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The peninsular state of New Jersey is situated south of New York and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Even though it’s the fourth smallest state in the U.S., it is home to a population of over 8.8 million residents.
The state capital is Trenton while the most populous city is Newark, which also happens to be its largest metropolitan area. Other major cities include Jersey City, along the banks of the Hudson River; Paterson, the industrial hub; and Elizabeth, NJ’s former capital and the first location of Princeton University.
New Jersey enjoys a mostly humid continental climate, which is fairly moderate and experiences all four seasons throughout the year. Dubbed as “The Garden State” for its abundance of garden vegetables and produce, it comes as no surprise then that farming is its number one industry – with potatoes, tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, and corn being their most common crops.
Its other significant revenue generator, however, is tourism. With sites like the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, a four-mile long promenade teeming with restaurants, bars, rides, and games; the Emlen Physick Estate at Cape May, one of the many Victorian-style holiday homes at the southernmost tip of the state; Grounds for Sculpture, a 42-acre art museum and sculpture park; and a lot more, New Jersey has certainly upheld its reputation as one of the most popular East Coast vacation destinations in the country.
Of course, for avid golfers, no vacation would be complete without clocking in a few rounds of golf. New Jersey has a lot to offer in this regard, with a selection of over a hundred golf courses spread throughout the state catering to all golfers of varying skill sets, budget considerations, and layout preferences.
In this article, we will be listing down the top ten best public golf courses in the state of New Jersey along with a few semi-private facilities that allow playing privileges to non-members on a daily fee basis.
Best Golf Courses in New Jersey
Location: Northfield, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 70 Length: 6,577 yards
Je ne sais quoi is a term that is often thrown around when you are at a loss for words while you attempt to explain the overwhelming appeal of certain personalities. Among golf courses, the Atlantic City Country Club possesses this indefinable “it” quality by the bushels that it has been widely acknowledged as the consensus best golf course in the state of New Jersey.
Its appeal could be explained either by the sophisticated country club ambiance of this public course, or the historical significance that can be drawn out of its 120-year old existence. Or it could also be due to the classical elements of the course’s timeless layout, or their top-notch service and amenities. Most probably, it is a result of experiencing all of these things at once or in combination. Whatever it is, the Atlantic City Country Club definitely has “it”. It’s difficult to explain. It’s one of those things where you just have to go and experience it for yourself in order to appreciate.
Legends and luminaries of the game have walked through its country club halls and displayed their enviable skills in trying to tame this 70-par ageless charmer. You will be left in awe upon seeing a row of golf’s veritable who’s who that have passed by here – perfectly captured in various memorabilia adorning the clubhouse, the Taproom bar & grille, and their lovely wood-paneled locker room.
The Atlantic City Country Club is so steep in history that they proudly claim to be the “Birthplace of the Birdie” since it was here where the golf terms birdie and eagle were first coined around the turn of the century. Icons of the game such as Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer, as well as legendary entertainers Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra, were all regulars here.
Prestigious golf publications such as Golf Digest, Golfweek and Golf Magazine all point to the Atlantic City Country Club as the #1 Public Golf Course in New Jersey. It has hosted numerous prestigious tournaments over the years, including six major USGA championships.
Despite all the history and notable players and celebrities that have come to play on these grounds throughout the years, the real star of the Atlantic City Country Club is none other than the course itself. It is a dynamic work of art that has been molded by several designers throughout the years by names such as John Reid (1897), Willie Park Jr. (1915), William Flynn (1925), and Tom Doak (1999). The present iteration features Bent Grass greens and fairways, exceptional bunkering, fast sloping greens, and beautiful twisting fairways lined with majestic trees.
Located just six miles from Atlantic City, this links-style course is dotted with almost a hundred white sand bunkers and waste areas, water hazards, tall fescue grasses, marshlands, undulating greens and magnificent coastal views. The front nine will provide you with a semi-headstart courtesy of two short par-4s on the 2nd and 3rd holes. The postcard hole of the first half would be the 144-yard, par-3 fourth hole with a backdrop consisting of Lakes Bay and the Atlantic City skyline.
