Fore! Here comes an encore.
The brand new Shore Club just announced an extension of its recruitment program. Fall Fore Free enables players to receive the remainder of this golf season at no cost by making a 50 percent commitment toward full 2019 member dues. The 2019 season begins March 1, meaning this offer provides an abundance of free golf and a waived initiation fee.
This test-drive approach has been used successfully at area golf establishments over recent years. The Shore Club is touting its re-branding and re-capitalization after being sold last year. Its phase-by-phase, $1.5 million upgrade includes the entrance way, Grand Ballroom, bunker restoration, new carts with USB ports and a reach-out to the public. Although it remains a private facility, Shore Club offers a $155 social membership to all non-golfing social activities. Non members can also access golf lessons and upcoming holiday events like Toys for Tots.
This is an interesting glimpse at the evolution of private clubs. Wildwood was a favorite of golf legend Arnold Palmer, who played it extensively while stationed nearby as a Coast Guard in the 1950s. Palmer even wrote the club a congratulatory letter on its 100th anniversary in 2016. Pictures throughout the facility recognize the club’s history. Yet the future lies in attracting both golfers and non-golfers. Shore Club did so boldly, with a major financial investment synonymous with the booming economy.
“We’ve always been told that we have an outstanding golf course and now we have amenities to go with that,” says Amanda Ruhl, the director of membership, marketing and special events for the Cape May Court House facility. “You have to adapt to the whirlwind of change. We know this is the second club for many of the members, who may want to play here during the prime time of the year. They are always on vacation at the Shore Club. You will be able to play here in under four hours and get back to the family and you can also bring them here. We are family friendly.”
The Grand Ballroom reflects the club’s aesthetic panache. It now has quartz bar tops, stone-back walls, up-lighting and Chiavari chairs, as seen in the White House. A large crystal chandelier accents the dance floor. A new patio is also projected for the area.
The golf course is tight, tricky and challenging, known for subtly breaking greens that are fast “and getting faster,” according to Ruhl. Six tee boxes range from 6,714 to 3,765 yards. The most picturesque is 16, a par-3 offering players a different position to challenge water on the right. From the back box, 155 yards, the tee shots must go straight over the water. As tee boxes move forward, they take the water out of play. One can avoid that altogether and play up the left side, but the approach shot must then clear a landing area, trap and find positioning on a large green. If you are on your game, this looks like the type of hole you will par half the time and bogey the other half.
Eight is considered the signature hole, as the fairway narrows the further one hits the ball. It runs 393 yards from the back tees. Long drives must be accurate or find the rough and trees. A trap guards the left side of the green, which has subtle breaks despite being the flattest green on the course.
The 11th is a long, solid dog-leg right, playing 409 yards from the back and 360 yards from the mid-tees. The best way to play it is hit the drive long enough to clear the left-side fairway trap and find a spot in the fairway. Forget going over the right-side fairway trap unless you are a long hitter. The green is protected by sand on the left and right. The first two-thirds of the green slopes to the front and the back third slopes to the right.
Shore Club touts 15 as one of the best par 5s you will ever play. It plays 545 yards from the back and 408 yards from the mid-tees. The wide fairway is deceiving. The tee ball must be placed left-center, setting up perhaps the most interesting shot of the day. The second shot, whether attempting to lay up or go for the green, has trouble all around. There is water and out of bounds on the right, a salt marsh on the left and two sand traps that choke off an easy entrance to the large, undulating putting surface. A smart move could be a driver and a safe second shot into the fairway, setting up the approach.
The club has two extra holes for practice. Talk about a tough first assignment: Doug Larson, the course superintendent, was hired just in time to clear the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.