6,231 yards, 121 slope from the Blues
In Westampton, New Jersey near Mount Laurel, Deerwood Country Club is semi-private club designed by Jim Blaukovitch and Dick Alamo in 1993. Blaukovitch is local and his other design credits include Bella Vista, Golden Oaks, Olde Homestead and Stone Hedge, all of which are pretty good public courses in our area. Developed around housing and wooded wetlands, there are a number of forced carries, water hazards and raised greens that are pretty fun to tackle. The course has a determined variety to it that lands well.
When I started golfing, there were a group of us that primarily played at Jeffersonville until we slowly realized there were a lot other courses out there. We all lived downtown and were willing to drive only so far and Deerwood was on our rota. Always during the weekend, we made a day out of it and that some times had a way of making a night out of it for good measure. One of these days I’ll finally get out my decade in review article and get a little more in depth but those years were formative. There were a lot of intrinsics that were tough for me to articulate back then, but I loved being outside, I loved the interaction with the land, I loved the camaraderie and I loved all the different identities each course had. Mind you, I wasn’t very good at all and my friends were much better and that was an enormous driving force motivating me to keep playing to improve. That’s an entirely different story altogether. The point is when we came to Deerwood, I knew I had to get the ball in the air and was going to lose a good amount of balls but I always looked forward to putting the greens. The greens were always the equalizer for me against the group and these stifled many, giving me a good advantage so long as I could avoid penalties. Eventually, our group disbanded as guys either moved away, lost interest in the game or simply didn’t have the time and I had to figure out how to continue with it on my own. Again, that’s a story for another time. But this course certainly has some sentimental value and brings back those memories. It has been about ten years since I played here, but things have a way of falling in place and I found myself here again, interested to see how much of it I could remember.
A few days before the round, I was at my home course hitting balls at the range. Our teaching pro started watching me and to make a long story short, essentially told me what I had been focusing on in my swing for years was a, “recipe for disaster” and showed me a much easier position to have at the backswing. It was a ballsy move on his part but I respected it. Intrigued, I kept experimenting with it and was more and more taken with it. With a trip to the west coast coming up, I needed an emergency round with a buddy to take a look at it while also using it on the course. Hence, Deerwood.
The course is shorter than I remember but its premium on accuracy ensures it cannot be overwhelmed by long hitters. While it bills itself as a “Carolina style” course, I found it similar to what you would find at a lot of Florida courses, where there is very little tolerance for sideways shots. An aerial based course that still has some ground options, I found myself actually rooting for a few of my shots to end up in bunkers instead of either diving in the water or hitting some mound and rolling into the marshy unknown. I still enjoyed the greens as well. It’s a shorter, craftier version of White Clay Creek with much easier tee shots.
Hot. It was pretty hot that day. Late Spring/early Summer, the heat had finally returned in all its earnestness. Some new action in my pocket, I felt like I was on to something big. Only way to find out was to get after it in the wetlands.
The First is a 380 yard par 4 (from the Blues). A forced carry tee shot over wetlands you’ll get familiar with quickly to a pretty wide fairway that is not tolerant of shots too far off of it. The fairway moves a bit uphill and narrows as it approaches the green, a few bunkers around it yet the entry point generous.
The Second is a 383 yard par 4. Not unlike the First, the tee shot is the same forced carry to a wide fairway that narrows a little moving to the green but it moves more substantially uphill and there are less green side bunkers. These holes are meant to get you warmed up and get some confidence with your swing, as you’ll need it in spades soon enough.
The Third is a 365 yard par 4. A dog leg right that is a little narrower off the tee than the prior two holes, bunkers are on the left side to collect those tee shots trying to get too greedy with their angle into the green. You do need to be on the left to clear the tree line on the right to see the green and with the entry point to the left, the green opens up the further left you go. That is, until those bunkers. The apron before the green is nice and wide, so those with recovery shots or bad lies may want to consider hitting to there instead of the green if the situation calls for it.
The Fourth is a 136 yard par 3. The first par 3 has a lot of room short of the green but the bunker on the left is well positioned and ends up collecting a nice portion of tee shots for those trying to feather their shots close to the pin. Note, there is a bunker on the far side of the green, hiding.
The Fifth is a 465 yard par 4. A long par 4 with a demanding tee shot, the tree line on the right imposes while the left side is even more constructed with the fairway bunker. With the length of the hole, the tee shot needs to be far and sure, as the fairway then narrows and shimmies to the right before the green. The right side continues to be certain death while bunkers are at the green on the left and rear. The green is a nice size, however, so anything on or before it should avoid all the aforementioned perils.
The Sixth is a 350 yard par 4. A disorienting angle from the tee with a substantial forced carry over wetlands, the fairway slants to the right leading to the green with a bunker running across most of the front of it. The green is large and runs back to front but mind the bunker on the rear side as well.
