Only a 90 minute drive from central Manhattan in upstate New Jersey stands the Ballyowen course, hard to believe a links style course could be located in the heavily forested rolling hills of the area, when you’re on course it feels very remote and peaceful. Despite the Irish links theme of the clubhouse, staff uniforms and a bagpiper this is not a links course, too much water and elevation change for that but it is an attractive layout which makes great use of the rolling landscape, water hazards and fescue grass which lines most of the fairways.
The course starts with a couple of great par 4’s both of which require large carries over waste areas to find the fairway, the 2nd being a real risk and reward hole, the bolder you are the easier and safer your 2nd shot will be. I really enjoyed the par 3’s, especially those with water hazards guarding the front, the 6th being a highlight. Requires a solid mid iron onto a huge green, especially tough into the wind with a front right pin position, I was fortunate to hole a 50 foot birdie putt from the left hand side but I wouldn’t recommend that as a tactic. The back 9 was more of the same with a cracking downhill par 5 to open the inward stretch, hit a good drive and even higher handicappers can go for the green in 2. The round ends with a great par 5 and tough par 4, even a great drive on 18 will need a high quality approach to make par on an elevated green, very easy to under club and come up short. The greens are all huge, many with severe slopes, find the wrong place on them and you’d better commit to your shot or you’ll be seeing plenty of 3 and 4 putts. They rolled well when we played, still had signs of the spring treatment, understandable given the cool spring weather however it was disappointing to see how many were blighted by numerous pitch marks, I guess being a public course players aren’t so worried about repairing them. Course conditioning was of high quality, despite a wet few days before the turf was in great condition with very few boggy patches, early in the season the fescue hadn’t grown thick and high so it was a little more forgiving than it will become, high summer it will swallow loose shots. I thought the fairways were generous, most the fairway bunkers which made them look tight are pretty well spaced and the rough being more of hazard, the greenside bunkers stood ready to collect anything short or long. They were fun to play out of, not too deep and the quality sand made them relatively easy to escape, a few were suffering from the prior days rain but most were playable.
As you would expect from a US resort course quality service from the moment you arrive, buggies were included in the green fee and I would advise taking one because there is a long walk between holes. Overall well worth a trip, public courses of this quality are rare in the tri-state area.
Date: May 14, 2019