Formed in 1898, Hollywood’s initial 9-hole course lasted only four years before the club moved to another site, where it remained for eleven years before members moved to their current location, next door to Deal Golf and Country Club in New Jersey
A Scottish professional named Isaac Mackie was tasked with creating a new 18-hole course at Deal which opened in 1913, but within a couple of years, Walter J. Travis (three-time US Amateur Champion between 1900 and 1903 and Amateur Champion at Royal St George’s in 1904) would work with Greens Committee chairman Frank B. Barrett to totally revamp the layout.
Travis dispensed with many of Mackie's sand traps and green complexes, combining some holes, removing and adding others. When the beefed-up Hollywood course reopened in 1915, there were no fewer than 220 bunkers incorporated into the design, with no fewer than 57 assigned to the 12th hole alone.
A number of architects have been involved down the years to maintain the integrity of the Travis design. Dick Wilson remodeled the layout in the mid-1950s, then Geoff Cornish carried out additional modifications in the 1980s before Rees Jones completed a renovation in the late 1990s.
In 2013, Hollywood embarked on yet another remedial programme, which included extensive bunker restoration, this time under the tutelage of Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design.
“The great depth of golf in the Met Section is
illustrated here,” said Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses,
“Hollywood received scant attention before a recent restoration by Brian
Schneider, an avowed fan of Travis’s greens. These are some of the old man’s
best: the four-tiered 7th is not as excessive as it sounds, and the lower
back-left hole location at the 9th a thing of beauty.”
Who knows, with all these changes completed, we may yet see the Women’s US Amateur Championships (won here in 1921 by Marion Hollins when she defeated Alexa Stirling 5&4 in the final) return one year to the grand old Hollywood Golf Club? After all, the club successfully hosted the 2014 US Senior Women’s Amateur, won by Joan Higgins.
So many clubs / courses either have gone through or are undertaking an updating of their various designs. Over the course of time Hollywood had the fingerprints of such architects as Dick Wilson, Geoffrey Cornish and Rees Jones. This hodge-podge effort resulted in muddying up the original waters that Walter Travis originally envisioned.
It's amazing to realize just how many bunkers -- 220 total -- were part of the original layout -- with a monumental 57 on just the 12th hole alone.
Hats off to Brian Schneider from Renaissance for stripping away the out-of-place elements that only served to clutter up the original brilliance. The mound work that was truly instrumental to the design is now back in place. There is also the "volcano bunkers" and an array of ridges and rises which clearly impact play.
The key for the re-emergence of Hollywood goes beyond Renaissance and special note must be rightly paid to superintendent Mike Broome. Too many times the architect(s) often get the lion's share of credit and they clearly deserve the praise. But, what's often missed is how the day-to-day upkeep is central to keeping the design elements in their rightful place. Far too many classic courses -- most notably in the Northeast -- have failed to do the extra step in ensuring that the core elements are nurtured and sustained in a proper manner.
Hollywood does not abut the Atlantic Ocean but it's near enough to impact the daily play.
The layout starts with a strong opening two-shot hole. Then the magic of the routing takes hold -- constantly moving about. The par-3 4th is rightly lauded with its engaging design. The key throughout the time at Hollywood is about being very particular on approach shots. There are constant movements -- some subtle -- some more impactful. You have closely mown areas superbly done so that the slightest miscues are noted and acted upon.
The Travis touch is truly alive and well at Hollywood and it's truly amazing given the reality that the property is quite flat for the most part. Being able to add a range of strategic holes into the equation without including redundancies is no small feat. The core of the course rests with the compelling range of par-4 holes.
The par-4 12th clearly belongs among the best golf holes in the Garden State. The strategic implications are clearly present. The player has to decide -- on which side of the fairway works best -- as both sides are protected. The approach must also be played with great dexterity because as I alluded to earlier -- there are falls offs and internal contours to confound players.
The short par-4 13th which dog-legs left is also quite appealing as a counterpoint hole. You also have a devilish small center-placed bunker complex awaiting the hapless player who does not give it a wide berth.
The intensity of the challenge remains constant when you reach the par-4 14th. The tee shot must carry a bunker on the hole as it turns right. When the pin is placed in the far-left front position the approach must be letter perfect as a fronting penalty area must be crossed and bunkers in the rear.
