Fore! Welcome to another season of At The Shore golf coverage, highlighted by an area-wide theme of establishments cross-promoting golf with food and beverage.
McCullough’s Emerald Golf Links takes “hybrid,” a term used to describe combined iron and wood clubs, into a description of its establishment. The Egg Harbor Township facility has slowly, but definitively, unfurled a golf-social blend over the past three years. A pub area, dining room and deck can accommodate several hundred people. Notice the corn-hole outside the entrance, dart-boards and shuffleboard inside. There’s a Golden Tee video game. A drink or meal is a logical post-round extension.
For establishments like this, golf has met “Cheers.”
“This is a terrific place to play a round, hang with your friends and enjoy a great atmosphere,” says Tom Sullivan, the general manager of the facility that opened in 2002 and was named for then-Mayor Sonny McCullough. “We have a lot to offer you.”
One of its best golf packages is a $399, 10-round deal, good for one year and redeemable before 8 a.m. and after noon. This hits a consumer sweet spot of securing an affordable rate for several rounds without limiting the availability to play other courses. The membership option also is available for those who want to commit to McCullough’s all year. The higher-echelon member options offer free cart usage until June 30. As always, check on changing specials.
The course prides itself on vistas and elevation changes. It was built on rolling terrain at the site of a former landfill and features elevated layouts resembling famous golf holes in Scotland, Ireland and England. It represents fun golf, ranging from 6,535-4,462 yards. Some tee boxes are “combos,” a sampling of two different driving areas.
Nine new tees were added last year and the course was shortened to drive more play and enhance novices.
“One of the comments we heard was that McCullough’s was difficult because of the elevation changes and some blind shots,” Sullivan says. “We have made the course easier for a number of players, but you must still hit good shots to score well here.”
Multiple tee boxes are a by-product of the sport’s booming popularity. The United States Golf Association advises players to find their most appropriate tee area, usually a forward one, and work their way back to the more challenging tees as their game improves. A good way to determine the right place to drive from is to ask the club pro or find an area that leaves a mid to high iron approach shot to the green after a respectable tee shot.
McCullough’s is wide open and won’t have many trees, but golfers will find rolling hills, fescue playing the role of deep rough and summertime breezes affecting hole length and club selection. Most greens are not protected by bunkers, allowing players the option of hitting low approach shots or punch-and-run shots onto some greens.
The 8th is a visual signature hole. It is designed after the 10th hole at Turnberry in Scotland, starts from an elevated tee and is a dogleg right at 385 yards. A pond mimics the ocean to the left on the original design. A unique fairway bunker with turf island in the center sits 75 yards from the green. If the tee shot is less than average, the bunker may encourage players to lay up in front of it on the second shot. This is an enjoyable hole, because nearly any type of drive will put players in position to compete for a good score on it.
The 18th resembles the fourth at Prestwick, in Scotland. It plays 348 yards from the mid-tees, downhill. A long creek on the right is out of bounds (yet still in view of any “heckling friends” watching from the deck.) A simple straight drive will result in a short iron to the hole.
The best birdie opportunity may be the fourth, a short par-4 at 323 yards with few gimmicks or tricks. A good drive will lead to a nine iron or wedge into the hole for many. It replicates the third hole at Nairn, in Scotland.
New USGA rules have shortened the time to look for a ball to three minutes and you no longer have to take the pin out of the hole before putting. Both measures are designed to speed play.