6,528 yards, 136 slope from the Blues
Just over the river in Cherry Hill, NJ is Woodcrest Country Club, with a course designed by William Flynn built in 1929. Starting as a nine hole course, it expanded to eighteen shortly after opening. Flynn once again had interesting terrain within which to work, with rolling hills amidst pines and evergreens. Hence, the name of the club! Indeed, trees are a vital and prominent component to the design and Flynn utilized trees in a number of ways to enhance playability not just here, but at several of his courses. A memorable set of par 3’s and some other solid holes make this course worth checking out at least once.
Woodcrest has changed considerably from its original design. For starters, the nines have been flipped. Some of the greens have been changed, including at the Seventh and Fifteenth. The Third was changed considerably to improve drainage issues. Originally, the course ended after what is now the Fourth. The Fifteenth was changed in house substantially as well. With all of that said, the majority of the back nine, except the Fifteenth, is original Flynn.
In addition to the design, Woodcrest has weathered some tough times recently. Initially a private course, it became semi-private years ago but still faced the very real possibility of closing down altogether. The club found a way and has now resurged to an interesting classic option in the area. It has been on my list of places to play for years. I don’t know how many times it has appeared in my year in preview articles, but it’s been a lot!
One of the issues with a course incorporating trees as a prominent design feature is that it needs to constantly ensure that they do not overgrow into playing corridors. On average, trees will take up at least 3% more area annually, so if you multiply that 3% by even five or ten years, you can see how easily unchecked trees can affect the design of a course. Such tree maintenance is costly and if not performed regularly and allowed to continue, there becomes a time when everyone simply assumes that the encroaching trees were always a part of the course. While I cringe at how trendy it’s become on social media to complain about trees – I think The Fried Egg actually sells t-shirts with chainsaws on them to commercialize the whole thing- it is an issue that needs addressing. Woodcrest is a good example of this. Clearing trees in many areas would drastically improve the course, which gets a bit confined in spots and limits a player’s options off the tee or to the green. With the terrain and design what it is here, I would love to see this happen.
As it stands, Woodcrest has a lot going for it. The hills and ridges are used well, tree lines shape holes at nice angles and there is a good variety of play. Yet the trees need to be taken back considerably in order for the course to realize its potential, as it’s simply too tight, confined and narrow on several holes. In combination with that, the punishing rough narrowed the course even more. Width would do wonders here. With that said, I found it an enjoyable classic parkland that smartly winded through the rolling wooded terrain.
The First is a 404 yard par 4 (from the Blues). A forced carry tee shot over a creek to a fairway that sits at an angle and run from left to right. Trees crowd both sides of the fairway, which ends at yet another creek, creating a forced carry for the approach. There’s some room short to miss while bunkers are on either side of the smaller green. This is no gentle handshake. It’s more of an opening throttle.
The Second is a 522 yard par 5. A narrow fairway that’s as straight as the crow flies, again with towering trees on both sides, the Second requires precision and distance. Yet this hole is a great example of trees running rampant. The bunker placement leading up to the green would be a lot more effective and with more width, various avenues to the green of this longer hole would open up.
The Third is a 173 yard par 3. A forced carry over water to the hillside that slopes right to left. Carrying the water, as well as the front bunkers, is vital to scoring here and really, there’s very little room off green to miss. The angles off the tee is one of the things this course does well and this hole is a good example of that. Use the hillside on the right as a sideboard, fade it in over the left bunker, lots of options; just be accurate.
The Fourth is a 512 yard par 5. The tee shots off to the right of the fairway, with the treeline out ahead. The trees again are too much here. Cutting them from the right allows more options off the tee, especially taking on the fairway bunkers on the right. The fairway turns to the right and banks that way as well. There’s a creek at there end of the fairway, so deciding whether to lay up short of it or try for a shorter approach is in play, provided your tee shot was well hit. The green sits uphill, with bunkers on its sides below. The original finishing hole, the routing has gone par 5-3-5 (and will be 3 on the next). Using what the land provides, it’s a challenging par 5 worthy of a finish that could be better with tree work.
The Fifth is a 153 yard par 3. The green sits on a natural knob of a hill, running off on all sides with bunkers set into it on both sides. There’s room to miss and the green moves quickly from back to front, with some nice internal contouring. Far right can catch the hillside a little too much and jump into the trees, so favor the left side. A nice par 3 to take on.
The Sixth is a 330 yard par 4. The tee shot is well below the fairway, tucked into the evergreens. A blind tee shot where the fairway climbs uphill, then turns hard left around a den of evergreens. The well hit tee shot clears the evergreens and gives you a clear view of the green. A good amount of bunkers flash and cluster around the larger wide, shallow green.
The Seventh is a 207 yard par 3. While it kind of feels like you’re in a Christmas tree lot, there happens to be a great longer par 3 amidst every species of evergreen known to the great Pacific Northwest. A large centerline bunker creates a large false front area while the kidney shaped green hangs off to the right from the entry point. Bunkering likewise surrounds the green and with all of it flashing, is kaleidoscope of grass, sand and trees, melding and swirling together from the tee. It’s a great longer par 3.
The Eighth is a 420 yard par 4. The hole dog legs left off the tee, with – you guessed it- trees on both sides. The fairway actually widens after the turn and leads to the smaller green straight ahead. The small green and tight fairway landing area are justified with the shorter distance.
