Welcome to a blast from the past.
Ocean Acres Country Club, the Manahawkin-based course built in 1967, has trademarks from its time. There is not much demand for target golf — the need to hit shots over fairway bunkers and lakes — but this course puts a premium on length and accuracy off the tee. Three significant par 5s above or near 500 yards make the tee shot the most important stroke on the hole. Ocean Acres has enough distance and nuance to pass its test with golfers.
Overall, the front nine is open, allowing generous landing areas. Trees tighten up the back nine, making the round more difficult for the average player. Water comes into play on the 10th, via an island green, and the 11th, with a left-side distraction off the tee. The course narrows on holes 12, 16, 17 and 18. Woods also come into play for the average golfer. Although the distance requirements remain consistent, the demand for accuracy becomes greater.
The back tees of 6,557 yards create a challenge for long-ball strikers. The next forward set of 6,234 will be comfortable for most players. The best deal at this time of year is the weekday twilight rate from 1 until 5 p.m for $39, which includes greens fees and cart. Always contact clubs in advance, however, as rates change.
Ocean Acres features a healthy assortment of long, credible par-5s. They present scoring opportunities, but require long, strong tee shots.
The first hole, at 468 yards from the mid tees and the 18th, at 539 yards, gives the course a unique package: par 5s to open and close the course. Throw in the 506-yard 15th as an example of needing a long, accurate tee shot. The seventh also will hold its own. It stands at 503 yards and looks fairly narrow, considering the fact a player needs a drive and fairway wood (or hybrid) to gain good position for an approach shot.
Length also plays prominently into the 9th, which Ocean Acres considers its No. 1 handicap hole. It is 411 yards and slopes ever-so-slightly to the right. The hole requires a long tee shot, left-center of the fairway and a precise approach.
The 10th is an aesthetic hole. It is 155 yards from the white tees, an imposing 182 from the back and requires a carry over water. Shots carry to an island green, surrounded on three sides by water. This par-3 sets a tone for the back nine. Hit one shot less than perfect and you are looking at double or triple bogey. Drive the ball well and a par or birdie can provide an emotional springboard for the rest of the round.
Pockets of holes can determine one's success on the front and back side. The fifth through seventh create a neat par-3, par-4 and par-5 package. The fifth is a dogleg right at 368 yards and the tee shot should be aimed left. Gamblers can try to shave off yardage by cutting the right-side corner, but the risk may outweigh the reward.
Six is a par-3 at 183 yards from the second set of tees, 195 from the back. No gimmicks, just a straight tee shot to a fairly narrow green. From the par-3, players shift to the long, narrow 7th.
On the back side, 15-18 comprise an interesting hole set. The 15th is a sharp dogleg left par 5. Sixteen and 17 are fairly standard par 4's and the closing hole, at 539 yards, is all you can hit for the first two shots.