It sits on a nice plot of land, in Mays Landing, like an old friend.
Mays Landing Golf Club has orchestrated a number of personalities over the years. It was built in the early 1960’s by the late Leo Fraser, who also owned Atlantic City Country Club and once served as president of the PGA tour. It pre-dated the abundance of new facilities springing up in this area during the 1990’s. Mays Landing has little of the “target” golf found on new courses, like fairway traps in the landing area or shots that must clear water to reach the green. It is a dependable, straightforward golf challenge.
The club has also been innovative, experimenting with a kiddie course and bocce courts over the years. It unfurled another nuance two months ago. While the back tees register 6,395 yards, the forward set distance is 5,083 and just got shorter. The facility installed orange tee boxes, roughly 30-50 yards further forward than the reigning red tee boxes.
“It has made a great difference for a number of people,” says Bill Papa, the PGA pro for Mays Landing. “I think we really found something there. The forward tees help people get the ball down the fairway better and if golf is to be enjoyable, you have to be able to finish your round and not have such a difficult time reaching the green. We have a tee for everybody. If you make the courses a little bit shorter, you’ll have golfers.”
That’s an accurate reflection of new-age thinking, but Mays Landing also salutes its past. Some holes remain exceptionally challenging to lower-handicap players. Two of them unfold consecutively.
The sixth hole can be picturesque, aesthetic, and demanding, depending upon which tee box is selected.
From the back tees, this par 3 exceeds 200 yards and would require a low wood or hybrid to reach the green. From the more realistic mid-tees, it still demands a high to mid-iron shot and accuracy. Water runs across the fairway and also sits to the right. A gigantic sand trap lurks on the left. The green slopes upward and the woods behind it produce a no-man’s land. Going over this green may result in an impossible follow-up shot.
A traditionalist on his or her game can try this from the 200-yard distance and reach a tremendous feeling for obtaining par. Otherwise “it’s not uncommon for people to lay up on this hole rather than go over it,” Papa says. “It is a beautiful par 3, one of the nicest holes you will ever see. To some, it is too long of a hole with the small green, but it is a real challenge.”
The green entrance is a funnel. The flag position is important on this hole. It is better to be putting uphill toward the hole. Downhill putts can become nightmares, with balls rolling off the green.
The seventh provides an exercise in pinpoint golf. Two creeks run across the fairway, separated by a few yards. Most tee shots will clear the first and be short of the second, but it’s not uncommon for players to end up in one of the hazards.
And then there’s eight, a formidable par 5 at 527 yards from the mid tee set. Thick woods mark the right and left sides and the terrain tilts sharpy right to left. It is not uncommon for shots to land in the left fairway, presumably safe, and then roll into the woods. The green is large, elevated and guarded. Shot placement is important on this hole. It is a legitimate “three-shot hole” in industry parlance, meaning it’s nearly impossible to reach this green in two. The second shot is all about setting up the angle one wants for the third-shot approach.
The club opened in 1962 with an exhibition match between PGA stars Sam Snead and Tony Lema. It’s one of the rare times a public course would be played by the pros.