I agree with the previous reviewers. I visit NJ to see my family a few times a year and this is always on my short list of places to play. Why? It is a lot of fun to play, has been consistently in good condition, and with various discount options it is very reasonable to play. And I admit I enjoy the semi-representation of the architects recreated work.
Does the opening hole represent Old Tom? Sort of. Well the stacked sod bunkers look like it, but clearly the turf is different than St Andrews. But who cares?! Sometimes the best part of golf is the fun of the round and the walk through the woodlands.
And there are challenges. Though the first hole is pretty straight forward par/birdie, the second surprises you with a VERY challenging par 3 where most would be ecstatic to be somewhere on the green.
Played the course (which I played already several times few years ago) on Sep 2nd and found it as pleasant and fun as I remember. While I am not really able to judge the resemblance of the different holes to the architects to which they are inspired, I can say that the layout is quite nice and that this is one of the nicest public course you can play in NJ. On the second nine there are several very lomg par four which are challenging and beautiful at the same time. Greens were in quite a good condition and green fee at $69 on a Saturday morning should be considered a very good deal!
Replica courses have been around for quite some time. The issue is whether such a devotion to what's been done previously can still have enough pizzazz to carry it's own weight when duplicated. The Architect's Club is an attempt to highlight design principles of key designers who have all since passed away. Architect Stephen Kay worked with Golf Digest Architecture Editor Ron Whitten in putting together the details and there are various holes honoring the likes of Donald Ross, Old Tom Morris, Dick Wilson, William Flynn, to name just a few.
The first four holes of the course are fairly mundane. The design elements early on won't exactly get your pulse racing. That changes when you reach the par-4 5th -- a 357-yard hole modeled after the work of Walter Travis. There's plenty of detail provided and the putting surface is appropriately contoured.
At the par-4 7th you encounter an uphill dog-leg right hole modeled after the work of A.W. Tillinghast. The key is determining how much of the corner you wish to cut. The green would also make Tillie smile as it's slanted somewhat severely from back to front with enough vexing internal contours included.
The par-3 8th that follows models itself from the design beliefs of Seth Raynor and is well done. The closing hole for the outward nine is one the best hole at Architect's and is created in the spirit of Donald Ross. The 440-yard par-4 commences with a blind tee shot and is generally into the seasonal playing wind. Complicating matters is the close proximity of a pond just to the left of the green.
The back nine carries much of the weight at Architect's. The par-5 11th is a solid uphill dog-leg right mimicked from Flynn. The stretch of holes starting with the 14th through the 17th is exceptional. You encounter a trio of good long par-4's in succession -- from the likes of Perry Maxwell, then Ross again and concluding with Wilson. The 17th is the best of the par-3 holes at Architect's -- modeled after the works of Canadian architect Stanley Thompson. When the pin is cut towards the extreme far left it takes a superior play to get near the pin as bunkers rigorously guard the putting surface.
Unfortunately, the 18th is suppose to be a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. hole and it's quite lame. The hole features bunkers bracketing the fairway so strategic choice is limited and the green is excessively large and not especially memorable.
All in all, Architect's has its moments. The land provides enough movement to keep things interesting -- especially on the back nine. The phrase, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," is spot on and for those who don't have access to private clubs -- where such works can be experienced directly -- the time at Architect's can be helpful as an introduction. However, replica courses can get tiresome because the desire to see the actual works trumps those fixated on serving as mere clones.
by M. James Ward