New Jersey has several hubs of great golf — in the towns near to New York City, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and on the coast near Atlantic City — but the northwest region of the state does not receive as much acclaim. Those in the area can at least hang their hats on Hawk Pointe, a fine public-access layout from Kelly Blake Moran.
The property is fairly open, relying on ponds and natural creeks instead of trees to enforce accuracy. The most effective hazard, however, are Moran’s very large bunker installations, which will be in play right off the first tee. Although there are bunkers of a more normal size guarding the inside of the dogleg on this par five, players will need to be wary of playing too safe and hitting through the outside of the turn, where the largest trap on the property rests.
This won’t be the last interaction with a long hole during the round, as No. 15 uses a hill on the outside of the hole for a curious alternate route. The second shot may need to contend with trees as the fairway tightens, but a different patch of fairway exists high on the slope. From here, players have a more open view to the green down below.
The course plays to just more than 7,000 yards from the tips.
The most difficult issue for many clubs and courses throughout the Garden State is competing against the vast array of quality designs that dot the landscape. Unquestionably, the number of top tier layouts that came about during the Golden Age of design in the early part of the 20th century is well represented and quite rightly so.
In recent years there have been course additions and a number of them bear attention. Hawk Pointe clearly deserves special mention. The name Kelly Blake Moran may not be a most familiar one but to those who are astute architectural observers his work clearly resonates.
Moran's work in neighboring States such as New York and Pennsylvania can be seen with fine efforts at Laurel Links and Lederach. His work at Hawk Pointe is just a shade of a step behind the aforementioned two.
Hawk Point is not located on an especially special piece of land. There's a bit of roll but hardly anything of special note. Being able to craft engaging holes and doing so via a routing that constantly forces players to make adjustments was no small task.
Moran excels in providing for thought provoking green sites and Hawk Pointe has quite a few of them. Being able to get into position off the tee is central to one's success because securing the most favorable approach angle can clearly be of immense benefit.
Hawk Pointe begins with a clear risk/reward par-5. The hole turns right in the drive zone and you have to determine if the bold play is worth the effort right from the get-go. Even if the bod play succeeds one has to pay mindful attention to pin location and safely position one's approach so that a realistic putt can be holed.
The pattern of risk/reward from the tee is a constant element at Hawk Pointe. At the superb par-4 2nd -- the 463 yard hole offers a split fairway option. Those who take on the more challenging left side and succeed will be left with considerably far less yardage than those opting for the safer right side.
At the short par-4 3rd you encounter wetlands which run on a diagonal from the tee. Again -- players have to decide how much risk they wish to take on. Those who bite off more than they're able to execute will pay a price -- sometimes a very steep one.
At the par-4 5th you encounter a massive bunker protecting the inside corner of the dog-leg left. Being able to place one's tee shot over the bunker provides a much more direct approach to the green.
Interestingly, the short par-4 6th is a vastly underrated hole at Hawk Pointe. The hole turns left in the drive zone and being able to play over it will be most conducive for the approach. The green is exceptional -- with three distinct areas and mandating the correct yardage to get near to the pin that day.
The outward half ends with a quality par-5 at the 7th, a good mid-length par-4 at the 8th and a first rate uphill par-3 of 185 yards at the 9th.
The inward half commences with a pro forma par-5 but matters quickly intensify with the engaging par-4 11th. Again, angles dictate outcome. The hole turns slightly to the right and it behooves players to stay on the left side to open up the approach to just about any pin location.
The balance of the back nine showcases this ongoing theme of pin placements protected. To score at Hawk Pointe one needs to be in complete sync with one's ability level. Being resolute in one's execution clearly helps matters but Moran doesn't just give away low scores.
The par-5 15th is one of the best holes at Hawk Pointe. Again, there's a turning point -- this time to the left and the green is nicely positioned around another turning point. Players have to decide how bold of an effort to take on with the 2nd shot.
The ending trio of holes at Hawk Pointe rounds out the experience in fine fashion. The par-3 16th includes a delicious contoured green. One has to finish near the hole to leave with a low score. The par-4 17th includes an uphill approach to an angled green and again it's all about the proper club selection to settle near the pin position.
The closing hole is a solid capper to the day's play. At 443 yards the tee shot is protected by a menacing pond to the right. Strong players can tale a bold line of attack by aiming at a solitary tree placed in the fairway. Those who opt to go too far left will be at the mercy of two fairway bunkers on that side. The approach is slightly uphill to another appropriately contoured green.
Hawk Pointe embodies a combination of classical architecture themes presented in a modern framework. Moran's effort clearly merits attention and if the course were located in any number of other States would surely bear more acclaim than it does now given New Jersey's extremely competitive golf environment. For those able to gain access a round at Hawk Pointe is clearly one to savor.