Golf

Local golf professional Ben Thomas, of Hamilton Township, chips from the sand trap 15th green at the Mays Landing Golf and Country Club.

Mays Landing Golf and Country Club, built in 1961, parallels the area's golf boom. Launched as a public course in an area known for private establishments, Mays Landing filled an important market demand.

It was built by the late Leo Fraser, the PGA tour president who also owned Atlantic City Country Club. Fraser knew this course would need true greens, a blend of tight and wide fairways and hazards that would be challenging without hurting the pace of play. He broke Mays Landing in by having golf legends Sam Snead and Tony Lema play it in 1962. Mays Landing was the king of the area's public-course hill for about three decades.

Then came the deluge of high-end, daily fee courses in Cape May and Atlantic counties. Mays Landing battled to retain its market niche and, for roughly the last two decades, has been viewed as a reasonably-priced, complementary piece of the area’s golf puzzle.

“We are a fun and fair golf course, and we are affordable,” says Jim Fraser, a member of the ownership group. “A lot of people started their golf here. Beyond golf, the service is as good or better than in high-end establishments and the same holds true for the food.”

To maintain its market share, Mays Landing has extended its repertoire to include banquet facilities, women and children's classes and the shortening of holes to speed play.

The course still poses a good test. The back tees are 6,624 yards and the next set most people use are 6,251 yards. Good distance is required on tee shots in order to score effectively. Water hazards are minimal, but can cause trouble on the fourth, sixth, eighth and 15th holes.

Players won't face much “target golf,” in which shots find fairway bunkers or water guarding the green, but the woods become a bigger factor here than at many other courses. The threat of lost balls and penalty strokes enhances the need for accuracy.

That's particularly true on the sixth hole, a par four listed at about 420 yards and dead straight. Trouble lurks with trees on the left and water on the right, which sneaks into into play more than one would think. The hole narrows as the green emerges and will usually penalize any approach shot that strays left or right. A solid drive and a low iron will be necessary to reach the putting surface in regulation. The green is large and produces many three-putts. This is considered the most difficult hole on the course.

But 15 is hard too. The tee area on this par three can be anywhere from 172 yards to 220 on the back two boxes. Consider the obstacle course on this hole: a small creek running across the fairway, a body of water on the right, a greenside bunker left and a tree near the trap. Tall rough and woods lurk behind the green. The green goes uphill, enabling more shots that land there to stay there. But driving the ball too far and trying to hit a return shot downhill from behind the green is treacherous. A par on 15 from the back tees is a strong accomplishment. A birdie is something special.

Seventeen is a tricky par five, at 541 yards from the back tees and 527 from the next set. The fairway slopes right to left substantially. A tee shot struck too far, even if straight, may roll into the dense left-side woods. The fairway dips and then rises to an elevated green. The putting surface is large and breaks sharply. Hug the right-center of the fairway on this hole and be satisfied with par or bogey. A left-side journey on this hole, especially through the woods, can produce a double-figure score.

Eighteen is a strong finishing hole at 412 yards from the back tees. This par four is a dogleg left with a landing area that is narrow in spots. Woods on the left and right come into play.

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