Not bragging, but I’ve played more than 950 golf courses in a golf career started a half century ago. Can’t tell you exact number without up to the minute tabulation, but soon will have more than 1,000 courses played in a mediocre golfing career.
I love the game.
There is so much to love, from that shot struct to perfection, to beautiful surroundings, to the clean fresh air.
Been lucky enough to have played some of the finest courses in the world, including Pine Valley, Oakmont, Pebble Beach and Pinehurst #2. Have also played courses which most would call dirt tracks, including a couple having sand greens that required manicuring before you putted. But hey, they are all golf courses, and each holds a little something special for everyone.
One type of course I’ve always liked are the par-3 layouts, especially those which aren’t cookie cutter “shorties” that don’t have a lot of challenge or character. There is something to be said for short courses which bedazzle a player and actually makes one think while only carrying a few clubs because of lack of length.
For years Oxford Valley in Levittown, Pa., was a birdie hunting ground, as was Heritage Links in South Jersey and the Lakes at El Sagundo near LAX. Shorter friendly courses that one could breeze around and still make business meetings.
Which brings me to a recent discovery which isn’t a find for Cape May County New Jersey residents but was for me: Laguna Oaks Golf Club. From the tips, it’s just a shade under 1,300 yards in length, and for most players a par-27 layout although there’s a little asterisk there as the course currently has 10 holes making it really a par-30.
But it’s not a cakewalk. It’s situated on 200 acres of serine land, with a bag full of challenges that include stately oak and pine trees, natural vegetation, ponds, a waterfall and even an island green.
It’s creator, local architect Fred Langford, made his living by building water parts throughout the world. These days he’s found constantly upgrading his South Jersey facility just off Exit 10 of the Garden State Parkway in Cape May Courthouse.
“It has been a labor of love building Laguna Oak, I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the experience,” explained Langford, 92-years young. “One of the upcoming changes is eliminating two holes and designing a new hole that would have great views of the bay. We are blessed with outstanding soil, and we have five acres of lakes, so there were and are lots of opportunities to design.”
The course features three sets of tees, set to tantalize everyone from those new to the game to veterans. There’s a little something for everything on the course that see yardages from as little as 59 yards to 150 yards.
"This is not a pushover course, there are lots of obstacles and challenges along the way," said the architect.
The actual course scorecard has three different “pars” as Langford bases scoring on handicap and difficulty. So those with a 0-16 handicap are playing to a par of 30, while those in the 16-22 range have a par of 37 and those whose handicap is 23 or above have a par of 44.
Langford, a Wildwood native, constructed water parks throughout the United States and throughout the world in his career, and used that construction knowledge to build Laguna Oaks. He also was fortunate enough to play golf on off days while traveling, keeping notes of the good and bad he saw.
“I think of it as a sculpture of sorts, and one of the most satisfying things for me is hearing the comments from players leaving the course,” said Langford. “Almost to a person they say they love the course, it’s challenges, its scenery and its conditioning. We have numerous return visitors.”
In the COVID era, his tee sheet has been packed with golfers looking to breeze through a challenging round in under two hours, leaving plenty of time for the beach and boardwalk.
“The pandemic has not hurt us from a playability perspective, we’ve been very busy. We offer a whole lot of fun for all levels of play,” said Langford.
No question that if you are looking for a challenging short course, Laguna Oaks may be the place for you.