A recent visit to The Shore Club revealed that the rebranding from the name of Wildwood Country Club is much more than just a new name.
In a long term process it is continuing to improve both the club house facility and the golf course. The club has a history going back to it’s opening in in 1923. Walter Hagan played there and Arnold Palmer, when he was serving in the Coast Guard in nearby Cape May, was a frequent visitor.
Even as construction of the Garden State Parkway disturbed the original course, it has retained much of its character with adapting and putting in new holes.
Part of the renovations to the golf course is to restore the bunkering. Over time the bunkers developed higher faces than they had. The work on the front nine is complete and those high faces have been modified with the turf growing on the slopes and running down to the bunker edges, back to how Wayne Stiles originally constructed them.
This is not a long golf course by today’s standards playing 5829 yards from the white tees and 5262 yards from the more forward green (senior) tees. It can play longer than the listed yardages so don’t let the numbers fool you. The club is focused on being family orientated and attracting more women and junior players and it has a 3765 yard course in that regard. Now all that said it can stretch out to 6,714 yards which will test the best players to challenge par.
The biggest variable is the wind, which can briskly flow from the bay and cause a one or two club difference to expected carry. This makes the Shore Club a little different each and every time one plays.
In addition to the bunker restorations tree removal is an ongoing process. Courses used to think tree line fairways were the thing to have because a lot of the old courses were built on properties that didn’t have a lot or trees. Case in point is Oakmont near Pittsburgh which a number of years ago brought the club back to its roots by removing nearly all trees.
The most notable area where trees were removed come on the par 5 12th hole. It’s one of the replacement holes and it just never quite fit into the overall look and feel of the rest of the course. Twelve is a moderate to short par 5 that plays 501 yards from the tips and 441 from the white tees.
Before tree removal it was a driver, short iron and a wedge. Now with a big drive it can play as a long par four because of a massive tree removal project that opened up an avenue to the green. However that long shot to reach the green in two must carry water that caresses the front of the green complex. Think Tin Cup and ultimate risk reward.
The illustration below shows the hole and where the cart path runs was surrounded by trees forcing a layout to about 90 yards out. The next phase on the renovation of this hole is to add tall fescue for aesthetics near the pond.
The addition of fescue isn’t limited to this one area however as several other areas have been identified to grow in areas that would not normally be in play but in areas that would just add some character of a shore course.
In that vein, on holes that are up against the bay there is a desire to open the vista to see the water and the view of Wildwood on the other side. That is going to take time as those areas are sometimes not accessible and too wet to get to. Standing in the club house with Director of Golf Fred Reidel pointed to one big tree on the 7th hole and several in the distance they would like to clear to have a clear view of the bay from the MacKissic’Pub.
Marketing and Membership Director Amanda Ruhl said it best. “Some places make promises and don’t follow up on them. At The Shore Club we are doing it.” Membership is on the upspring as The Shore Club offers a fine practice facility, golf course, food and beverage.
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It wasn't as if Lexi Thompson had never faced the shot before. Had never felt the pressure of needing a birdie to tie the lead on the final hole of an LPGA event. Had never felt the eyes of thousands of fans looking on.
Playing the par-5, 500-yard 18th hole of the Bay Course at the Dolce Seaview Resort, Thompson belted a wind aided drive that traveled in the 300-yard range but skipped through the fairway and first cut of rough into the second higher cut. She faced a 190-yard shot out of that rough, but knew she had the club to get to the green if struck to perfection.
"The ball had been running up (to the green) well all week, so I figured I could hit my pitching wedge, get a little flier and bounces, and with the wind get to the green," said the LPGA star, who made her pro debut at Seaview at age 15. "Everything had to work, but I had the confidence to hit the shot."
Thompson took a mighty swing, and the ball flew high into the air, as as planned, hit well short of the green but bounced several times before settling about 20 feet from the hole.
Striding to the green she knew her 10-under-par would not win anything. She knew a two-putt birdie would be good, but an eagle would be much better as the US Women's Open winner, Jeongeun Lee6, was two holes back and at 10-under.
After surveying the putt from several angles, she carefully struck the ball and watched as it meandered across the green before dropping into the cup for an eagle. That boosted her to 12-under-par and gave her the outright lead as Lee6 was putting out on the 16h hole.
Thompson signed her scorecard and strode to the practice putting green, expecting a playoff.
Lee6 parred 16 and 17 and needed an eagle of her own to tie Thompson, but it wasn't to be. She birdied the 18th and finished runner-up.
Thompson won, and has claimed an LPGA tournament win for the seventh straight season. Her closing 67 and 54-hole total of 201 was superb given the elements.
"This is a relatively short course, but it's oh so difficult," explained Thompson. "Tantalizing greens, and with the wind (gusting to 25 miles-per-hour) there are more than enough difficulties. I knew the course would play difficult, and you saw me stumble a couple times."
Lee6 stumbled as well at times, finishing at 11-under-par 202.
CHIP SHOTS: It was Thompson's 11th LPGA Tour victory...Two-time champion Anna Nordquvist finshed at 7-under-par...Thompson had missed four cuts in six prior visits to Seaview.
Over the years I've been lucky in predictions of young players who were destined for stardom.
Case in point. Brooks Koepka, who before he competed on the PGA Tour. He was in Europe, plying his trade, and like many I didn't know his name but saw him cashing checks. Writing on this site I mentioned he was going to be a player on the PGA Tour.
Today, he's a star. A major champion. A threat to win any event entered.
My latest prediction comes via college in the US. Mathew Wolff, the NCAA Individual Champion, All-America, and long-hitter who was superb in his senior year at Oklahoma State University.
This kid has all the tools, and I'm thinking he earns his PGA Tour card this summer upon turning pro. Not sure he will win an event, but it could happen. But he will have eight sponsor's exemptions to earn enough money to secure his card without the need to go through PGA Tour Qualifying School.
Actually, I'm thinking he posts at least one top-10, which means he gets an additional sponsor exemption. And with his game and maturity you can bet he will get his card this year.
Of course, it won't be easy. It will require a couple top-10s for the money to add up, but from what I've seen this kid has the game, the maturity and the desire to be a PGA Tour star.
Mark it down.