Public Golf Somerset County

By Rich Fisher

Bunker Hill

220 Bunker Hill Road, Griggstown
Par 72/6,165 yards

This provides one of the more challenging courses in the region only because you need a well-rounded game. Six holes contain water, some holes are hilly, others are narrow. Then there are some flat, open holes. "You really have to have the whole bag," head pro Ted Torkildsen said. "When you take in the view from the clubhouse, it looks hilly. But it flattens out when you get out there." Facilities include a pro shop, putting green, picnic area and lessons.

Tough Hole: #3 Par 4, 386 yards The hole tees off over a creek into a narrow fairway, which feeds into an equally narrow green. An out-of-bounds cart path is on the left and deep woods on the right represent a Bermuda Triangle for golf balls. How to play it: The key is getting in good position for your approach shot. Use your most accurate iron off the tee and play toward the right side of the fairway, giving you a clean shot at the green.

Green Knoll

(Somerset Parks) 587 Garretson Road, Bridgewater
Par 71/6,104 yards

The oldest public course in the county, Green Knoll is known for its small tees and greens, tight fairways and rolling contours. The erratic hitter off the tee will not fare well, as the course offers a challenge to both novices and experienced golfers. There's some water on the course, but not enough to ruin your day. Void of trees when first built, Green Knoll has had some 60 to 70 trees planted since it’s opening per year to make things a bit tougher. Facilities include a golf shop, putting green, 9 hole pitch and putt course and a snack bar.

Tough Hole: #8 Par 4, 374 yards If you have a divining rod-ball that's drawn to water, this hole will drive you nuts. It is crossed three different times by a brook, at the 125-yard mark, the 275-yard mark and just below a green that is nestled in a grove of trees. If you're not a big hitter, do not mount an all out offensive. How to play it: Try to hit a long iron down the left side to give yourself an approach shot straight in.


295 Township Line Road, Belle Mead
(908) 281-0778
Par 72/6,508 yards

A championship design which is fairly open, Mattawang's claim to fame is that Jack Nicklaus holds the course record of 66, which he set while making a promotional appearance when the course was still private in 1963. Make sure to bring a short game, since target golf is the key to survival on this relatively flat surface. The greens are all slightly elevated and well protected by bunkers. "It's not easy to get up and down," warns assistant pro John Loughlin. "You've really got to play the short side of the greens, because you don't want to go over them. You have to hit the ball in the fairway and on the par 5's you have to lay up because the risk-reward factor isn't worth it." Facilities include a driving range, putting green, pro shop, lessons, locker rooms and restaurants. Soft spikes are required.

Tough Hole: #8 Par 4, 400 yards Presenting a slight dogleg to the right with trees on both sides, the toughest thing about this hole is you are constantly playing into the wind, which makes it play more like 450 yards. It's an uphill tee shot and a downhill second shot to an elevated, small. narrow green with bunkers on both sides. How to play it: Always hit two extra club lengths due to the wind, and favor the right center of the fairway with your tee shot. If you want to play it safe on your approach shot, miss short and to the right, since a grass bunker is on that side.

Quail Brook (SCPC)

625 New Brunswick Road, Franklin Twp.
Par 71/6,038 yards

A cart is recommended on this course, which is spread out with ample distance from green-to-tee. The fairways are heavily wooded and known for a rolling front nine and tight, hilly back nine. Accuracy off the tee is important, lest you plan to spend one of those lovely days hacking out of trees. Facilities include a driving range, golf shop, putting greens and snack bar.

Tough Hole: #7 Par 4, 443 yards A long, tight, hilly hole that features a slight dogleg to the right. The green is sizable but protected by bunkers and there is a valley off the tee that will cause problems if you don't clear it. How to play it: There's not much strategy involved. Distance is the biggest obstacle, so use the club that whacks it the farthest and try to hit it long and straight.

