Seaview Hotel and Golf Club – Bay Course

6,366 yards, 124 Slope from the Blues

Course:  Seaview is located in Galloway, NJ, in the area more commonly referred to as, “the Jersey Shore.”  Growing up in Southern California, the term made little sense to be, as any time any of us out there wan to go to the beach, we usually refer to the name of the beach instead.  I.e. “How about we go to Manhattan for the day and then grab drinks at Sharkeez?”  But I’ve been out here long enough that I’m used to the terminology and after having looked at it, there are a lot of quality courses down by the shore that I simply have not played.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, I like Atlantic City Country Club so much that I usually play there if I’m down in the area for a round.  In addition,  typically the peak season rates are fairly high and even to get down there in the summer means you will probably face traffic both ways.  And most times I’m down there during the summer, I’m with my wife and kids and am doing the beach thing, unable to get out for a round.  I’ve also heard from a few that playing when it’s too hot out down there could mean biting greenheads, which sounds like something I’d rather avoid.  Be that as it may, there’s no denying there are several great courses down there and truth be told, if I was down there more regularly over the summer, I’d be more than willing to pay the premium green fees and brave the green heads.

Like many, I actually like the Shore much more during the off season, when it’s not as crowded and the weather is more moderate.  It also means that green fees are a little more reasonable, which is always a plus when you’re playing so many rounds a year.  With the nice warm winter we had, I was able to get to a few courses down at the Shore and will hopefully get to a few more so I can expand what I know about the area’s golf scene and possibly put together my ranking of the courses down there.

A course I have wanted to play for years is the Seaview Bay course.  Designed by one of my favorites, Donald Ross, the Bay course is also home of the Shoprite LPGA Classic and is ranked the ninth best public course in New Jersey by Golfweek.  The Donald Ross factor alone intrigued me, but it should be mentioned that Hugh Wilson was also likely involved in the design, who I’m a big fan of.  In addition to everything else I heard, I have wanted to play here post haste.

The Seaview Hotel has been around for over 100 years and is a famous landmark in its own right.  It has two course; the Bay course, designed by Donald Ross/Wilson, and the Pines course, designed by William Flynn, which hosted the 1942 PGA Championship.  I believe there is also a nine hole putting course.

The facility used to be private, but is now open to the public and is considered one of the better golf resorts in the state.  As for the Bay course, it was built in 1914 during the golden classic age of golf architecture, which incorporates many of the classic architecture traits of the time that emulate those found on Scottish courses; blind shots, intricate green complexes and a comprehensive array of different holes that test all faces of the game.  Set along the wetlands of Reeds Bay, the course is set on rather flat terrain, relying on mounds, contours, bunkers, false fronts and a couple forced carries for its challenge.  Most notably are the green complexes and areas around the green, which require precise placement without risking trouble.  In fact, accurate approach shots are a must to avoid the bouncing and rolling of the greens, and their ripples and undulations, which send shots in random places if great attention is not paid to what area of the green is preferred.  The course also does well to challenge the long game in spots, and requires a good amount of course management and decision making.  While the overall distance of the course is not as long as more recently built courses, like a well designed classic course, the challenge remains since distance and long iron acumen are not the only aspects of the game emphasized.  Set along the pines and with frequent views of the adjacent bay, I found Seaview Bay to be a great play that made me pull every club in my bag more than once and could be played a number of different ways.

The First is a 359 par 4 (from the Blues).  With the bay in the background, the fairway sweeps to the right, with a few bunkers and mounds on the left and bunkers on both sides near the green.  With plenty of room on either side and most of the danger near the green, the course eases you into the round.

The First

Approach shot territory

The Second is a 436 yard par 4.  You’re still heading in the direction of the bay, but now face a forced carry over some bunkers to a fairway that advances downhill a little to a green surrounded by the reeds of the bay.  The approach shot will likely be with a longer club and accuracy is required, or the reeds will take over.  The challenge is still some what tempered, yet begins to present itself a little more here than the First.  Yet it should be mentioned that if the wind is up, as it is here often, the challenge is much more evident if not even flat out difficult.

The Second

Approaching the green

The Third is a 484 yard par 5.  Turning back into the direction whence you came, challenge certainly comes around on this par 5, with a narrower fairway flanked by trees and bunkers on both sides.  The green also gets a little feisty, which will become the theme throughout the round moving forward, with a ripple running through the front center quarter and a fall off on the far side, increasing the cruciality of hitting the correct area of the green with the approach shot.

