Monday, August 18, 2014

Atlantic City's Autumn Golf Splendor

Seeking healthy, group friendly alternatives to the glitz and glamour of its world-renowned Boardwalk, Atlantic City visitors are 'falling' for golf in droves

(ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.) — So your cell phone has flat-lined … for good. You need a replacement juicer and you’ve just scored big after splitting aces at an Atlantic City blackjack table.

You can scoop up your chips and head for the cage, cash in and celebrate in anonymity ... or take a stroll through Caesars, traverse the enclosed walkway “over” the famed AC Boardwalk — and within seconds find yourself swimming in a commercial bacchanal, otherwise known as the mall on the ocean.

The itch to let the world in on your score needs scratching, so you quickly solve your juice problem at the Apple Store and squeeze out a boastful tweet that will make your friends jealous and your significant other wondering why the heck you didn’t call when you said you would.

The folks of any gaming community will do everything in their power to keep you contained — hypnotized by the allure of the colorful lights and mesmerizing sounds of the gamble.

But in Atlantic City, there is one thing that could possibly lure you back to reality and out into the salty air — and that is golf. Sure, it may be cool outside and you were hot at the table, but who cares? You feel rich either way.

One of the nation’s truly great gaming experiences is playing golf on one or more of the Atlantic City region’s 18 courses in the fall. With the colors changing and the ocean breezes constantly creating new and refreshing challenges at every turn, PlayACGolf is a no-brainer for your next golf destination.

Inside Looking Out

Atlantic City is tough to beat with its multitude of coastal challenges. Three facilities in particular draw the attention of golfers staying near the downtown casinos due to their locales less than 15 minutes away — Brigantine Golf Links, Atlantic City Country Club and the dual layouts at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.

But to truly enjoy the fall colors on the golf course, it may be preferable to seek out a few other courses located a bit more inland where intricate routings among hardwoods and evergreens run counter to their coastal proximities.

This select group includes Ballamor Golf Club, Blue Heron Pines Golf Club, Harbor Pines Golf Club, Mays Landing Golf and Country Club, Shore Gate Golf Club, Sea Oaks Country Club and Vineyard Golf at Renault Winery.

A traditional parkland-style course, Ballamor was built into the woods with no houses surrounding it. The layout is actually reminiscent of some of the Pinehurst courses in North Carolina. With its unique “pod” setup (four different sections characterize the layout), there’s also a lot of wooden bridge work to be negotiated on the Dan Schlegel —— then with Ault, Clark & Associates — design.

As a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, Blue Heron Pines is particularly pleasing to the eye during the autumn golf season. Its big-league design will also be on exhibition, as not one but two replica holes from Pine Valley can be found at Blue Heron Pines. Architect Stephen Kay patterned Blue Heron’s No. 14 off Pine Valley’s seventh and he also replicated a hole from the world’s No. 1 layout on his No. 10 offering. This mature layout, which opened in 1993, is tree-lined, sports some nice water holes and has its share of strategically-placed bunkers.

Though developed as the ultimate inland and residential planning, Harbor Pines, with its 125 acres of protected wildlife, is a forested sanctuary. Most of the holes are designed to be amphitheaters of golf. Aside from the first, ninth and 18th, no two offerings parallel each other. This resort-style course features wide fairways, trees, well-manicured corridors without a lot of forced carries. There are 13 ponds, 120 bunkers and the tees are set up across five areas. Developed with the upscale, daily fee golfer in mind and designed by Stephen Kay, Harbor Pines, with its Carolina feel, provides a private club experience.

Another course cut out of the woods is Mays Landing. Known as the “best affordable golf facility in Southern New Jersey,” it is a fun-and-fair golf course that lights up during the autumn months. With recent upgrades to the design, Mays Landing is sure to deliver on its promise of enjoyable golf and great food and dining après golf.

A final Atlantic City golf course that often draws comparisons to golf in the Carolinas is Shore Gate. Though located only a couple of miles from the ocean, the landscape is remarkably rolling and the vegetation thick. For being so close to the beach, this is unusual. Golfers are often shocked at what they discover when they tee it up at Shore Gate. Its park-like setting also has a Pine Valley “vibe” to it — its intrinsic nature hard to explain until you’ve played it.

As the course located furthest north in the region, Sea Oaks Golf Club features elevated-teeing grounds and wide fairways that play in the fall through a colorful display of towering oaks, maples and pines. The routing actually sports so much undulation across its fairways that finding a level lie can be difficult. And since there is not a lot of trouble off the tees (though some enormous sand bunkers and some water exists), the greens may be your deepest challenge.

Meanwhile located in South Jersey’s Pinelands, Vineyard Golf at Renault Winery may not be your typical parkland setting, but with plenty of vineyards, ponds and some trees to accent the experience, it is certainly one that every golfer will savor during the fall. Designed by Ed Shearon, the meaty 7,200-yard layout is best known for its wide fairways and strategically placed bunkers – though hole No. 7 is most memorable in that it is totally surrounded by the vines. The course offers strategic elements that create risk and reward opportunities on every offering. Though the grapes will be all gone later in the year, the concoctions of the resort’s famed winery – just like the golf – will be steadily aging towards perfection.

Learn more about all 18 Atlantic City courses and book your 2014 golf getaway at

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