By Eddie Caiazzo
In the Middle-Atlantic region of the United States, autumn is one of the most revered times of year by visitors from all parts of the country. Ingredients like apples, squash and pumpkins start making their appearance in the local cuisine. The grills are put away in favor of fire pits…and the golf courses are painted the most brilliant shades of orange, red, green and gold.
While many other parts of the country are dealing with course closures and a recession, the Jersey Shore has expanded its offering of great golf courses using the most modern designs from the area’s best architects. Taking advantage of the growth and vitality of the Jersey Shore at its peak time of the year for golf is an activity that should be on the calendar of every avid golfer.
The Renault Winery Resort, the oldest active winery in New Jersey sitting on 48 acres in Egg Harbor City – is a perfect example of an attraction that viewed golf as a valuable added amenity. In 2004 it debuted Vineyard Golf at Renault Winery.
Designed by nationally-acclaimed architect, Ed Shearon, Renault was stop number one on a two-day, one-night trip to the area. Exiting the Atlantic City Expressway early and taking a drive through the historic town of Hammonton gives the proper entrance to the property from route 561. The short journey on Bremen Avenue through the woods brings into view a vibrant Tuscany-themed setting.
The main drive concludes at a fountain, with the Tuscany House Hotel to the left, and the golf course to the right. The Indian Summer weather was very kind to the courses at the Jersey Shore this year, and Renault was in fantastic shape overall.
The course could at times be visually intimidating with some strategic fairway bunkers and water hazards, but the worst spot for the ball to land was in the vineyards themselves that lined a few of the holes like five, six and seven. On a mild weather day in the 60s with some clouds, there is not a course that could rival the Renault golfing experience – but in the heat of a regular summertime at the shore, be prepared to be in direct sunlight for much of the round.
From Renault, the journey continued for an overnight at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, an immediate left turn entering Atlantic City. Situated directly across the street from the Tanger outlet stores and the AC Convention Center, the amenities and location are unrivaled.
For business meetings and other social gatherings, the Tun Tavern (attached to the Sheraton) offers award-winning pub fare and a microbrewery. TVs line the bar area, but the venue is large enough that there is no intrusion if a diner chooses a table. Spend $10 in the Tun, and parking across the street is free.
If work needs to be done while staying at the Sheraton, the rooms are definitely set up to accommodate — wi-fi covers the entire hotel, there is a direct internet connection offered for faster speed and a heavier workload. Sheraton Rewards members enjoy the increased amenity of a large lounge with free continental breakfast in the morning and happy hour fare in the afternoon.
For the golfer, the Sheraton is the premiere venue to begin planning a golf vacation to the area, located a few miles from the airport and within 25 minutes of every golf course in South Jersey.
“We realized that we were centrally located and the most convenient hotel to all of the great golf in the area,” said Carla Caulk, director of sales at the Sheraton. “Golf is not an afterthought with us. We put together great packages and make sure every need of the golfer is taken care of. We do everything but make the putts for birdies.”
A party bus from Joe’s Limousine Service, based in Mullica Hill, was the chosen mode of transportation and preferred Sheraton partner for transport to and from the golf course. Not only was the party bus clean and comfortable, but it was a very stylish way to travel — offering leather seating and complimentary champagne with crystal glassware.
If journeying from far away, Joe’s also offers award-winning airport transportation. This gives the option of going right to the golf course from the airport, or heading to the Sheraton to get checked-in before leaving for the course. This provides maximum convenience, especially when traveling with golf clubs – and not having to move them until the bag drop is reached.
Atlantic City still is always turned on, regardless of the negative media coverage that has been received as of late. The closing of Showboat and more recently the Trump Plaza and Revel Casinos have received top billing in the mainstream media over the course of 2014.
What is not being reported is the success the city has been having with major events and conventions, and the burst in revenue as a result of free concerts like Lady Antebellum and Blake Shelton held during the summer. Add the renovated Steel Pier to the mix along with world class dining from chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, and Atlantic City still is the premiere resort town on the east coast.
The final day of our fall golf trip in the Greater Atlantic City area comprised of 18 holes at the Stephen Kay-designed parkland gem, Harbor Pines Golf Club. Kay is an award-winning architect known for designing Scotland Run, the furthest course west of the Greater AC area, Blue Heron Pines and McCullough’s Emerald Golf Links, which shares the same route 559.
Kay is known for his challenging layouts and quirkiness in a design, but Harbor Pines plays pretty fair for the everyday amateur golfer. Most of the holes feature very generous fairways along with short rough. Although the sand can find many a golf ball, the legendary “Sand Creek” on the par five seventh hole can be easily crossed for a birdie opportunity if not intimidated. The beauty of Harbor Pines compared to a lot of other area parkland courses is the ability to view each hole from the tee box, keeping blind shots to a minimum.
While the golf at Harbor Pines is very enjoyable, with industry veteran General Manager Bob Ewing in charge of operations, the entire experience is first class. Knowing the importance of Food and Beverage operations to a golf course, the cart service was most efficient along with the best invitation for two golfers to dine in the clubhouse after a round – $20 for wings, two burgers and a pitcher of beer. “For $10 a person, there isn’t a deal in the whole Jersey golf scene that is better,” exclaims Philadelphia Daily News golf writer Mike Kern. “And it is not just the value, but the quality of the food is better than some area private courses.”
The food special is also offered seven days a week, and advertised prominently on the carts and in the pro shop.
For travelers looking for a golf destination this fall, Atlantic City and its surrounding golf courses should be regarded with the highest esteem. The quality of courses and world-class amenities offer a unique journey through golf history, remaining undeniably modern. The two day experience was fantastic, but a Monday through Thursday should be spent golfing, with a Friday and Saturday spent on the town. From the historic Men’s locker room at Atlantic City CC to the stately and historic Seaview Resort, golfers are quickly discovering why Fall Golf in Atlantic City remains always turned on.