The Ninth is a 360 yard par 4. Another blind tee shot as the fairway rises, then glides gently down to the green. Trees on both sides yet again with fairway bunkers on the left. The green is tucked in on the right side, wide and shallow. Placing the tee shot left ensures a better angle into the green, so those fairway bunkers are well placed. It would be more tempting on that side if the wall of trees was reduce substantially though.
The front nine only has 4 par 4’s, yet the sequencing is a lot of fun and the par 3’s are the strong suit. I would rank them 7, 4, 5, 3, 6, 1, 8, 9, 2.
The back nine starts with the 363 yard par 4 Tenth. A down then up par 4. The elevated tee shot is to a fairway that slopes a little from right to left. Widen the fairway and have it slope some more, which would also engage the small fairway bunkers on the right. the fairway is deep and some what narrow, stronger with the right to left slope, and bunkers guarding the green on either side. No need for trees here, as the ground contours could make this a much stronger hole, and I suspect Flynn saw it that way as well since he really only used trees to frame dog legs.
The Eleventh is a 505 yard par 5. Another elevated tee shot that opens up after the chute of trees confronting you off the tee. A wider fairway to boot that could be spiced up with more canting to one side, all of which leads to a creek that ends of the fairway. A small green awaits on the other side of the creek but with the wide fairway, it’s easy to set up an approach you’re comfortable with.
The Twelfth is a 450 yard par 4. Like the First, a double forced carry hole; off the tee and then again on the approach. The hole darts off to the right from the tee after the first creek then runs a bit downhill to the second creek, with good width. The green is raised and bunkers are on either side of the green up front. The longer approach is testing over the water and up the hill, it’s easy to get caught up in either bunker.
The Thirteenth is a 190 yard par 3. Just when you get used to some width, you get to this hole that feels like you just walked into the Black Forest of Germany. The green is in there some where, above the tee with the front well guarded by imposing bunkers. It’s a great hole that could be much better with the removal of a lot of unnecessary trees. The green movement from left to right is fun stuff as well, which again would be more effective if that side of the hole was opened up as a tempting bail out.
The Fourteenth is a 428 yard par 4. A mild forced carry of the tee to a fairway that bends left, then straightens out to the green. Water is on the left side as well, so get rid of all those trees between the water and fairway and have that slope play a prominent and intimidating role off the tee. The fairway is narrow here but pulling off the tee shot means you have a very manageable approach to a green that’s diagonal to the fairway and moves from front in back in that direction. The tee shot dictates all here.
The Fifteenth is a 362 yard par 4. A shorter par 4 where the fairway moves straight out, yet the green is placed several paces off to the left, with a smattering of bunkers between the green and fairway. Trees are confining here and take out any temptation to go for the green, or even get as close to it as possible. Like we’ve seen on several holes, it reduces the effectiveness of the bunkers, which is the case here as well since there’s no reason to attack the left side. The green has nice movement and the bunkering is solid; it just needs to be accentuated by removing a lot of clutter and getting some ripples in the fairway.
The Sixteenth is a 408 yard par 4. A hard dog leg left to the fairway below, again shrouded in trees. The hole was rebuilt from Flynn’s drawings. Getting the ball over to the right side off the tee ensures a clean approach, which is fairly open unless you go far. The green moves left, towards the bunker on that side, guarding those coming in from the right and making you decide on a line more to the left off the tee. And like that, it’s easy to talk your into gambling on the left side and taking yourself out of the hole altogether even before the tee shot.
The Seventeenth is a 181 yard par 3. The final par 3 is to an uphill green with bunkers in front and off to the right. The hillside moves left, with the sloping capable of taking balls off of it and down below rather easily. Deceptively long and insisting on a good amount of accuracy, it’s yet another great and challenging par 3 worth the price of admission.
The Eighteenth is a 560 yard par 5. The fairway runs at an angle from the tee, forcing you to draw it right to left around the trees on the left or try to go over them entirely. The fairway runs until it runs into water, with the green on the other side. The wide green is shallow and with the clubhouse patio likely full of onlookers in good weather, the final approach has just a little extra pressure.
The back nine includes many of what’s left of Flynn’s original holes. There’s a little more width, the par 4’s are stronger and the par 3’s continue to be just as good as on the front. I would rank them 17, 13, 14, 10, 11, 18, 12, 15, 16.
Generally, Woodcrest is on terrific terrain and is a strong layout that is mired with an overgrowth of trees in many spots. Some additional contours would really engage the ground game more and take advantage of well placed bunkers. While I understand the routing change to have an exciting backdrop to the Eighteenth green, the sequencing and difficulty of holes seems to flow better if it was flipped back. It has the potential to be one of the more notable courses in South Jersey and as it continues to come back from where it was a few years ago, this is a course worthy of restoration work, which would would do wonders. As it stands now, the course has some very good par 3’s and other nice holes that emphasize shotmaking. With more width and contours, there would be more strategy throughout the round and even more interest. Lots of opportunity here and with a rejuvenated membership and clubhouse, things are looking good for Woodcrest.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Recently renovated with a great outdoor patio area. The pro shop is large with most everything you could want as well.
Practice area: Full range and putting green, as well as short game area.