The main course of the trip, and maybe the year, was the Black Course at Bethpage. We didn’t know how that all would work out so we didn’t put much thought into the other rounds. In fact, we didn’t decide on a hotel until after the round at Bethpage. We ended up staying in Edison, NJ which is about an hour from NYC by train. Because we were playing on a Thursday we thought it would be best to go against commute traffic and decided to try one of the courses at Crystal Spring Resort. I didn’t and still don’t know much about New Jersey golf but I did see that the resort has a few of the top ranked public courses in the state so we decided to give it a try.
Crystal Springs features seven courses, spas, fine dining, and plenty of other activities for the family to do per the website. We were just there for the golf and decided on the Wild Turkey course which seems to get rated as one of the top 10 or 15 courses in the state based on my research the day before we played. The Ballyowen course is the flagship course, but it was more money than either of us wanted to pay, so we opted for the $70 morning time at Wild Turkey. The normal rate for the course is $100 this time of year on a weekday, but their website and Golfnow run specials for a little less. The price we paid seems normal considering the area of the country and probably isn’t unreasonable considering top courses in other states that I’ve played.
We were up early for an 8am tee time in hopes of exploring NYC later that evening, but that meant that we would have to deal with some cool and rainy weather. I didn’t see that there was rain in the forecast when I booked the tee time so we just had to deal with it. The rain stopped a few holes in and it cleared up for a pleasant evening, but it was cart paths only and tougher to swing with the rain gear. It worked out fine though as the weather kept the other golfers away so we made good time.
I guess I expected the terrain to be flatter so it was a pleasant surprise to find that we ended up in a scenic area. In fact, out of the three courses that we played on the trip, Wild Turkey had the most elevation change and the most impressive views. The course plays is laid out on two types of terrains with about half of the holes in the hills and the other half in a valley. However, each nine has holes of each type, so it isn’t a course with two completely different nines. Therefore, the course flowed very well from one hole to the next. In this sense it reminded me of StoneTree Golf Club in Northern California. Because of this variety, there is a good mix of open, forgiving holes and tighter, testing holes. The valley holes were my favorite as they play around a couple lakes and offer panoramic views of the area. Except for a couple of the hilly holes, there was room to miss as most fairways were generous and the land separating the holes wasn’t heavily tree lined. I’d say the course was player friendly even when it came to lost balls. Areas were clearly marked as out of bounds or hazards and drop areas were well noted from the tees. There is one par 3 on the front nine that is all carry over a hazard. There was a sign on the tee box indicating that the drop area was up by the green. I wish more courses would put up some notice as to where the drop area is located as it can speed up play.
I played the Blue tees which play 71.4/131/6555 but keep in mind that the course plays to a par of 71. There are still four par 5’s which I like, but I didn’t find that any were easy to reach in two shots. The only one that I could see myself giving a go after a good drive is the 3rd, especially if conditions were drier. The five par 3’s made up for what the par 5’s were lacking and were the most memorable part of the layout. I had fun trying to shape shots and didn’t have to worry much if the ball didn’t draw or fade as I wanted. The greens were larger and had a variety of shapes. Some where narrower and longer while others were larger with some ridges. There were even slopes off of the fairways and greens that could give the ball a favorable kick. The course was in nice shape, but it played a bit longer because of the rain. The rain slowed down the greens and that was probably a good thing because of some nasty ridges.
The course has many things that I like in a golf course. It has some elevation change, views, and places to miss without having to always take a penalty stroke. However, I didn’t love it and I’m not sure why. There probably was a let down after one of best golf experiences of my life the day before so it might have been different had I played the course at a different time. The only other comparison that I can make to golf in the area is when I played Mansion Ridge about three years ago. The courses have a similar feel when it comes to the elevation change and views, but Wild Turkey was designed as a resort course so it going to be easier to play.
#1 (387 yard par 4):
This is about as fair an opening hole as someone is going to get in a hilly, tree covered area. Depending on far someone hits it a driver, 3 wood, or hybrid would work off of the tee. The fairway is massive short of the bunkers so that is probably the place to try to hit it. The 18th runs up the hill the other way so there is some more room over there. The 2nd shot plays to a narrow and deep green, but since it is going to be no more than a mid iron it shouldn’t be too troublesome.
#2 (163 yard par 3):
This par 3 plays about a club down the hill to a wide green. There might be some strategy involved for the better players to keep the tee shot below the hole for an uphill putt as there is a ridge in the middle of the green.