As you prepare to close the back nine, you will be treated to an exciting stretch of holes that make great use of the tidal marshes. The 14th features an isolated green amongst the reeds, while you will be playing blind on two excellent par-3s: The 15th and 17th holes, with only the pins being visible from the tee. Before stepping off the 18th green, take a moment to turn around and savor the picturesque vista of the shore and the Atlantic City skyline.
It will definitely leave a lasting image of your great round of golf in this magnificent property. It will also compel you to come back as soon as the next opportunity arises, even though you may not be able to sufficiently describe that sensation to others. Je ne sais quoi.
Location: Hamburg, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,094 yards
Tucked away in the mountains of northern New Jersey is the beautiful Crystal Springs Golf Resort with a massive seven-course offering that caters to golfers of various skill levels, ages, budget, and interests. At the top of the list among these courses is the 18-hole, par-72 Ballyowen Golf Club which plays 7,094 yards from the tips.
Designed by Roger Rulewich, the Ballyowen G.C. is a Scottish links-inspired course which becomes immediately apparent when you meet the kilt-wearing staff at the bag drop. Built on 250 acres of sprawling farmland along the Walkill River, the layout features generous fairways, huge greens, tall fescue grasses, rocky outcroppings, and the most water hazards that you could probably find on a links-style course anywhere.
While purists may balk at the number of water bodies that have been incorporated into this links-themed track, serious golfers won’t mind this version one bit as it is a critical part of this unique and challenging layout which also has an abundance of absolutely stunning vistas to boot. Trophy hunters will also love the opportunity to be able to tick off their list what is considered by Golfweek as the second best public golf course in the state of New Jersey.
Sticking to the original contours of the land, the virtually tree-less course tumbles through hills and valleys punctuated by mounds and white sand bunkers. Playing this course is like being inside a Van Gogh painting with its colorful contrast of lush green fairways, sugar-white sand bunkers, golden blotches of rough surrounding the greens and fairways, and the sparkling bodies of water that come into play in many of the holes.
Despite the seemingly open layout, scoring here actually requires precision due to the awkward hazard locations and pin placements, doglegs, elevation changes, water hazards, and the winds that regularly come into play. You will be forced to use all of the clubs in your bag before the round is over.
Water is prominently featured on five holes, highlighted by a signature stretch from the 5th to the 7th. A single pond affects all three holes. It narrows the fairway on the par-5 fifth hole, ready to gobble up any wayward 2nd shot. It will also figure into your decision as you ponder your strategy on the risk/reward 203-yard, par-3 sixth hole. The seventh hole, regarded as the course’s most difficult hole, is a massive 473-yard, dogleg-right par-4 with water running along the entire right side.
The Ballyowen Golf Club is just one of the seven courses at the Crystal Springs Resort. There is definitely something here for everyone. Low-handicappers may want to go for the more intimidating Crystal Springs Golf Club while families can bond over a pair of nine-hole courses in the Minerals Course and the Cascades Course which has two holes on each green (the other one is bigger) to cater to beginners and younger players. One thing is certain, you will definitely have a grand time here with your friends or family.
Location: Absecon, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 71 Length: 6,247 yards
Located on the Jersey Shore just eight miles from Atlantic City and about two hours from New York City, the Seaview Resort boasts of a 36-hole facility comprised of two distinct 18-hole courses: The links-inspired Bay Course and the parkland-style Pines Course.
The Bay Course is the more famous of the two. Opened in 1914, it was originally designed by the legendary Donald Ross and features a lot of the classical elements typical of the golf courses of that era. That means that this 670-acre layout follows the natural contours of the original landscape and that there will be plenty of pot bunkers, dogleg fairways, tall fescue grasses, strategic bunkering, and some of the most exciting holes from the old school that you could ever come across.
The Bay Course has been voted as one of the best golf courses in New Jersey by Golf Advisor for three consecutive years from 2015-2017. It has also hosted several big-ticket tournaments such as the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the 1942 PGA Championship which handed Sam Snead the first of his seven major championships courtesy of a miraculous 60-foot chip shot.