The Third

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

The green

The Fourth is a 377 yard par 4.  We start to get into one of my favorite series of holes with this shorter par 4 that has us marching back to the bay.  The view of the fairway is partially blocked by a bunker on the left and a ridge in the front, but is fairly wide to allow discretion on how to take on your approach shot.  The approach shot and green complex are the highlights of the hole, as the green undulates in all directions, including fall offs towards the outer perimeter, but generally runs from right to left.  And if the wind is up….good luck.

The Fourth

Approach shot territory

The Fifth is a 359 yard par 4.  The fairway cants from right to left and bunkers are on either side, with the ones on the right more right.  The tee shot is vital here and if executed, is rewarded with a straightforward approach shot to a receptive green.  If the tee shot is way ward, there is a lot of trouble lurking to tighten the screws and complicate any chance of recovery.  And this is probably the first hole I noticed a good amount of rough, which also adds some challenge if you’re scrambling.  Suffice to say I enjoyed this hole immensely.

The Fifth

Moving down the fairway

The Sixth is a 393 yard par 4.  Back to the bay we go to another narrow fairway that cuts downhill from a ridge, blocking any chance of seeing where your ball ends up off the tee.  The green is likewise partially blocked because of the hole running downhill and I wish I remembered to photograph the green, but was contending with a stubborn bunker.  The green is multi-tiered and runs from back to front, with bunkers on the sides.  It is fairly large, which actually makes the hole more difficult if you end up in the wrong area on your approach.

The Sixth

Approach shot territory

The Seventh is a 190 yard par 3.  Water is directly in front of you and bunkers surround the green on this par 3 where distance control and accuracy are at a premium.  There simply are not to many places you can miss on this hole and the green, with its natural fall off points, makes putting a challenge as well.  The bunkers are interesting, as they are mounds with a side cut off and a bunker inside of it.  They’re almost upside down bunkers; instead of the ground being carved out and down, these are raised and pointing towards the green.  And covered in fescue.  You see these throughout the course and if you end up near the front of them, I could see the challenge ramping up ten fold.

The Seventh

The green

A look at some of the bunkers

The Eighth is a 319 yard par 4.  This short par 4 emphasizes the approach shot and allows broad discretion off the tee to get in the preferred position to attack the green.  Two large bunkers protect the green, creating a forced approach and with the reeds waiting off the far side, distance control is again vital here.  It’s a nicely set up short par 4 that ensures two well struck shots are necessary for a chance at par.

The Eighth

Approach shot territory

The Ninth is a 476 yard par 5.  The front nine ends up with a tough yet shorter par 5 that is relatively straight, but on the narrow side and is bisected with a row of bunkers and a green that strongly suggests an approach up the right side.  The bunkers bisecting the fairway are staggered starting from the right and mounds protect the green on the left, allowing most shots coming up the right.  The green is also a little of a bear, yet is pretty big.  Lots of challenge in many facets of the skill spectrum here.

The Ninth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

Generally, the front nine is mainly comprised of par 4’s, but their variety keeps each hole fresh with distinct challenges.  I really liked the green complexes and bunker placement.  Ranking them, I would go 5, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 3, 2, 1.

The back nine starts with the 367 yard par 4 Tenth.  The hole dog legs left and while the fairway is only moderately wide and flanked by bunkers, the approach shot is tough because the green is fronted by bunkers and depending on pin placement, could demand some shot shaping.  I enjoyed this hole a lot.  Solid and straight forward.

The Tenth

Approach shot territory

The Eleventh is a 230 yard par 3.  In my experience, a lot of classic courses have a longer par 3, which I believe is to intend a player’s skill with the longer clubs.  This is even more important nowadays, when a lot of golfers are able to hit mid to short irons to most of the holes.  While par 3’s of this distance used to agitate me, now I get it.  On a lot of them, there is a lot of forgiveness built in towards the green, almost rewarding players who are able to get their ball in the ball park of the hole, but not this one.  Larger bunkers are on either side and even though the green is large, it undulates and is unpredictable on bounces.  It’s a terrific par 3.

The Eleventh

The Twelfth is a 344 yard par 4.  The hole dog legs right and almost demands you to favor the left side off the tee, making the hole longer, as the right side is encroached by trees and then a longer bunker running along that side.  The green is narrow yet deep and there really is not a whole lot of room to miss laterally.  The green is a little pitched as well and its drop off areas on the sides make chip shots around the green fairly difficult and require a good amount of touch.  It’s a another hole I enjoyed a lot.

The Twelfth

A look at the green

The Thirteenth is a 415 yard par 4.  While cross bunkers await tee shots too far to the left or right, the best feature of this hole is the green complex, which runs from right to left, is multi-tiered and probably has about 10-15 feet of elevation difference from the highest to lowest point.  For that reason, the approach shot is certainly crucial, as ending up on the wrong side of the green will be problematic, particularly if the pin is on the right side an you are putting downhill, there is a collection area off of the right side that comes into play if your putt is too strong.