Royce Brook

201 Hamilton Road, Somerville
East-Par 72/5,960 yards
West-Par 72/6,629 yards

Golfers can choose their poison here as two 18-hole courses offer a nice contrast. The East Course is designed in the more traditional North American way. Course management is involved off the tee, and you have the option of playing it safe or challenging it. "You have to think your way through it," General Manager Bill Troyanoski said. "There's risk-reward on both courses, but the East Course contains some trees and bunkers that are fairly large. You could probably play a lot more different shots from the tee." The West Course is more tailored for the big hitters, built in a prairie links style with a windswept Scottish feel. "You're forced to hit it," Troyanoski said. "And there is some real dynamic bunkering on the West Course. Some of them flash up 12 to 15 feet." Approximately 70 percent of the two courses are tree lined, and neither course makes water a major nemesis. Facilities include a 24-acre double-sided practice facility with practice greens, practice bunkers and target greens; a clubhouse, pro shop, and teaching academy. A Fore Caddie program is offered from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. It is available in the mornings on the West Course. Soft spikes are required.

East Course: Tough Hole: #18 Par 4, 420 yards An open fairway that has a dogleg to the left, this hole has an entire portion of native fescues on the left side. It is important to carry a good portion of those fescues, or you will find yourself with a 200-yard approach shot to a heavily bunkered green. How to play it: Don't think of birdying this hole. In order to make par, challenge the fescue for an easier approach shot. But if comfortable with the short game, take the safer route. It's a personal preference, just do what you feel is best for par. West Course: Tough Hole: #18 Par 4, 420 yards The hole has a slight dogleg to the right, is wooded on both sides, heavily bunkered on the right, with fescues on the left. The green is not visible from the tee. How to play it: Challenge the bunkered right side to keep it in the fairway. You must shape a shot if hitting long, and the layout favors a long fade shot rather than a draw. For the short hitter, hit it as hard as possible up the middle.

Spooky Brook (SCPC)

Elizabeth Ave., Franklin Twp.
Par 71/6,280 yards

The classic big hitters course. Bring your woods and let it rip, as the fairways are wide open and relatively flat and the greens and tees are spacious. An easy course to walk, this one is a favorite of senior golfers and long hitters who are less than accurate. Facilities include a golf shop, driving range, putting green and snack bar.

Tough Hole: #1 Par 4, 422 yards This hole offers a wide open tee shot, but the approach shot must contend with a line of trees that runs on the left and right side perpendicular to the fairway. The green is well bunkered and slightly elevated. How to play it: What the hole lacks in uniqueness, it makes up for in distance. If you are proficient at punching through trees, get off a good tee shot as close to the trees as possible. If you'd rather hit an approach over the trees, leave yourself short enough that your second shot has enough room to clear

.Warrenbrook (SCPC)

550 Warrenville Road, Warren Twp.
Par 71/6,074 yards

Heavily wooded and extremely tight, this challenging course provides numerous uphill, downhill and side-hill lies since it plays up and down a mountain. The greens are on the smaller side and it's recommended you take a cart, especially on the back nine. Facilities include a golf shop, putting green and snack bar.

Tough Hole: # 13 Par 4, 390 yards A narrow, uphill fairway that slopes from left to right and leads to an elevated green. You are constantly hitting uphill, so the green is obscured for the most part. How to play it: It's extremely important to stay on the fairway here. To do so, you want to keep your shots on the left side so they will roll into the middle of the fairway. If your shot goes right, you end up rolling into the woods.

Neshanic Valley Golf Course (SCPC)

2301 South Branch Road, Neshanic

Neshanic Valley Golf Course is the flagship facility of the five-course Somerset County Park Commission system. The 27-hole Championship Course, the 9-hole Academy Course, the Learning Center, and the Callaway Golf Performance Center were designed to accommodate the needs of golfers of all abilities.

Each of the championship (par 36) nine-hole courses, The Lake, The Ridge, and The Meadow, features five tees with the 18-hole layouts ranging from 5,050 yards to 7,108 yards. Rolling fairways, tees, and greens are creeping bentgrass, and the putting surfaces are well-guarded by large bunkers. An ample amount of fescue is found off the fairways and greens, environmentally sensitive wetland areas come into play throughout the course. The greens have been designed with subtle undulation to increase the challenge of play. Electric carts will travel the 8.9 miles of paved cart paths. Facilities include Pro Shop, Grille Room

Golf Week Magazine selected Neshanic Valley Golf Course as sixth in New Jersey on their 2006 list of “America’s Best Public-access Golf Courses.”

Sussex County Courses

Hunterdon/Warren County Courses

This story was first published: Spring, 1999
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