Don’t let the yardage fool you. This is a layout that plays longer than its published 6,247 yards from the tips. The Bent Grass greens and fairways are typically small and narrow, bunkers are all over the track, and the unpredictable winds can ruin your shot if you fail to factor it into your strategy.
One of the most notable holes is the 434-yard, par-4 second hole which plays into the wind and you get a good look of the Atlantic City skyline from the green. Winding up your round is the 501-yard, par-5 18th hole which is a very manageable risk/reward hole that could potentially gift you with a birdie before you take that well-deserved rest at the elegant clubhouse.
This is a course that should be on every serious golfer’s list because of its rich history, old-school layout and the unique challenge that it provides. It was once an exclusive club before it subsequently opened its doors to the public in 1984. The various memorabilia displayed on its halls will attest to the high-regard of many luminaries for the Bay Course. It is one of golf’s living treasures and is one of the best golf courses in the Atlantic City area.
Location: Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,098 yards
“Go out and stay out”. That is the overriding philosophy guiding the layout design for the Ballamor Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. You set off from the clubhouse for the first tee and you won’t be back until after you complete the 18th hole, with only a halfway house serving as a brief respite for some food and refreshments at the turn.
Sprawled across a 350-acre property, the Ballamor G.C. features a demanding layout with exceptional hole diversity and is considered as one of the best golf courses in south New Jersey. This was once a private facility but has subsequently opened its doors to the public, to the delight of many avid daily fee golfers who are looking to experience the game at its finest within the Egg Harbor Township area.
The layout was sculpted out of the area’s gently sloping landscape and thick woods. It offers a peaceful and isolated break from all the hustle and bustle of the normal daily trappings once you allow yourself to be enveloped by its idyllic natural surroundings.
Even though the Bent Grass greens are fairly large and the fairways are mostly generous, there is enough water hazards, strategic bunkers, tall grasses, undulating greens, doglegs, blind shots, and risk/reward holes here to keep you honest. With five sets of tees, it is also long enough at 7,098 yards to challenge the low-handicappers if you start from the back.
One of the most memorable holes is the 326-yard third hole which seems like a very manageable par-4 on paper only to realize that massive fairway bunkers are actually constricting your landing area, and water runs along the entire right side of the hole all the way up to the heavily-bunkered elevated green. It’s one of those holes that are as beautiful as they are challenging.
Another memorable hole is the 418-yard, par-4 11th hole which offers a great vantage point overlooking the property from the raised tee box. It is reputed to have the smallest green of the layout so control and precision are of absolute importance especially if you consider the numerous intimidating bunkers that are bunched up green-side and along the fairway.
The finishing hole is one of the prettiest holes in this track. The sight of that elegant clubhouse will be a welcoming sight as you head for the 18th green. At this point, you have been out in the secluded wilderness for quite some time that it feels good to finally come out of that exciting challenge with a sense of accomplishment and look forward to some warm food and cold beer to cap off your day.
Location: Neshanic Station, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,065 yards
The Neshanic Valley Golf Course is a 27-hole facility that allows you to mix and match from among three distinct 9-hole designs in order to come up with a combination that would fit the desired aesthetic and difficulty level for all golfers across a varying range of talents; ensuring that you will have a uniquely challenging and satisfying round of golf every time you come out to the Neshanic Valley Golf Course – located just 30 miles away from Trenton.
The different 18-hole combinations are the Meadow/Ridge, Meadow/Lake, and the Lake/Ridge courses. The most popular among the three is the Lake/Ridge Course, designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry and opened in 2005. As the name suggests, the front nine showcases several watery holes and wetlands while the back nine introduces some needed elevation changes, trees, rough patches, and cleverly-designed greens made more complicated by the contoured putting surfaces.
Thick fescue grasses border the greens and fairways. There are massive bunkers all throughout the track. One of the most memorable holes is the 588-yard, par-5 fifth hole. It’s an uphill drive off the tee against the wind, so it actually plays even longer than it’s already daunting length initially suggests. Once you carry the pond off the tee, however, it is a fairly straight layout so power hitters will have a field day just ripping it.
