down the fairway. If you don't hit the tee shot right where you want to, you won't have a second shot to the green.”

This is the classic toss-up between brains and brawn. Take your choice. Hit a driver and a wedge to the green or settle for a 4-iron and 6 or 7-iron. Just be straight. And account for one more variable.

“You can play this hole hundreds of times and, depending upon the wind, you are not hitting the same club every time,” he laughs.

Seventeen is a long par 5 at 536 yards. It takes about 250 yards off the tee just to see the dogleg right. The final approach shot must clear water.

Eighteen is a strong finishing hole. At 387 yards with a dogleg left and an uphill finishing climb, it demands a long accurate tee shot and probably a mid-iron approach to reach the putting surface. The hole plays about 40 yards longer than the yardage indicates.

TAP-INS: Check out Cuisine on the Green, a public pub and restaurant with a full-time culinary program that runs out of the facility. Cooking demonstrations and classes are also available. Get more information at CusineOnTheGreen.com

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