6,681 yards, 132 slope from the Blues
Course: In Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, which is essentially the South Jersey Shore just before Atlantic City, is Ballamor Golf Club, a course designed by the firm Ault, Clark & Associates in 2001. Set on rolling terrain amidst the wooded pines of South Jersey, the course maintains width but creates corridors with its expansive bunkering, hills and mounds, as well as water that comes into play on a number of holes. The greens are shaped and contoured aggressively and the routing branches out in a few directions to avoid environmentally protected wetland areas located towards the center of the property. Distances, angles and shot selections are well mixed, while there are a couple blind shots to keep things interesting.
Ballamor started as a private course in an area thalt is full of pedigreed golf. Atlantic City County Club, Hidden Creek, Galloway National and Greate Bay are some of these, all just about a stone’s throw away. As an understated club with a very subdued clubhouse and lacking the history, prestige or big name architect of those other courses, Ballamor became lost in the shuffle a bit, running into some financial trouble and then opened up for public play. The course is now known for its great conditioning and is a nice public option in the area, finally finding its stride as a well priced quality course emphasizing strategy over difficulty and a gentle enjoyability over intense heroics. There is some advantage in repeat play, especially with the blind shots and greens. The protected wetland areas affect the walkability and routing a bit, and there were a few holes that seemed trite. With that said, however, I really enjoyed my round here. Maybe it was because it was the first round of the year, maybe it was because I was playing well or maybe it was because it ended up being my lowest scoring round ever (of course during winter) but I thought the tee shots were inviting and the pressure increased the closer you got to the green. And it may go without saying, but I never let how I score affect my take on a course. If that were the case, I would hate 90% of the courses I play.
The green complexes are likely the most impressive feature. There was a lot of fun putting from different parts of the greens, or deciding what type of shots to use around them, including the bunkers. What I also enjoyed about the course is it made sure not to follow the bunkering waste land style you see at a number of South Jersey courses, instead relying on traditional bunkering and using more short grass collection areas and sloping, which accentuated the ground game a lot more than many courses in the area.
Jersey Shore golf is where I end up most often during the off season. Reduced rates and the weather is usually at least 5 degrees warmer with a lot less snow than the Philadelphia area, it’s a great time to have the place to yourself and get excited for the coming warmer months. I had found something with my swing around this time and felt dialed in when I pulled into the parking lot. The pro shop told me to get in front of the six-some that was about to tee off, so I found a cart, sped to the First, and hit my opening drive, a pull about a quarter mile to the left but still in play. And with that, the 2019 season began!
The First is a 522 yard par 5 (from the Blues). Straight off but the bunker positioning shifts the fairway left to right a bit. The left side off the tee takes the left bunkers further up out of play on the second shot and the left side is preferred on the approach as well. Bunkers pinch the opening of the green, which is raised then widens, moving from back to front in general. A nice opener and as a par 5, a few swings to sharpen up for the oncoming tougher holes.
The Second is a 401 yard par 4. A dog leg left where the fairway cants from right to left, towards the inside of the turn, the fairway also laps in gentle waves to the green. There are green side bunkers on the right while the entry point to the green is on the left. Lots of width here, but deciding how to attack the wide and shallow green reverberates back to the placement off the tee.
The Third is 299 yard par 4. A shorter par 4 where the green hooks to the right of the fairway, with water along the front and entire right side of the fairway. Bunker complexes on both sides temper the tee shot, so deciding whether to lay up to the wider portion of the fairway or take on the left bunkers to end up in an ideal angle to the green – or go for the green outright – are all on the table. The left side of the green is the opening, which slopes substantially. It’s a fun short par 4 with a few different routes to the green.
The Fourth is a 429 yard yard par 4. The fairway climbs from the tee, with bunkers staggered along the left side. The ridge line then drops the fairway down to the green, where the right side off green drops well below it on that side. The green itself moves from right to left. One of the really fun aspects of this course is the shots you encounter just off the green, on the tightly mown slopes, in the bunkers and occasionally in the rough. The Fourth is no exception in this circumstance.
The Fifth is a 586 yard par 5. I finally started to catch up to some groups as a single so as they waved me through when I stepped to the tee, I was too busy hauling through the hole to get out of their way to take photos. The fairway dog legs left on the second shot, where the turn is well guarded by bunkers on both sides and the fairway constricts. The green is slightly above the fairway, which feeds into it and is fairly deep. The narrowness of the fairway and the length of the hole make it a challenge and the number one handicap hole, but thinking about cutting the dog leg to shorten the length is a real possibility.
The Sixth is a 148 yard par 3. For those who read the 2019 preview, here is the photo I alluded to. A picturesque par 3 that’s a forced carry over water with bail out room to the right. Greenside bunkers on the left extends over the water and the green. The green is subtle in movement, but there is a hollow of sorts near the back right side.
The Seventh is a 373 yard par 4. The placement of the tees brings the water into play; one of the many lakes and ponds you’ll encounter throughout the round. The fairway comes around from the left to right from the tee with large bunker areas lurking on the left side. More bunkers are on the left near the green, with the right side not completely ignored with its single green side bunker. The deep green is narrow and there’s lots of movement, so really, the challenge starts at the tee and doesn’t end until the ball is in the hole.