Aside from the three 18-hole course combinations, the Neshanic Valley Golf Course also maintains the 9-hole Academy Course which is a very walkable 2,019-yard, par-32 course ideal for kids and beginners who want to put in some valuable practice rounds. Overall, the Neshanic Valley Golf Course is a great facility for all golfers of varying ages, skills, and preferences. Do not miss it whenever you are in the area. It is one of the best golf courses in Somerset County.
Location: Phillipsburg, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 71 Length: 6,863 yards
If you wish to sample all the different architectural styles of the most famous courses but don’t have the luxury of time, just go to the Architects Golf Club in western New Jersey. As the name implies, it pays homage to 18 legendary golf architects of yesteryears by individually emulating their signature style on every hole.
You start your round with Old Tom Morris on the first hole and conclude it with Robert Trent Jones Sr. on the 18th hole. The 509-yard, par-5 opening hole named after the designer of the iconic St. Andrews Course uses an existing rock formation as a hazard and skilfully carves the green unto a rolling hillside.
Another memorable hole is the 412-yard, par-4 seventh hole named after Bethpage Black and Winged Foot designer A.W. Tillinghast. It showcases the various bunker designs that you find on his courses while you tackle a pinched dogleg-right fairway leading to an elevated green flanked by two massive bunkers.
My personal favorite is the multiple risk/reward hole inspired by Augusta National architect Alistair MacKenzie - the 524-yard, par-5 13th hole. Trees and water border the left side of the fairway while a creek cuts right in front of the green, daring you to carry and go directly for the multi-tiered green if you want to claim a possible birdie. Players who can execute a fade off the tee will have a slight advantage to land in a better position as you try to avoid the pond on the left side of the fairway.
It is not often that you get to enjoy a good round of golf with a real-life lesson in golfing architectural styles. If you are a serious golf history buff, book a tee time at the Architects Golf Club as soon as you have the opportunity. It is not only one of the best golf courses in New Jersey but it is also a course which celebrates 70 years of golfing legacy.
Location: Williamstown, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 71 Length: 6,810 yards
Conveniently located just 20 miles from downtown Philadelphia and a casual 45-minute drive from Atlantic City, the Scotland Run Golf Club adeptly turned a former sand quarry into a challenging links-inspired layout. It has secured the coveted 4 ½ star rating from Golf Digest and is listed among Golf World’s Top 50 Public Courses in the US.
Its origins lend the facility with some unique features such as vast waste areas and steep cliffs that have been skilfully integrated into the layout by architect Stephen Kay resulting to a hybrid course that is composed of the unique quarry features, some wooded areas, and the links-style holes.
One of the most memorable holes is the 217-yard, par-3 13th hole which features a 200-yard carry over water and a large front-side bunker that is almost as big as the green itself. Fall way short and your ball takes a dip into the sparkling waters, fall just a little bit short and you fall right smack into the massive bunker. The tee shot has to be pulled off with absolute precision and power otherwise you are bound to go for an unscheduled foraging among the trees at the back if you don’t manage to hold your shot on top of the green.
Its signature hole is the 402-yard, par-4 16th hole where you have to carry an expansive waste area off the tee to land at a precise spot on the dogleg-right fairway. You’ll have to contend with two massive bunkers and the surrounding trees on your approach to the green.
The course is in excellent shape and the layout is engaging and exciting. They also have a very friendly and professional staff and great amenities. Many industry insiders claim that this course has been somewhat overlooked and underrated. They argue that the Scotland Run Golf Club should be placed right up there among the best golf courses in New Jersey. I couldn’t agree more.
Location: Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,248 yards
Known for its breathtaking views of the Jersey Shore as well as its interesting layout atop steep ravines and lush green hills, Twisted Dune Golf Club was designed by Archie Struthers and first opened in 2001. Conveniently located close to many of the top-rated tourist destinations of Ocean City and Atlantic City, this Ocean Heights golf course has the perfect blend of striking visuals and great playability.
An 18-hole links-style course, Twisted Dune G.C. takes inspiration from the famed Scottish Coast courses. It creatively uses its natural setting to provide the needed obstacles, such as the twisting landscapes, pronounced elevation changes, and the gently rolling fairways, along with more than a hundred massive sand bunkers to make a challenging layout that would satisfy all golfers of varying skill levels.
