There are riches in niches.
Hamilton Trails Golf Club in Mays Landing owns a comfortable spot in the local golf landscape. It is the area’s only regulation nine-hole establishment, and, at 3,265 yards, has enough length to make one use every club in the bag. The back-tees yardage equals a 6,530 18-hole layout if someone decides to play a second time.
This is also one of the few places that does not furnish tee times. Just walk up, pay and play. Golfers trade the guaranteed start time for informality.
“We will get you out in no more than 20 minutes but you may also be able to come up and get right out,” says Jack Bucceri, who owns Hamilton Trails along with his wife Mary Jo and son Andrew. “The course is in outstanding shape and the rains we have had recently helped. We also found something new to add this year.”
That would be seniors, whose nine-hole, $20 rate has been extended from Tuesdays to Mondays through Fridays. Hamilton Trails also has an open scramble on Monday nights, a women’s league on Wednesdays and men’s league on Thursdays.
“Golf is a social game,” the elder Bucceri says. “Almost everyone who comes out to play brings someone along with them, this is the type of activity people like to enjoy with their friends. We have seen a good response to it.”
Nine-hole layouts gain increasing significance in an age of reduced leisure time. A two-hour round appeals to people, as does the option of buying a second round after playing the first. One can also obtain Hamilton Trails’ best value by committing to 18 holes in the beginning. That costs $30, only $7 more than the nine-hole rate.
The course also offers a frequent player card, with 10 purchased rounds leading to one free greens fee, cart excluded. It’s a total free round for anyone who walks.
Hamilton Trails will prompt experienced players to make some shot-making decisions and it won’t intimidate beginners. For the most part, there are no large fairway traps or bodies of water to discourage high-handicap players.
The opening hole is a nice dogleg left par-4 that tempts players to cut off some yardage by aiming left, but not so far left that they enter water. A drive that’s too far and straight may find Ocean Heights Avenue. It is not uncommon to see 3-woods or irons used off the tee.
The second is a straight par 4 at 390 yards from the back tees the third is the longest at 520 yards. It requires three strong shots to reach the green in regulation. Hole five is a par-3 over water at 170 yards from the back and the seventh is a tricky 370-yard par-4 that bends to the left. This subtle dogleg is a bit sneaky in that a well-placed drive on the left may produce a blocked view of the green and a second shot that must be punched into the fairway.
“This is also the most unique green on the course,” Andrew Bucceri says. “It has an upper level, so you are on a two-tiered green. That makes an interesting challenge.”
The ninth has been cited as a signature hole by this publication in the past. It is a difficult par-3 at 190 yards from the back set of tees and must battle wind and the threat of water.
TAP-INS: There are four sets of tees, the most forward being 2,700 yards.
The club retains a high-profile attachment to dogs as goodwill ambassadors. “Silvio”, who greeted guests in the pro shop for many years, passed away last year. “Bruno,” a black lab, is the unofficial new ranger.
Cheri Rice Cottelli, an excellent instructor, is available for private lessons.