The storied golf course where Bob Hope and Bing Crosby once played and the terms “birdie” and "eagle" were coined has been transferred from the portfolio of a casino giant to a family-owned golf club operator.
Caesars Entertainment Inc. has sold the Atlantic City Country Club to the Ottinger family, who will now own three South Jersey golf courses and plans to market the trio together as a draw for a regional golf getaway.
The Ottinger family, which will work in partnership with Caesars, purchased the 117-year-old Northfield golf course for an undisclosed price and officially took over operations Tuesday. The family also owns and operates the Ballamor Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township and Scotland Run Golf Club in Williamstown, Gloucester County.
Liz Norton-Scanga, a spokeswoman for the Ottingers, said the roughly 100 full-time and part-time employees at the Atlantic City Country Club will be retained. The family has no plans for major changes to the property and believes it is perfect the way it is, she said.
The course underwent a $6 million renovation between 1998 and 2000 shortly after the golf and social club was sold to Hilton Hotels Corp. by the Fraser family that had owned it for more than 50 years. Caesars Entertainment Corp. became the property owner through a series of casino corporation acquisitions.
“It’s just a beautiful property,” Norton-Scanga said. “You walk in, and you just know that you’re surrounded by history.”
The club, which spent more than 100 years as a members-only facility before opening to the public, has hosted six national championships, and a host of celebrities and legendary golfers have walked on the greens. Among them are Sam Snead, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Howard Everitt, Nancy Lopez and Jack Nicklaus.
The par 70 course that measures 6,577 yards and has a slope of 133, rose to prominence after local golf legend Leo Fraser purchased it in 1946. He was responsible for bringing the first PGA Senior Tour event to the club in 1980.
Caesars said the sale will benefit members of its Total Reward program, who will now have access to preferred tee times and discounted pricing at all three courses owned by the Ottinger family. Details of the discounts were not released Wednesday.
“The club has consistently served the Atlantic City community with world-class golf for over a century and is a major reason why Atlantic City has become one of the greatest resort and entertainment destinations on the East Coast,” said Rick Mazer, regional president and general manager of Harrah’s Resort. “Caesars Entertainment is proud to expand the offerings for premier golf and country club experiences for our most loyal guests through this newly forged partnership with the Ottinger family group.”
Atlantic City Country Club, Ballamor and Scotland Run, will now be known the “official golf courses” for Caesars Entertainment customers in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey markets. Likewise, Caesars Entertainment — which owns Caesars, Bally’s, Harrah’s and Showboat casinos — will be known as the “official Atlantic City hotel provider for Ottinger family golf courses.
When the course was purchased by Hilton Hotels Corp. in 1997, the casino company said it hoped to attract premium gamblers with more diversified resort offerings in an effort to compete with Las Vegas.
With somewhat of the same goal in mind, marketing of the region’s golf courses has seen a push in recent years as Atlantic City has hoped to broaden its appeal. Today, however, the goal is not to attract high-end gamblers but tourists looking for a range of activities.
The Greater Atlantic City Golf Association, with 18 courses as members, received a $250,000 marketing grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in 2012. Previously, the group spent roughly $70,000 annually but said more needed to be done to keep golfers from flocking to Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Ocean City, Md., instead of Atlantic City.
“It's reassuring to know that the Ottinger family, a name synonymous with premium golf in the region, has purchased Atlantic City Country Club,” Golf Association President Tom Sullivan said. “They have been an important partner to the Greater Atlantic City Golf Association with Ballamor and Scotland Run. Adding Atlantic City Country Club transforms their offerings into one of the best trifectas in our growing golf and gaming destination.”
Norton-Scanga said Scotland Run has relationships with some Philadelphia hotels for its customers, but noted that owners could now suggest spending a day at Scotland Run and then staying in Atlantic City while playing the other two courses.
Mike Charlton, a golf promoter for GolfAC.com, said he believed he will have an easier time marketing the property under the new ownership, noting that casino ownership can be restrictive.
“The Ottingers are very forward thinking,” Charlton said. “This course is really the crown jewel of our golf destination, and they’ll be continuing a great tradition.”
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