Burlington Country Club

6,436 yards, 127 slope from the Blues

Course:  In Westhampton, NJ and about 30 minutes from downtown Philadelphia is Burlington Country Club, a private course originally designed by Alexander Findlay in 1929.  Ault & Clark Associates performed significant renovations to the course in 2002, which included constructing six new greens and re-routed the back nine.  The course is a parkland on relatively flat terrain that has nice width for a tree lined course and a variety of interesting green complexes.  Findlay was able to make a row of straightaway holes different and intriguing by varying the distances, greens and bunker placement, as well as required shots.  At least here, he was fine going to the other extreme, with a couple of the dog legs very severe, bringing the trees into play whether you like it or not.  All of this leads to Burlington being a likable classic inviting a vast range of shots on fun greens.

Burlington has maintained a lot of what classic courses are well known for; walkable, allowing the aerial and ground game, requiring a variety of shots (especially around the greens) and greens that move well yet aren’t too fast and not losing a whole lot of balls.  Like many Findlay courses I have played, they are not terribly long but do well in testing the distance clubs and tee game.  There seems to have been a resistance in modernizing the course over the years, which adds to its charisma.

The First is a 407 yard par 4 (from the Blues).  Straight from the tee, the green is set a little to the right of the fairway and trees line both sides of the hole.  There’s good width here though, allowing various paths to the green.  The green is angled and deeper than it is wide, running from back to front in general with bunkers on both the left and right sides.  As comfortable as a gentleman’s handshake as it gets, with the opportunity to get your swing in order for the round.

The First

Approach shot territory

A closer look

The Second is a 205 yard par 3.  There’s a false front feel here as the apron flows into the green, giving the appearance that it’s shorter to the green than it actually is.  While trees around the hole, they only come into play for the worst of worst shots while the most preferred miss would be short.  There are green side bunkers on each side of this larger green that has some subtle movement to it, especially on the right side.  We’re still delving into the course and the first two holes are the time to establish momentum.

The Second

A look at the green from the right side

The Third is a 379 yard par 4.  Alas, with the first two holes behind us, the course now starts to get into the rapids a bit with this dog leg left.  The tee shot is literally into a row of trees, as the fairway turns left 90 degrees.  The options off the tee are to clear the trees and leave yourself with a clear approach shot (albeit on the longer side) or take on the trees to the left and carry them, leaving you with a shorter approach into the green.  The green is well protected with bunkers and moves from back to front, so the shorter the approach, the better.  I liked the green complex here, as any scrambling from the rough or bunker makes it a lot more difficult to score, as it should be.

The Third

The dog leg

A look at the green from the right side

The Fourth is a 479 yard par 5.  The fairway gets a little narrow here, with trees close along the left side and a fairway bunker on the right before the trees close in on that side, all of which makes for a demanding tee shot.  Bunkers tighten up just before the green as well, which is deep and narrow.  The approach is likewise a tough one, which needs to carry the bunkers and hit the smaller green.  It’s a shorter par 5, so the approach can be with a shorter iron if you lay up on the second shot, but those who go for it could be scrambling from a tough spot and fighting for par.  There are certainly a number of ways to approach this hole and the cardinal rule is to keep it straight.

The Fourth

Moving dow the fairway

Approach shot territory
The Fifth is a 137 yard par 3.  A shorter par 3 where trees are no longer a factor, but bunkers are scattered throughout and the green is wide and shallow, so accuracy is still necessary to avoid trouble and score well here.  The width of the green may make it easier to land on it, but the undulations will challenge the flatstick.  A great looking par 3 that does it job of testing your precision with the short iron.

The Fifth

From the back side

Looking back at the tee

The Sixth is a 391 yard par 4.  Things go from wide to narrow with this tee shot, which needs to thread a corridor of trees, yet there’s enough room to work the ball in either direction and also to carry the trees if you want to go that route.  Assuming your tee shot is in the fairway, the approach should be relatively easy, so long as the bunker on the right is avoided.  The green is small, however, so missing short is preferred, if you need to miss at all.

The Sixth

Approach shot territory

The Seventh is a 458 yard par 4.  The Sixth through Ninth essentially switch back and forth.  The differences amongst the holes are mainly with the placement of the bunkers, width of the fairways and greens, but this stretch of holes is a little stale.  This hole is the number one handicapped hole, mainly because of its distance.  The fairway bunkers stagger from the left side to the right, and add slopes to each side, while the green side bunkers pinch the front of the green.  And yes, trees are on both sides the entire way.

The Seventh

Moving up the right side of the fairway

The green

The Eighth is a 404 yard par 4.  The green is places a little to the left, which has the effect of a slight dog leg.  The tee shot should favor the right side to ensure you have a clear approach to the green.  There are bunkers off to the right that will come into play mainly if your tee shot goes left, limiting how close to the green you can from that side.  A well hit tee shot is rewarded with a shorter approach shot to a smaller green.  The tee shot controls all here.

The Eighth

Approach shot territory

The Ninth is a 429 yard par 4.  Similar to the Seventh, but fairway bunkers start on the right side before switching over to the left.  The green is also surrounded by more bunkers.  And it’s a little shorter.  Otherwise, hit it between the trees and over the bunkers.

The Ninth

Approach shot territory from the left

The front nine includes a few interesting holes in the middle but starts off slow and ends a little flat.  The trees do more to enhance than take away from play while the bunkers are used well and the greens make you grind for recovery but variety and strategy wane with some of the holes here.  The Third through Fifth, however is a nice stretch and comes at the right time.  I’d rank them 4, 5, 3, 7, 9, 8, 6, 2, 1.

