Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

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Shore Club an invigorating experience

Written by Steve Gordon on .

Recently I had the privilege to play a round of golf at The Shore Club, formerly the Wildwood Country Club. After the round my playing partners and I found it to be exactly what Director of Golf Fred Riedel said it was, “a fun golf course to play.”
With the new ownership and physical upgrades to the clubhouse, the 18-hole Wayne Stiles golf course that opened in 1921 isn’t getting overlooked. It’s gone through some changes over the years including the major loss of four holes in 1952 when the Garden State Parkway expanded. But through that and the addition of new holes and the rerouting of the course, it has maintained itself as a quality layout. 
These days The Shore Club offers a must visit experience, whether for challenging golf, a special banquet/wedding occasion or a nice meal as every area of the club has been or is in the process of being spruced up.
While the facilities have been improved, the golf course has not been forgotten. Work has started on bunker renovations and non-essential tree harvesting. While some golfers like well-defined tree lined golf courses but there is a point when trees become obstructions over the character of a golf hole. Eleven and twelve are two replacement holes that fall into that category along with not really having quite the same look and feel as the rest of the course.  
Reidel explained that for a couple years after those holes were built they weren’t used because there were issues of turf conditioning. Those issues were resolved and the holes were incorporated into the course and they are good golf holes. However now there is a plan to make them fit in better with the true nature of the course.
 The plan begins with shortening the 441 yard par 4 (members white tees) 12th hole to about a 360 or 370 risk reward par 4. Then the heavily tree lined left side between it and the 11th hole will be mostly cleared to give it more of an open feel. The end result will be a shorter hole that will retain the water hazard guarding the front of the green and a large specimen tree guarding the dogleg.  
 The preceding 360 yard par 4 eleventh hole is likely to remain as is with some tree removal. However Reidel indicated that there are some at the club who would like to rework it to make it a par 5. This would retain the course as a par 72, but that is a minor issue for this golf director.  The hole is a challenge as it is as the sixth rated handicap hole on the course.
 As for the bunkering, the biggest and most noticeable part of the makeover for members, it has started on holes three and seven. “Primarily the bunkers will be rebuilt and the style will be consistent throughout the course,” Riedel explained. “The floor of the bunkers will be relatively flat and the sod will be rolled down to the bunker much like what was here before.” Holes five and six are next to be done in the ongoing cycle.
 A trip around The Shore Club finds a nice mix of long and short holes in a combination of straight and and tricky doglegs. There are two par 5 holes (two and fifteen) which could be reachable in two with excellent shots and favorable wind conditions.
 Reidel cited the 15th hole a favorite of his and a lot of his reasoning has to do with the green. “It has a lot of character,” he commented in addition to the challenge of negotiating the way to the green sandwiched between unplayable areas down the left side and a water hazard in play on the inside of the slight dogleg. Wind is a big factor in coastal golf courses and Reidel said he has seen the 15th play really tough and long and getting on the green in regulation can be a challenge.
 Risk reward holes dot the course for the long hitters with strategic placement of water hazards, bunkers and sharp doglegs. In general we found just pulling out the driver wasn’t the way to play some of them which followed another thing Reidel commented on after our round. “If you play smart and hit to the middle of the greens you can do well here,” he explained.
 One thing players will remember are two par-3 holes in five and sixteen, both featuring water hazards. While they are mild yardage holes playing 133 and 121 yards from the white members tees (170 and 155 from the back tees) you can walk up on the tee with three clubs in your hands and stand there trying to figure out which would be the right one because of the wind conditions on any given day.
 “There really is no prevailing wind,” Reidel said. It can be a North or Northwest wind or it came come up from the south, and then there is the east wind coming in off the ocean. Add to that the infamous Jersey shore green heads. “We don’t have bugs all the time,” Reidel said and added that the winds can and do help with the bugs.
 The course record was set a few years ago by a then 19-year-old local player, Alexander Hicks, who is now chasing the dream on the Canadian tour. “He came in one day with a score of 64 which would have broken the existing course record,” Reidel said, “but one of the holes was set up short so it really didn’t count. About a month later he came in with the 62.”
 The Shore Club is private but there are seasonal memberships has reciprocal arrangements with other clubs. Call Amanda Ruhl, Director of Membership, Marketing and Events, at 609-465-7824 to explore the options available.
 The new and improved Shore Club is a real treat.
Editor's Note: The Shore Play is a must visit facility.