New Jersey's No. 1 rated public golf facility, Ballyowen sits upon 250 sprawling acres within rolling farmland, craggy knolls, plunging quarries and overlooking the Wallkill River. Reminiscent of a British Isles type course, Ballyowen's greens occupy high ground that enable golfers to enjoy the panoramic beauty of the Appalachian Mountains while tackling the links- style layout. "As much as the course is a test for championship players, the multitude of teeing areas offer a fair challenge to golfers of all skill levels," said John Kurlander, of the Great Gorge Golf Reserve. "The idea, perfectly implemented by (designer) Roger Rulewich, is to provide the golfer with a sense of spaciousness. The diversity of tee areas and pin locations along with an ever-present wind, offer a novel perspective with each visit." There are 71 bunkers and five holes with water on the course, which is part of the Great Gorge Golf Reserve. The serpentine fairways allow tee shots to flow into unique valleys amidst towering hills. "Beware the player who pays too much attention to the scenery," Kurlander warns. "Each hole requires skillful navigation." Facilities include a driving range with all grass tees and target greens, teaching pro, clubhouse, open air pavilion for groups up to 200, restaurant/pub, and a live bagpiper in the evening.
Now in its third year of operation, this Great Gorge Golf Reserve member offers a diversity of terrain, scenery and shot selections. Created to satisfy golfers of every skill level, there are multiple tee locations, fun-to-putt greens, an abundance of wildlife, constant courtesy cart service and panoramic views around every dogleg. There is little threat of landing in the drink, since only three holes contain water, and 65 bunkers dot the scenery. Facilities include a 12-acre practice facility with target greens, bunkers, short game area and putting greens, PGA Teacher of the Year David Glenz's golf academy, driving range with grass tees, a practice sand trap complex, putting green, and a banquet hall with outdoor patio.
green. The approach shot is deceptive since the front bunker appears closer to the green than it is. How to play it: Try and hit a good drive down the right side. A long iron second shot must be well hit and placed on the appropriate side of the green to avoid putting over the terrace dividing the green.
Another facility enriched by its scenery, sculpted mounds frame the fairways and greens, giving definition to each hole while adding intense contrast of color between the fairways and roughs. Consistently ranked in Golf Digest's Top 10 list for public courses in New Jersey, Crystal Springs is considered the most challenging layout in the state. There are 58 bunkers and seven holes with water. Part of the Great Gorge Golf Reserve, this shotmaker's course does not require brute strength off the tee. "There are too many dangers lurking to punish the foolhardy gamblers," Kurlander said. "There is seldom a flat lie, always an element of chance and never a dull moment. The best approach is take one shot at a time, hope for the best and move on to the next challenge." The signature hole is the Par 3 tenth, where the tees are situated 80 feet above the green on top of a cliff overlooking the former Windsor quarry. The course has become a community of golf enthusiasts, former suburbanites and career professionals who enjoy the therapeutic environs of the Skylands. Facilities include a driving range, sand trap complex, putting green, teaching pro, clubhouse with garden ranch, and swimming and tennis club.
Tough Hole: #2 Par 4, 433 yards
The tee shot is tricky as it requires a forced carry over a marsh. Grass bunkers behind the green can leave you with an awkward stance. How to play it: Favor the right side of the fairway, and hit a high, soft approach shot if you want any chance of holding the green.
When playing one of the area's rare links course, golfers never have to worry about hitting off another fairway or having a ball from another group come whizzing at their head. Five par 5's offer a haven for big hitters at High Point, which is nestled in a wooded mountain area that provides an aesthetic bonus for the golfers. "If you hit your driver well here, you can score," Golf Director Bo Parisi said. "The fairways are pretty fair and you have enough landing area to play your shots. And we have giant greens. A beginner might have it tough because there are a few spots you have to carry water, but not many." The front nine winds counter clock-wise around one lake, and the back nine travels clock-wise around a second lake. "But the lakes don't come into play that often," Parisi said. "You have room on your right to hit it. You have some tees where you have to hit irons in order to lay up. It gives you the best of all worlds." Facilities include a driving range, putting green, pro shop, courtesy cart, locker rooms, lessons and a restaurant/bar.
As witnessed by the low par and short distance, this is a classic course for working on your iron game. Too long to be termed an Executive Course, Rolling Green's trademark is its lengthy, difficult par 3's. Of the nine par 3's, six range in distance from 197 to 237 yards. The layout is flat and relatively open with tight, contoured fairways and heavily protected greens. "For a short course, it's very difficult," said head pro Glenn Holterman. "To me, it's one of the hardest courses to shoot par in the area because of the length of the par three's, where you're hitting 200-yard shots onto very small greens. It's good target golf. You'll hit every club in your bag." Facilities include a driving range five minutes from the course, lessons, putting green, pro shop, delicatessen and picnic area.
The course is open 6:30am to dusk, no tee times are required. Affordable rates, power carts, rental clubs available.