Shore Gate reflects a trend that has gained steam.
Social interaction forges a place alongside golf in the business model. This Ocean View facility, which already holds distinctive course landmarks like a par 5 exceeding 600 yards, is no exception. It has embraced the next wave of business.
Shore Gate opened a deck accommodating about 50 people on July 4th weekend. The food and beverage component, accented by nice furniture and high-top chairs, blends nicely with a scenic course.
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“We wanted to improve the social aspect of the facility,” says Harry Bittner, the general manager and director of golf for Shore Gate. “It’s something for people to enjoy before or after the rounds. We knew that people feel like they are on vacation and we want to give them the shore atmosphere and enjoy some good food. We raised it up to the level of the back of the pro shop and we took out 20 trees behind the clubhouse. You get a real nice look at the course.”
The next couple of months may become the best time for locals to play it. Nearby Sand Barrens has been sold to the Union League of Philadelphia and will reportedly become private in mid October. That’s a stunning development, because public courses almost never become private.
Once that unfolds at Sand Barrens, Shore Gate stands to entertain an abundance of new customers. It is not only the nearest course to Sand Barrens, but attracts a similar type of customer (relatively high end). Although the impact of this this move won’t be fully seen until next year, Shore Gate will become more crowded. An excellent time to play it, therefore is ... right now.
The layout is exceptional. Shore Gate features 88 bunkers, seven bodies of water and five tee boxes. The back set of 7,227 resembles that of a professional tournament. Most average players select the distance of about 6,400 yards, and the most forward set is slightly more than 5,200 yards.
Tee boxes also reflect change. Shore Gate’s initial lure was the high-end, daily-fee market, with a course tough enough to challenge the best players. That menu has expanded to capture a larger base of golfers from varied skill levels.
Shore Gate is widely known for its classic ninth hole, at more than 600 yards. It resembles fabled Pebble Beach with significant water on the left side of the dogleg left. Bittner says it was designed to be a true three-shot hole, balancing the new wave of long hitters with advanced equipment capable of reaching par 5s in two shots.
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The average player here can play the ball right at about 200 to 225 yards off the tee, position the second shot with an iron or hybrid and try to reach the green with a mid-to-low iron. Even four average shots to the green could produce a one-putt par or a satisfying bogey. Taming this “monster” carries long-term bragging rights.
“We still hear many comments about it,” Bittner says. “People tell us that because of the beauty and length of the hole, it is one of the most memorable they have ever played. This is the hole they tell us they replay several times in their mind before they come down here, they try to get even for what happened on the hole last year. If they play the hole well, this is something special for them to bring up throughout the year.”
Bittner believes some other holes have established pedigree in recent years. One of them is the 10th, a 400-yard par-4 for the average player, who must flex some additional muscle. The hole runs uphill to a well-bunkered fairway. The putting surface also is framed by traps, although the front is open to allow a pitch-and-run shot.
“It’s a dynamite hole,” Bittner asserts. “You may have to use an extra club to reach the green, which is very large and somewhat of an undulation, but not dramatic. The architects usually don’t want the green to be too severe on the longer, harder holes.”
The second hole also is interesting. It is 398 yards from the mid tees with water bordering the left side of the hole. Players can engage the strategy of trying to cut off yardage by clipping the corner or decide to be more conservative, play the middle and accept a longer shot into the green. The putting surface is elevated and protected by bunkers.