Hackensack Golf Club dates back to 1899 but the course in play today isn’t quite that old. Designed by Seth Raynor and built by his construction associate Charles Banks, it was brought into play in 1928, two years after the architect passed away.
Featuring Raynor trademark replica holes such as Redan, Short and Biarritz, the layout has been overhauled by Rees Jones in more recent times, starting in 2007 when the original plans were found in the basement of the clubhouse.
Over the following six years, Steve Weisser from Rees Jones, Inc. worked on restoring design features, adding one or two that were planned but never actually constructed, like the enormous bunker that now runs for 150 yards along the side of the 11th, nearly eight feet below the level of the fairway.
Credit the leadership of Hackensack Golf Club in realizing in the early 1990's a thorough review of the golf was needed and that a smart decision was made at that time to hire Rees Jones to do the restoration and updating of the course. Hackensack gained immeasurably and the outcome brought to life a Charles "Steam Shovel" Banks course.
While the layout is indeed bolstered -- the overall architecture is simply good -- not the compelling variety -- found at a number of the top tier courses in New Jersey. Hackensack has enough to offer and is a serious candidate for top 20 inclusion in the Garden State.
Unlike other Banks courses -- the land at Hackensack is quite mild. There's some elevation change but nothing drastic. The hole diversity is varied but there's no real series of holes that really cause the blood to stir with much anticipation. The restored Biarritz par-3 3rd hole is especially well done. The essence is clearly present but when held against the likes of a similar creation at Forsgate / Banks Course (17th hole) the one at Hackensack takes the silver but not the gold metal.
The greensites at Hackensack are appropriately contoured but nothing stand out on a consistent theme. Rees Jones has updated the bunkering and his work clearly has dusted off the cobwebs and made the course more contemporary without compromising its pedigree.
Being located in Bergen County -- Hackensack falls in the shadows of the top layout in the jurisdiction with The Ridgewood County Club in nearby Paramus leading the way. That's not a knock on Hackensack but a clear recognition of the overall design superiority found at the A.W. Tillinghast creation.
Two of the best holes at Hackensack come to close out each side. The par-4 9th is very demanding end to the outward side and requires a well-placed tee shot that avoids two fairway bunkers and also include a two-tiered putting surface.
The closing hole is no less in terms of overall strengths. Unlike the 9th which moves on a left-to-right basis -- the 18th works the other way and two fairway bunkers are included to keep one's attention. The green is elevated slightly and angled -- with a lone frontal bunker eagerly awaiting approach shots which are not played accordingly. The green is also bisected by a ridge running from front to back.
Memorability is the cornerstone of scintillating design. Hackensack is worthy of attention, however, context is pivotal in not overstating what it offers and what it conversely fails to do. The Oradell-based club clearly rises above adequacy but it cannot demonstrate a striking presence that clearly ascends the highest of steps on the competitive course ladder that defines golf in New Jersey.
by M. James Ward