The Seventh is a 513 yard par 5. The next four holes are in this open area before us, which is on the other side of the houses beside the First. The Seventh takes into the area with water off to the right of the tee shot and a stern tree line on the right. The fairway leads gently downhill to water on the left before the green, which makes for most approaches a forced carry. The oblong green does have room around it to miss so by all means do not end up short in the water.
The Eighth is a 209 yard par 3. Moving to other edge of this area closest to the houses, this longer par 3 has a lot of room barring the bunker on the lower left side. The green moves away from the bunker as well, so those in it will need to accommodate for that. All the more reason to stay out.
The Ninth is a 334 yard par 4. A shorter par 4 with all the interest at the approach shot. Bunkers scattered around the green leaves the entry point nice and open for the ground game, this hole can be played several different ways off the tee for the approach most comfortable to the golfer.
The front nine starts off mild before some of the more challenging holes make an appearance and ends with some flexibility. I would rank them 6, 5, 8, 9, 3, 4, 7, 2, 1.
The back nine starts with the 375 yard par 4 Tenth. The final hole before we leave this area, the water on the left comes a little into play off the tee. Turning to the right just a little bit, the green is pretty deep with bunkers running alongside it. It’s a nice starting hole for the back nine; challenging yet still allowing for the ground game.
The Eleventh is a 368 yard par 4. Between the Second and Third, we move into the woods. Water is off to the right near the green and the fairway moves right to left. With most tee shots moving off to the left, the water comes into play more often than you would think with many hitting more to the right than they need to on the approach.
The Twelfth is a 176 yard par 3. A clearing in the woods is what we get with the next two holes, with of them par 3’s. It appears I didn’t get a photo fo the first par 3, but it’s a bit longer and has a nice apron before it for those who end up short. A bunker is off to the right, below the green. In fact, the entire green is raised and some shots that hit the banked edges risk bouncing and rolling into the trees.
The Thirteenth is a 139 yard par 3. Much shorter, a bunker is directly in the way of the tee shot and needs to be carried. We can’t see the green from the tee but it is large and there is a small bunker off the rear side. Accuracy is much more necessary here than the prior and again, sideways isn’t an option.
The Fourteenth is a 398 yard par 4. A mixture of wetlands, water and fairway in front of us with the left side appearing the safest option, which is of course where the trees encroach. Figuring out the carry over the wetlands and staying in the fairway without rolling into the water beyond is a lot to handle off the tee, but all of it is the only way to avoid the lurking trouble. Managing to stay left leaves the golfer with a clear, unimpeded approach into the green while those off to the right have to carry the water. The green is large and the fairway feeds right in to it at grade level, all of it helping negotiate the ball there from just about any lie or location.
The Fifteenth is a 310 yard par 4. A short par 4 where a large bunker before the green makes any shot a carry to it whether form the tee or fairway, longer hitters can decide whether they can carry the bunker or whether they care if they end up in the first instance while short hitters can get there with two shots with their mid to short irons. Really, just don’t get right and you should have a decent approach into the green.
The Sixteenth is a 398 yard par 4. It’s essentially two forced carries; one at the tee and the other at the approach. As we’ve seen, straight and in the air seems to pay dividends here so whatever reliable distance or club you can impart to achieve that, you’ll be fine here.
The Seventeenth is a 556 yard par 5. Long and narrow culminate here. There is room to miss on the right, not left. The green is an interesting approach, the entry point on the left while a bunker guards the rest of the green, forcing the golfer to decide how aggressive to get.
The Eighteenth is a 376 yard par 4. The fairway is almost perpendicular to the tee, behind the tree line on the right. Those that know the course will have an advantage at how much to carry of that tree line while everyone else will seek refuge to the fairway they can actually see, which will leave them with a much longer approach. The fairway is unimpeded to the green, canting left to right and bunkers on the left. Otherwise, the green is deep and with nothing in the way, take that final lash to get on and knock it in.
The back nine is a little more temperamental than the front, with the woods and waterways asserting themselves a bit more and a more varied challenge. I would rank them 10, 18, 11, 14, 15, 17, 16, 13, 12.
Generally, Deerwood is some what unique to the area with its wooded wetland setting that requires an aerial game and isn’t very tolerant of horizontally off line shots. The wide open entry points at the greens allow for some ground game options and its shorter length makes sure this type of challenge is where it should be with the irons and wedges. I mentioned White Clay Creek before, which I believe it shares similarities in playing structure. Like White Clay, it’s the type of course I enjoy playing every now and then but its singularity means it’d get tiring with too much frequency. But its challenge is good to take on with its nowhere-to-hide shots and you learn in a hurry how valuable it is to play short and straight instead of long and sideways. The greens are generally large with some nice contouring and I’ve always enjoyed the fun I’ve had on them.
The course ended up being perfect to try out this newfound swing and after feeling comfortable enough with it, was ready to head out West for the first time in a year and a half. Las Vegas and Los Angeles were on the docket and after being grounded for quite some time, Golfadelphia was once again airborne.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: A large facility that caters to weddings and the like, which also houses a grill and a corner serves as the pro shop.
Practice area: They do have a range and putting green.