Public Golf in Sussex County

By Rich Fisher


Wheatsworth Road, Hamburg
Par 72/6,394 yards

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.

Tough Hole: #7 Par 4, 411 yards

Water borders the entire right side of the hole, which doglegs to the right and leads to a multi-tiered green. A deep bunker on the right side of the green will catch balls that will otherwise end up in the drink. An approach shot through the green could also get wet. How to play it: A long soft fade shot off the tee will leave less distance into the green with the approach shot. A cautious tee-shot to the extreme left of the fairway will leave a long second shot into the tricky green. So playing it safe off the tee could lead to trouble later on. But don't slice too far right or you'll be in the water hazard.

Black Bear

Route 23, Franklin
Par 72/6411 yards

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.

Tough Hole: #3 Par 4, 445 yards

A strong par 4 in which two bunkers come into play for anyone who slices. There is also a large bunker complex around the shelved 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.

Crystal Springs

123 Crystal Springs Road, Hamburg
Par 72/5,895 yards

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.

High Point

Clove Road, Montague
Par 73/6326 yards

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.

Tough Hole: # 17 Par 4, 420 yards

Your scorecard will say hole 8 is the toughest, but golf director Bo Parisi insists this is the true challenge. An uphill, dogleg right, there is a huge tree in the center of the fairway that must be cleared by the tee shot. If not, the tree will leave the green hidden on your second shot. How to play it: Play the hole to the left center of the fairway, which would provide a view of the green. From there, you are faced with an uphill lie and need a long iron to the green.

Rolling Greens

214 Newton-Sparta Rd., Andover Twp.
Par 65/5,189 yards

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.

Tough Hole: # 14 Par 3, 235 yards

One of the nastier par 3's around, the hole features a postage stamp green surrounded by four bunkers. How to play it: If you are good - real good - you can hit a high, soft tee shot 235 yards and land it on the tiny putting surface without letting it roll. If you are one of the masses, a tee shot at the green will likely put you in the sand. It might be wise to lay up in front of the green with your tee shot, then try plugging a chip shot as close to the hole as possible. Don't be distressed at bogeying this one.

Lake Lackawanna Golf Course

14 Reis Ave, Stanhope
9 Holes, par34/2300 yards

The course is open 6:30am to dusk, no tee times are required. Affordable rates, power carts, rental clubs available.

Hunterdon/Warren County Courses

Somerset County Courses

This story was first published: Spring, 1999
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