This exciting course has a splendid assortment of reachable par-5s, daunting par-4s, and make-or-break par-3s; all fitted with lush Bent Grass greens and fairways. When playing this track, course management and precision are absolutely essential to a good score.
It was ranked no. 5 on Golfweek magazine’s list of “America’s Best Courses in New Jersey” in 2006 and the 3rd “Best Daily Fee Golf Course” in the state in 2002.
The Twisted Dune Golf Club is a meticulously-maintained, exceptionally-designed links-style course. It showcases the beauty of nature with its peaceful ambiance while managing to present players with a fun and challenging layout to make for a rousing game regardless of your skill level.
Location: Colts Neck, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,049 yards
If you ever find yourself in Monmouth County or near the area, don’t pass up the chance to play a game at one of the Park System’s crown jewels, the Hominy Hill Golf Course in Colts Neck. This 1964 Robert Trent Jones Sr. classic features an immaculately maintained 18-hole, par-72 layout where straightforward shots are few and far between, even on the par-3s. It also has some of those tricky greens that are sure to keep players honest.
Measuring a little over 7,000 yards from the tips, a total of 138 sand bunkers are scattered all throughout the course, with water hazards only figuring in four of the eighteen holes. Throw in the rolling fairways and numerous greens that are strategically guarded by deep bunkers, and you’ve got the perfect set-up for a memorable game.
The par-5’s are the most perilous holes of the bunch – consisting of the 4th, 14th, and 17th – with lakes, elevation changes, and sand bunkers all deliberately placed to test a players’ resolve. And the sudden gusts of wind add another layer of complexity and unpredictability to the whole proceedings.
Make it a point to book a round at the Hominy Hill Golf Course when you are in the vicinity. It is definitely one of the best golf courses in Monmouth County, NJ.
Location: Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 6,950 yards
Bringing up the rear on our list of the top 10 best golf courses in New Jersey is this Ray Hearn showpiece that was opened in 2000. An 18-hole championship layout that extends almost 200 acres, the Sea Oaks Country Club is situated on the exquisite Pinelands south of the state. Mature pine and oak trees line this track, complemented by the rolling terrain and fairways.
The golf course itself is a perfect harmony of modern, innovative design and scenic natural landscape. You will be given five tee options, ranging from a generous front tee best suited for beginners all the way to the very challenging back tees.
This course is an enjoyable test of skill that will satisfy both seasoned players and neophytes alike. Sea Oaks C.C. also boasts of more than 70 water hazards, 16 massive sand bunkers, and uneven lies on fairways that run both uphill and downhill.
The hole diversity is exceptional. Every hole here has its own distinct design and features – be it the strategic placement of bunkers, the subtle elevation changes, doglegs, or the undulating greens. The signature hole, the par-5 16th, cleverly uses a large pond and stone wall to guard the green.
The Sea Oaks track goes out on a strong note with the par-4 18th hole, which features an uphill, 410-yard layout with multiple hazards and the towering clubhouse looming behind it - perfectly framing the moment for posterity as you approach the green.
This is a must-try course for avid golfers because of its excellent layout, wide-open beautiful vistas, and first-rate amenities and services. Since they opened in 2000, Sea Oaks C.C. has consistently proven their excellence in delivering only the best golfing experiences to their regular patrons and guests.
Travelers have long since associated New Jersey with its interesting tourist attractions, flourishing flora and fauna, gorgeous natural land formations and bodies of water, and an abundance of great golfing destinations.
There’s a wide array of great layouts, course styles, exotic locations, and difficulty levels on offer from the various golf courses in the Garden State, some of which can be found adjacent to gorgeous coastlines and luxury resorts, while others are on the idyllic countryside or along beautiful, pristine lakes.
The top picks listed above are a matter of general opinion based on consolidated reviews from players and golfing publications, as well as our own personal preferences and experiences. These are just some of the courses we feel should be played at least once by the most discerning golfers. If there are any hidden gems that you feel we may have missed, please let us know. We’ll be glad to hear from you.