#3 (519 yard par 5):
There is trouble down the left for the tee shot and the layup so someone should favor the right side. The fairway bunkers would be fine miss if not going for the green in two. The green is deep and I hit a poor shot over the green when the flag was in the front. I had to decide to either land my chip short of a ridge and chase it over or fly it into the ridge with some spin.
#4 (431 yard par 4):
This is one of the trickier holes. The tees were up a little when I played so I tried to take it out over the right fairway bunker since the hole doglegs right. If the tees were back then the play is going to be out at the left bunkers. There are homes and out of bounds way right but only a horrible shot will end up over there. The 2nd shot is played to an elevated green so it is going to be tough to stop a long iron.
#5 (450 yard par 4):
This is one of the tougher par 4’s on the course. It is a long hole and the tee shot runs out of room down the right side. Anything left of the fairway bunkers has a chance to hit the slope and kick out of play. If someone can navigate the tee shot then there is plenty of room around the green to try to get it up and down.
#6 (329 yard par 4):
This is a wonderful short par 4. I admit that it looks like a boring hole because there isn’t a bunch of trouble considering the distance and it is open. However, I hit a hybrid down the center but it had a little draw to it. It hit the fairway and kicked to the left side of it because of the slope. I was faced with a wedge which I had to try to hoist over or hook around a tree short of the green. If playing it again I would either lay it back closer to the tee or more to the right. There is a little sliver of fairway that cuts out to the right up by the green so a driver down the right rough line could work too.
#7 (181 yard par 3):
This is the signature hole on the course as it plays over an old quarry that is now filled with water. I don’t know the background, or even if there is any behind the old quarry, but it sets up a fun hole. The green is wide, but not very deep so not only does someone have to hit it solid to carry it all the way to the front of the green, it has to be the right club as a miss long isn’t guaranteed to be playable.
#8 (528 yard par 5):
This is a par 5 that arcs right all the way to the green. All of the trouble is to the right and there is plenty of space left on the tee shot and on the layup. I couldn’t get confident when hitting my layup as there is rise and some fairway bunkers where I wanted to hit it.
#9 (371 yard par 4):
The key here is to keep the tee shot short of the fairway bunkers so something less than driver is probably going to be the play. The green falls off on the right into a bunker and off on the left into a chipping area so this could be one of the tougher holes on the front nine even though it doesn’t look like it.
#10 (218 yard par 3):
This was my favorite hole and I never expected to play a hole with this much elevation change on my trip. It has the best view on the course and holes like this are always fun to try to club. It is fair because there is room to miss right and no trouble short of the green. I played 3 clubs less and got the distance right on my 2nd shot. The pin was in the front right when I played and the green has a ridge which divides the tiny front right section from the other parts.
#11 (544 yard par 5):
This is another par 5 with trouble down one side and could be the potential for a big number on the scorecard. The right side is open, but it’s no bargain because it will be a hook lie with trouble left. The layup is played just over the top of a hill and then the 3rd plays to a green which drops off long and left.
#12 (380 yard par 4):
I’d say this is a birdie hole. The hole moves a little left and someone can challenge the tee shot to try to hug the left side which can leave a short iron into the green. A miss left should kick a little right and maybe end up in the fairway. The green does have quite a bit of slope from left to right but someone can eliminate most of that by hitting it pin high.
#13 (367 yard par 4):
I struggled unnecessarily here. It is a straightaway par 4 but I couldn’t get the trouble left out of my mind so I blocked it way right. It is a decent birdie chance if someone can get it in play off of the tee.
#14 (187 yard par 3):
The 14th is another good par 3. It is about a club downhill to a large green. The hole is perched at the top of an open area on the property so it has some nice views.
#15 (392 yard par 4):
The best tee shot is going to favor the right side to leave a good angle into the green which angles from front right to back left. There is a fairway bunker on the right that is hidden from view, but the fairway is generous. I also think something less than driver is the play off the tee as the fairway runs out down the left side with the hazard pinching.
#16 (170 yard par 3):
This is a bonus par 3 (the 5th on the course). The green is massive and there is plenty of room long and right for a miss to avoid the water. There is quite a bit of slope in the green so the putt could be a roller coaster.
#17 (577 yard par 5):
This hole set up great for me. I don’t tend to hook the ball and a solid drive put me just short of that fairway bunker. So, I didn’t have to challenge the water off of the tee. The water didn’t come into play on my 2nd but I did have to avoid a sea of fairway bunkers.
#18 (361 yard par 4):
The closing hole runs parallel to the 1st and is pretty wide open. I hit a 3 wood off of the tee as I couldn’t carry the fairway bunkers with my driver. From there it was an extra club into an elevated green which sloped big time from back to front. It is going to be best to keep the ball below the pin on this green.