The Eighth is a 202 yard par 3. This longer par 3 is made a little longer on account of being a little uphill. Bunkers in front and below the green are off to both sides and the green moves from back to front. For its length, there’s not a whole lot of room to miss other than short, so play accordingly.
The Ninth is a 438 yard par 4. And passing another group gets me tied up with the photos. The elevated tee shot is a forced carry over water while the fairway fluctuates between wide and tight. Short of the green finally opens up for good, sloping down to the green. It’s a tough hole that I would have guessed is the number 2 handicapped hole (it’s actually 3).
The front nine is mainly on the west side of English Creek, which is much flatter yet does have some small hills, with water coming into play often. The greens and off green areas were a blast to play as were a few of the holes. Ranking them, I’d go 3, 4, 9, 7, 6, 2, 1, 5, 8.
The back nine starts with the 557 yard par 5 Tenth. Another straight hole, yet the ridges and bunkers ensure sufficient variety. Here, the fairway leads uphill from the tee, then down to the green. Both second and approach shots are possibly blind. The green sits on a plateau, with the far side dropping off abruptly. It’s a nice approach shot, with the trees and hillside on the right blocking the view on that side. It’s a challenge and is the number 2 handicap as a result.
The Eleventh is a 399 yard par 4. The tee shot bounds down to the valley of the fairway, which then climbs to the green, perched above. Bunkers take up a lot of space, which narrows the fairway towards the mid-point. So figuring out where to place the tee shot takes thought. Longer means taking on the bunkers, but helps significantly with the longer approach, whereas a shorter tee shot is safer at the expense of a tougher approach.
The Twelfth is a 150 yard par 3. A forced carry over some native vegetation, a shorter par 3 that calls for an accurate shot to a modest sized green. Even shots out of the native areas are possible. Alas, the easiest handicapped hole on the course.
The Thirteenth is a 417 yard par 4. The fairway runs uphill with trees on both sides. The green is set on more on the right, which is the higher point of the hillside. A single bunker is on this hole, to the left of the green, which everything moves towards. The bunker forces you to favor the right side, but any putt or chip will be downhill to the pin. The closer you gamble with the bunker, the easier your time near and on the green. A nice way of using the hillside and a single bunker to transform the hole into a nice strategic one.
The Fourteenth is a 167 yard par 3. Another one shotter where you’re left to your own devices to get the ball on the green and near or in the hole. The right side has a group of bunkers below the green while the left side has one level with the green. There is a wider opening at the front and the green is likewise wide. Hit it close and stop to enjoy the pines.
The Fifteenth is a 347 yard par 4. A shorter par 4 where the tee shot is a forced carry over water. The fairway looks like it’s swimming with bunkers, so laying up short of them to the right is a safe play but leads to a more difficult approach. Taking on the bunkers on the left though means the approach will be much more manageable, to the sinewy green.
The Sixteenth is a 433 yard par 4. Straightaway, again with bunker use fairly limited and only on the left side of the fairway. Trees on both sides until about 100 yards before the green, where it opens up to the raised green, whose only defenses are the slopes and ruffles of the terrain. It’s a fun approach and the movement of the ground demands attention.
The Seventeenth is a 312 yard par 4. A nice short par 4 where again bunkers muddle the visuals and lines off the tee. A bail out area is offered once again short before the bunkers but taking them on gets rewarded with a much shorter approach and better angle into the green. The green is angled from 2:00 to 7:00, raised from the fairway with a large sloping area to the left of the green. Like many before it, the green and surrounds are a lot of fun and it pays to get creative.
The Eighteenth is a 501 yard par 5. The final hole is a dog leg right with water running along the entire right side, trees along the left, and bunkers on both. The tee shot is to the widest part of the fairway, while the green is off to the right. Some may consider carrying the water and going for the green, but everyone else gets to decide how far they want to go down the fairway to set up the approach. The father you go, the less the water is a factor on the approach. The green is modestly sized, with slopes off the edges into a trench collection area whereas a wide bunker is next to the water before the green. It’s a nice finisher, especially for match play, with so many different paths to the green.
The back nine is a little shorter than the front, with some great shorter par 4’s, interesting par 5’s and lots of fun green complexes. I’d rank them 17, 10, 18, 16, 15, 11, 13, 14, 12.
Generally, Ballamor is a fun course with some strategic calls where the green complexes are worth the price of admission for their large slopes and vast short grass contours. It stands out than a lot of courses in the area for tempering its use of bunkers (for the most part) and instead making a concerted effort at emphasizing the ground movement, as well as water hazards. Rough, long grass and fescue aren’t really featured, which makes finding balls much easier. Most of the time, the ball is either lost in the water or woods or findable, so the flow of the round is fairly steady, more than making up for any issues with the routing having to deal with environmental restrictions. The par 3’s were a bit lacking, which was surprising since the greens were a bright spot. But in general, I thought it was a nice play, with good diversity in the holes and a lot of freedom in playing styles allowed with wide corridors, which are abated by bunkers, ridges and mounds. I see it as one of the better public options in the area.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Modest, with enough room to relax after the round, either inside or outside.
Practice area: A range and putting green, maybe a short game area I missed.