The back nine starts with the 135 yard par 3 Tenth.   Another short par 3 where the center bunker makes it looks like the green is shorter from the tee than it actually is, so pin position is more important to pay attention to, with the green moving left to right and front to back.  There are green side bunkers of each side as well with the one on the left the tougher of the two to salvage par.  This is similar to the Fifth in that bunkers in the center line of vision need to be navigated, but should be a scoreable hole at this point in the round.

The Tenth

The Eleventh is a 338 yard par 4.  A dramatic change from the holes thus far, this hole is as open as it gets, with forced carries over water off the tee and the approach.  A well hit tee shot gets between the bunker and water.  The closer you get to the water, the shorter your approach will be.  The approach itself needs to carry the water and the front green side bunker to a green that is shallow yet wide, so distance accuracy is vital.  While the hole is visually different, the playing style is similar to the prior holes in that accuracy is valued much more than distance.  This hole is more penal than the others, however, since the water is so prominent.  The changes are welcome and provides much needed diversity to the round.
The Eleventh

Approach shot territory

The Twelfth is a 180 yard par 3.  Water yet again is prominent here as it encroaches on the right side and front of the green.  The green is wide and shallow and bunkers on the left prevent that area from being used as a bail out area.  The longer distance and the fact that the green must be hit makes it a challenging par 3.  Just as we saw from the width and water of the Eleventh, it’s a welcome change for the round at the right time.

The Twelfth

The green

Looking at the back bunkers

The Thirteenth is a 437 yard par 4.  A strong dog leg right off the tee, which then goes a little uphill to the green.  The tee shot much clear the trees for a clear approach shot.  The green is one of my favorite on the course, as it’s set at an angle from the fairway, with the front and right side sloping up to the green. A bunker is in the back to chide those who are overambitious.  The slopes before the green and its width make it a lot of fun if you didn’t get that GIR.  There’s a lot of ways to approach it, which adds to the challenge of the tee shot.

The Thirteenth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

A closer look

The Fourteenth is a 548 yard par 5.  Another strong dog leg, this one to the left, off the tee.  In fact, the tee shot is in very real danger of going off the fairway into the trees on the right if hit too well, so figuring out how to get the tee shot to move left with the dog leg is critical to score here.  There’s also water far left, so too far over on that side is no good.  So not only do the trees frame this hole, they’re used to deceive off the tee.  Water stops the fairway from the green, so all approach shots must be aerial, while the green is multi-tiered, moving from right to left.  There’s a lot going on here and it all makes for a great par 5.

The Fourteenth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

The Fifteenth is a 383 yard par 4.  After all the dog legs, this straightaway is a nice change of pace.  There’s a lone fairway bunker on the left while there is an area of rough on the right that serves as a little bail out room.  Water is along the right of the green, while the green itself is large, running slightly from back to front.

The Fifteenth

Approach shot territory

The green
The Sixteenth is a 420 yard par 4.  There are a few turns to the green but the hole is primarily straight.  A bunker on the left is far enough short of the green to be considered a fairway bunker, but its placement is interesting, since it seems to be in the middle of where most tee shots land and the green.  The green is set to the right of the fairway, sloping from back to front substantially, with rough surrounding the perimeter.  As the number 2 handicapped hole and first on the back, the green placement and trees work well together to create quite a challenge.
The Sixteenth

Approach shot territory

The Seventeenth is a 398 yard par 4.  The hole descends gently to the green from the tee, with a narrow fairway as trees line both sides.  There are also fairway bunkers on both sides, while bunkers surround the green.  This is another hole where driver may not necessarily be the best play; it’s whatever club sets up the ideal approach shot, as the green, trees and surrounding bunkers make it imperative you’re playing from a good angle and a have a clear shot.  The challenge ramps up as the round comes to an end and it’s more evidence when playing this hole.

The Seventeenth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

The green

The Eighteenth is a 308 yard par 4.  The round ends with a severe dog leg that turns to the left just about ninety degrees.  The green sits above the fairway and is hidden from the tee by trees on the left side.  Taking on the trees and carrying them for a short approach to the green is enticing, while the fairway bunker straight out makes you think twice about laying off and just hitting it straight into the fairway.  I’m more comfortable with my driver, so token the trees, but hit it more left than I wanted, ending up at the base of the green.  The problem was I needed to carry a bunker while overhanging trees limited how high I could get the ball.  The green moves severely from right to left, towards the bunker I needed to carry, which needs to be factored in to all putts.  A great short par 4 that makes for a nice finish, especially in match play.

The Eighteenth

At the turn and approach shot territory

I liked the back nine more than the front.  The holes distinguished themselves a little more and the play was more fun and strategic.  Granted, the land was a little more diverse as well, but the back nine provides a lot of the course’s identity.  If I had to rank them, I’d go 11, 18, 13, 12, 17, 16, 14, 15, 10.
Generally Burlington CC is a classic parkland that sets itself apart with a different styled back nine and small yet subtle greens.  Trees are used well here, providing enough width and being used nicely into the design.  There are no exaggerated features or dramatic landscapes here and nothing felt forced.  From the Findlay courses I’ve seen, accuracy is at a premium while distance isn’t as important.  Ballstriking is the emphasis, as well as a strong short game.  At Burlington, there is some strategy in negotiating the trees and bunkers, while the greens range from deceptively subtle to outright severe.  It all makes for a good round of golf and if played enough times, will make you a strong irons and wedges player.  
Gripes:  Oh not much.  Some trees could come out on some of the holes to create a little more interest and strategy, especially on the front.
Bar/Grill:  A few nice areas to hang out, an outdoor patio near the putting green and the bar and grill overlooking the Eighteenth green.  Knowing the plant gallery is in there watching everything puts a little more pressure on you.  
Clubhouse:  Nice and quaint.
Practice area:  A range and putting green.