How often does your caddie tell you to aim your shot at the Empire State Building? At Bayonne, it happened to me—as I addressed my second shot at the sixteenth. The course’s stunning location is only part of the story. Bayonne’s clubhouse sits 93 feet above New York Harbor and is surrounded by huge man-made dunes. The property is the indirect result of the deepening of the Kill van Kull, the strait between Staten Island and the New Jersey mainland. The dredging companies needed a way to dispose of the material and golf course developer Eric Bergstol decided to help out. As a result, for the next year 250 dump trucks per day deposited their loads on Bergstol’s property where he massaged it into Bayonne Golf Club. While a century ago, it was not unusual for amateurs (think Crump, Fownes, Wilson, Leeds, etc.) to design golf courses, the practice has fallen out of favor. Bergstol’s fine work continues that tradition. He’s built lovely green complexes and allowed a variety of approaches, including the ground game, on half of them. He has also included plenty of variety in length. On the par 3s, for example, I hit wedge, 7 iron, 5 iron and fairway wood.
While my favorite holes were 8, 9, and 13 (the latter featuring a delightful Maiden green), the rest were less memorable. Bayonne’s Redan version is a poor emulation of North Berwick’s and its Dell hole lacks the aiming stone of Lahinch’s original. And the links sensation is marred by the fact that the course does not play firm and fast--at least it didn’t in September 2016, when it had been watered heavily. The routing could be more intuitive. It requires 3 walks of over 100 yards to the subsequent tee.
These are minor quibbles, however, and should not prevent those fortunate enough to play here from enjoying a splendid round of golf.
Date: September 18, 2016