6,446 yards, 124 slope from the Blues

Course:  Cream Ridge GC is in all places, Cream Ridge, NJ.  Cream Ridge is in a rural setting about half an hour east of Trenton.  It really isn’t a Philadelphia area course, but I was again playing with friends from North Jersey and this was a good middle point for all of us to meet.  We didn’t know anything about the courses in the area, so we decided to give this one a try because of the the reasonable green fee and we heard it had recently re-opened, maybe conditions were fresh.

Generally, the service and green fees/price of food/drinks/etc. were excellent here while the course layout had interesting periods.  It’s an easy course for the most part.  I’ll get a little deeper on my overall thoughts below, but bottom line is this is a good value course and provides an overall enjoyable experience for those who live near by.

The course itself was farm land in its past life and consists of rolling hills, trees and a healthy amount of ponds.  There are a few bunkers, but I’d say there are less than you’d find on average.  The greens were syrupy slow.  At first I thought it was from the morning dew, but they rolled that way even when the greens dried out.  There were some holes that were basically straight, wide open with trees lining each side of the 100 yard wide fairway.  With all that land, those holes definitely could have been more interesting if the designer decided to move some dirt, get creative with more bunkers or get those trees to form some angles, but I imagine cost came into play.  It’s nice to know that the money saved during design and formation of the course was passed along to us with the lower green fees.  The trade off, however, is a few boring holes.  The water that came into play wasn’t so in your face as you usually see, but was strategically positioned on various holes, instead of merely forcing a carry off the tee or on your approach shot.

The first hole is a par 5 that is one of those straight and boring holes.  The green has a little interest with water for errant approach shots to the left and a swale just in front of the green.  Otherwise, ho hum.  The second hole is a par 3 about 140 (from the Whites).  There are alternating greens for this hole, with the one on the left being a carry over water to a large green set a little downhill from the tee.  The third is a par 4 on the short side.  The fairway proceeds downhill to a pond, making driver too much club here.  You must carry the water to a wide but short raised green.  The fourth is a par 3 about 145 from the Whites.  This is probably as close as you can get to an island green without it being an actual island green.  There is water from the tee to the front of the free and then water is both left and right of the green.  There’s no water behind the green, but there’s also no bail out room.  The fifth is another short par 4 that dog legs hard right.  Your tee shot must follow the dog leg or else you’re too far left.  There’s a water carry off the tee, but it’s pretty short and not really in play.

Up to this point, I thought the holes had some interesting design characteristics.  Then we hit holes 6 – 12, which were basically the straightway corridor fields that I was talking about above.  They’re separated by trees and criss cross, so we were ducking for cover on a lot of errant tee shots as well.  6 and 7 are basically the same hole, and distance for that matter.  Straight to the green and par 4’s.  The eighth is the number 1 handicapped hole.  There is a creek that snakes along the left side and the raised green is hidden off to the left.  The green was nice and the hole essentially forces you to lay up.

The Ninth is a par 5, but straight straight straight.

Looking at the score card, it looks like the tenth is supposed to tee off on one side of a pond, forcing you to carry it and hit the fairway at an angle.  The tees for us though were straight away to the green.  I found this green to be one of the more interesting here.

The Eleventh and Twelfth were more of the same straight wide fairways, but the Thirteenth got my attention.  It’s a par 3 about 175 yards.  There is a large water along the right with trees between the water and green.  There is water mid left as well.  The green is fairly large but severely slopes towards the direction of the water.  This is one of the stronger holes on the course.  The Fourteenth is a straight par 4.

The rest of the holes were interesting.  The Fifteenth is a short par 4 that has some hills sloping right to left, partially blocking your view of the right side of the fairway.  The approach is nice as well.

The Sixteenth has two creeks that you must carry off the tee.  The hole then goes up hill where bunkers are left and right of the green.  The Seventeenth is the last par 3, about 154 yards from the Whites where you must carry a scattering of water and a boomerang bunker wraps around the front of the green.

The Eighteenth was the best hole on the course.  It’s a par 5 with by far one of the tougher tee shots.  You must carry a good deal of water and thread your shot through a some what narrow opening of trees.  The fairway then climbs up hill before dog legging right and downhill towards the green, where water encroaches on the right and a little on the right front of the green.  The green also slopes from back to front.  A great way to finish the round.

By my count, there are two pretty nice holes (13, 18), four fun holes (4, 8, 16, 17), and the remainder were any where from above decent to ok.  The layout reminded me of Loch Nairn, and I guess that makes sense since that course used to be farm land as well.  The difference between this course and Loch Nairn is that the Loch tricked out a lot of their holes while I think Cream Ridge decided to make due with what the land gave them and was fine with having a a lot of holes as no frills, hit it straight and you’ll be fine.  The 121 Slope reflects that, so you get an easier course with a few things to keep it interesting.  I like to rate courses by the number of holes I’d like to play again and 13 and 18 are definitely on that list.

Gripes:  The big one here was course conditions.  Fairways were spotty.  I was there pretty early in the season, so I can’t imagine what happens during the summer.  There seemed to be a mixture of grass in some parts of the fairways as well.  Grass conditions were simply not good and that includes the really slow greens.  And not sure they have a cart girl, at least we never saw one.

Bar/grill:  There’s a banquet hall, but there are no televisions and no bar area.  And really not a whole lot of windows.  We decided to find some where nearby for lunch, but beer was cheap and they had a designated take out area which was convenient.

Clubhouse:  Nice size and well stocked.  The service here was great.  Everyone was nice and went out of their way to accommodate you.  They did things here I’ve never seen any where else.  My friend needed rental clubs and they gave him a real good deal. My other friend lost a club and they gave him a replacement until someone turns it in.  When we wanted to eat some where else they pointed us to a nearby place instead of scoffing since we weren’t eating there.  Quite honestly, you don’t usually see that level of service at a course that’s on the the lower end of green fees.

Verdict:  I played here because the course offered a few things that made it easier for me and my friends to get together and play.  Mainly the location was key since it was equidistant for everyone and pretty easy to get to.  Green fees was another one.  Availability of tee times on an early Sunday was another.  We wanted to play some where no one would rush us through the round or harass us so we could catch up and properly rib each other for our terrible shots.  This course fit the bill on all counts.  Yeah the conditioning of the course was not great, but I felt the service and everything else made the place a good value.  Don’t get me wrong; J Ville and Paxon Hollow are the gold standard as far as $50 peak rate golf courses go and this place isn’t in the same ball park.  And I wouldn’t make the drive without meeting friends.  But the service was great, the layout kept you interested and gave you a chance for a low round and everything was reasonably priced.  Conditions and a few boring holes aside, the course did enough things right that I’ll think of it again when playing in the area makes sense.

Nearby:  Not much.  The Plumstead Grill and another course with a better bar.

Getting there:  195 exit 8.  A little over an hour from Philly.