ATS Golf / Twisted Dune Golf Club

Players find a stern but fair test at Egg Harbor Township-based Twisted Dune Golf Club. It's a give-and-take proposition. Wide landing areas are countered by significant yardage demands to reach the holes. Greens are challenging but provide a true roll. Don't worry about trees, woods and, for the most part, water, on this Scotland-style layout. But the wind will be prominent. And fescue, the type of deep grass that renders ball unplayable, penalize shots that don't hit the fairway.

“You will get everything here,” says Scott Dunn, general manager and head pro at Twisted Dune, which opened in 2001. “There are fairways bending left, fairways bending right, some greens that are elevated, some that are not. There are so many twists and turns. It seems like you are playing a new course each time you come out here.”

The course features deep ravines, towering grass-covered hills and more than 100 deep traps and bunkers. Four par 5's sit at more than 500 yards and tee boxes address every playing level. The back tees of 7,248 yards could qualify for use in professional golf tournaments. The mid tees of 6,332 yards are plenty long, as is the 5,777-yard layout for Seniors. Wind probably adds 300 yards to the course.

Twisted Dune tests top players, but has also begun making changes to speed play. Fescue near many of the landing areas is being eliminated. So is one level of rough. Tee shots that once became mired in trouble, causing delays as people searched for lost balls and needed punch-out shots just to reach the fairway, have a better chance of staying near the fairway. This should increase pace of play and shave some strokes off the scorecard.

“The front nine is wider and it lets you ease into your round,” Dunn observes. “I think every golf course should be designed like that. The back is tighter and demands more accuracy. One thing I love about Twisted Dune is that no two holes are the same.”

Holes three and four may become the key to scoring on the front nine. The third is a long 198-yard par 3 funneling into a narrow green connected to traps on the left and right. The tee shot demands both length AND precision.

Twisted Dune then becomes “Four-Mid able.” It lists the fourth as the most difficult hole on the entire course, for good reason. This is a par-5 that bends right and slopes uphill. The hole plays 517 from the mid tees and 571 yards from the back. A stiff left-to-right breeze often kicks up in the afternoon, pushing shots into the rough. Wind complicates the objective of the keeping the first two shots on the left-center portion of the fairway. The breezes add length and accuracy concerns to the hole.

The ninth ranks as a birdie opportunity. This par-5 plays 495 yards from the mid tees. Although the fairway slopes toward a significant body of water on the left, the green can be reached with two excellent shots. Beware the risk of shots rolling all the way across the green into the water. The second shot must be hit high enough to stop when it drops. A hooked line drive may find water.

Eleven looks straightforward at 388 yards, but the tee shot must travel far enough to provide a full view of the green. The 13th is a picturesque tee-to-green par 3. The tee and green are elevated. Fescue and other assorted problems sit below the hole. A tee shot that isn't perfect will result in a scramble for par, even bogey, as a player must navigate uphill in thick grass. A wide body of water sits on the right and a couple large traps sit on the left of the green.

TAP-INS: The course added a new special rate for locals. Residents of Atlantic and Cape May counties get a 20 percent discount. Just show your driver's license. The popular $25, nine-hole rate after 4:30 p.m is back. So is the 20 percent discount for seniors on Monday through Thursday.

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