Canoe Brook Country Club dates back to 1901, when its 18-hole North course was unveiled. The South course, designed by C.H. Alison, followed in 1924. Both layouts have been significantly altered down the years.
“I only saw the course set up for the 1983 U.S. Women’s Amateur,” wrote Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, “which for some reason borrowed a bit from the North course, too. There are no bad Alison courses, but the widening of Route 24 caused substantial changes here.”
Records also suggest that the South course was the stage for the 1936 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
The intrepid Rudo’s Golf Travels blogger didn’t appreciate the opener one eyeota when he played here in August 2020: “Frankly the first hole is awful… 511-yard par 5 straight downhill, then flat to a wide and shallow green guarded by a large pond that starts about 80 yards short of the green front and covers all but the right hand 40% of the fairway… But actually, I liked the course and thought it was more fun than the North and made excellent use of some difficult land.”
Canoe Brook is a 36-hole complex and is located just minutes from its more illustrious 36-hole neighbor Baltusrol Golf Club. It is at that point the similarities between the two ends.
The most meaningful event that happened in recent times came in 2006 when an up-and-coming player named Michelle Wie attempted to qualify for the '06 U.S. Open and the sectional qualifier was at Canoe Brook that year. In covering the event I can remember vividly the number of mobile television trucks that gathered that day at the property. The amount of people who came out to see the Hawaiian prodigy was also noteworthy. It became so crowded that the Metropolitan Golf Association (MGA) had to close the course to any additional people who wanted to see Michelle play that day. Wie did not qualify but her play was an eye-opener for many.
The South is located on the other side of highway 24 which cuts the property into two halves.
The layout does have some quality terrain and the routing of the holes is done well given the overall snug fit.
The issue for the South is that it happens to be in a very competitive golf landscape in the Garden State. Cracking the top 25 in New Jersey is no small feat and even landing a top in the top 50 is hardly an easy situation. Neither of the two courses at Canoe Brook would garner such a placement. The old-time architects clearly left their fingerprints during the State's early connection to golf course development and the wave of public courses that came onto the scene in the last 25-30 years has also been noteworthy.
The South provides a golf experience that's enjoyable but hardly memorable.
There are a few noteworthy two-shot holes with the likes of the 2nd and the exacting 5th leading the way on the outward half.
Unfortunately, the collection of par-3 and par-5 holes is fairly rudimentary and doesn't exactly stir the blood.
On the inward half the par-4 12th and 18th holes respectively are done well and do provide a bit of appeal.
As someone explained to me the difference between something showcasing rustic appeal and those that are simply possessed of rust is not that far apart but clearly one that happens.
The South has a few special moments but unfortunately, far too few, when held against the likes of the high bar for architecture that certainly exists throughout Northern NJ.
M. James Ward