The Thirteenth

Approach shot territory

A look at the green from the left side.  

Another look

The Fourteenth is a 420 yard par 4.  The tee shot is a forced carry over a line of bunkers to a fairway that gradually descends to the green.  The green itself is on the subtle side, but as this hole is closer to the bay, its exposure to the wind provides much of the difficulty.

The Fourteenth

The Fifteenth is a 204 yard par 3.  The green is set above the tee area, but there will typically be a tailwind to help with the distance.  The opening of the green is wide and there is lots of room short of the green to miss, but any shot pin high and off the green will be much tougher to contend with.

The Fifteenth

Looking back at the tee area from the green, with the AC skyline in the background

The Sixteenth is a 377 yard par 4.  The hole dog legs sharp to the right, with bunkers on the inside of the dog leg, including a trench bunker running a good deal alongside the turn.  There is an unusual amount of room on the left, but you will be left with a much longer approach than if you contest the dog leg and bunkers.  A great risk/reward hole off the tee with an approach shot to a smaller green, surrounded by trees.

The Sixteenth

A look at some of the bunker fun on this hole

Approach shot territory

The Seventeenth is a 115 yard par 3.  My experience with Donald Ross is he typically likes to fluctuate between very short and very long par 3’s and that’s what we get here.  This short par 3 is guarded on the front of the green by two large bunkers to a very small shallow green that ends abruptly on the far side.  So basically, you are on a very short leash on this hole and are expected to have your short irons dialed in, especially at this stage of the round.  Any mis-hits are probably penalized more severely than we see on other holes.

The Seventeenth

The Eighteenth is a 501 yard par 5.  This hole bends slightly to the right and off the tee, the bunker configurations on the right gently suggest to you to advance up the left side.  The fairway is certainly wide enough to favor the left side and leave you a nice clear path to the green.  Yet for some reason, everyone in my group, including me, left their tee shots some where in or near the bunkers to the right.  While there is plenty of room moving up to the green, there are bunkers and fescue areas coming into play on either side for poorly played shots.  The green is also more subtle than others, probably to act as a reprieve from the distance of the hole, which is the longest on the course.

The Eighteenth

Second shot territory

Approach shot territory

The back nine is a little more diverse than the front and while I think the front is designed for the wind a bit more, the back is a little more bold in design and offers more challenge.  I’d rank them 10, 13, 16, 12, 11, 14, 17, 18, 14.

In general, Seaview Bay is a great example of a classically designed course that did terrific things with a flat piece of land while considering the existing natural elements, with the main factor being wind.  The course is certainly a challenge whether the wind is up or not, yet remains diverse in its challenge in any weather condition.  I always enjoy classic courses that always seem to provide a chance to recover on mis-hits, instead of penalizing beyond all doubt, and Seaview Bay does a great job of that.  The nearby bay and surrounding landscape area are pleasant for a round of golf as well.

One thing I always try to focus on when looking back on a course I played for the first time is how I felt after the round.  Was I frustrated, did I immediately want to go out again, did I want to get in my car and never look back, or was I fulfilled?  By fulfilled, I mean do I look back on the round favorably, remember enjoying myself and once the round is over, am content to sit back and talk about it, putting the clubs in the car for another day, regardless of how I played.  Fulfilled is how I felt after the round here.  The course made me think in spots, executed shots were met with a sense of accomplishment and the challenge was enough to make me work for a score.  The emphasis on putting and the short game were also something I liked a lot.  For a nice classic course down at the shore that almost puts you back in time, Seaview Bay is certainly on my recommend list.

Gripes:  A couple things irked me here and they all seem to stem from the general member vs. non-member aura here, meaning non-members were definitely a little lower on the totem pole.  The driving range is about an 8 minute walk from the clubhouse, but you are forced to walk over to it, unless you’re a member.  Not a big deal in itself, but when we arrived for our the time, we were notified our the time was pushed 20 minutes, with no reason given.  We later saw members had shown up and time was arranged for them to get out.  I completely understand ensuring that the membership receives meaningful benefits, but it’s probably a good idea to do it in a way that doesn’t alienate the rest of us.  Green fees here during peak season are probably too high as well.

Bar/Grill:  The hotel has a nice bar area that is a nice 19th hole.  Nice beer selection and plenty of t.v.’s.

Practice area:  A driving range, putting green and short game area are all available for use and on the better side.

Nearby:  You’re at the shore!  Atlantic City is close by and your pick of different beaches will vary by distance.

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