What's interesting is that the 16th plays as a par-5 that moves slightly uphill. If any major events is held at Hollywood, the par designation changes to a par-4.
The par-3 17th masks its true impact from the tee -- it's the green site with its varied movements and section is truly noteworthy. The closing hole seals the deal in fine fashion showcasing the Travis touch and leaving a lasting impression when departing.
How good is Hollywood versus the already high bar that is Jersey golf? In my mind, a position among the top ten is a certainty. Matters get bit more complicated about a sure fire top five position. Other key courses at that level have done similarly like Hollywood and rebooted themselves to their original stature.
The only real weakness rests with the two par-5s when the overall par is reduced to 70. They play in opposite directions and abut one another. Both are good but when the menu of holes is truly noteworthy the sum total of what the two holes provide does not get the heartbeat fluttering with excitement.
Hollywood rests on having an array of intricate and bold elements throughout the round. To the club's credit the leadership realized the past road traveled was only submerging the Travis genius.
To borrow the California song -- "hurray for Hollywood" -- Jersey style!
M. James Ward
Hollywood is a special course. It is visually stunning and play is challenging. The green contours are excellent. Many a hole requires you to place your shot in the right area or a 3 putt is expected. The fescue lined bunkers set you up for specific routing to avoid them. The par 3's are all unique and require multiple clubs from your bag. There is a good mix of lengths and doglegs left and right. Just a spectacular course. I have played most of the best of NJ and this one is a close runner up to Somerset Hills to finish 3rd in my NJ rankings. If you get an invite drop everything and go...Very welcoming staff.
Hollywood has some very fine bunkers, raised around many of the greens and along many of the fairways. Tom Doak has done a masterful job of restoring this Walter Travis design. The greens might just be the most difficult greens I have ever played, such is their tilt, tiers, and subtleties. There are many highlights to this golf course, including the short 4, an uphill par 3 well guarded with a false front green, the ninth - 15th is a very good stretch of holes.
The 17th, a medium length par 3 has yet to be redone but once redone, I am certain this golf course will go even higher in the rankings.
For me it is the seventh best golf course in New Jersey. It is very much worth playing.
I have been playing Hollywood GC for 10+ years with a friend and the course just keeps getting better and better with Doak's renovation. There is talk that they will finish it off with #17 going back to a Travis original style hole over the next year, which would probably move it to #2 in New Jersey for me after mighty Pine Valley GC. Cape Arundel will always be my "special Travis course, but Hollywood is very competitive with Garden City GC on my personal list of "Best Travis Course". Oh yea, super friendly place too, and I often take the ferry down from Manhattan to play it which adds to the allure. Love it!
Hollywood’s first five holes all run in different directions, but from the back tees, I hit the same iron into each green from 150 yards which was a notable lack of variety.
The volcano bunkering throughout the property is a delight to look at and is a unique novelty. The par 3 4th hole is the first real display of the mighty man-made volcanoes, which get maintained every few years to preserve the shaping.
The best stretch of holes are 10 to 13 at the back end of the property which have the most movement and take advantage of the best topography on the property. The 12th hole is the signature hole with the endless sea of violent bunkers which is a dramatically different visual than anywhere else on the property.
A review of a Walter Travis course would be incomplete without commentary on the green contours. Having recently been to the Country Club of Scranton, the contours on these Travis greens with sharp concave edges are a never-ending mental assault on your ability to keep the ball on the surface, let alone get it in the hole.
I played Hollywood Golf Club last September and have been thinking about whether or not to air my views as this is a very private club which likes to fly under the radar. Given nobody has commented on this old classic, I decided to make a brief post.
Since Walter Travis renovated the original course, it has been knifed by many architects and recently face lifted by Tom Doak, who seems to be carving a restoration niche for himself along with his oft-lauded new designs. I hadn’t played the course pre-Doak so I really can’t comment, but I loved the course I played, I could happily be a member here and never get bored of the course.
In a similar vein to its next-door neighbor Deal, which is a hidden gem, Hollywood plays over sandy ground that provides firm and fast playing conditions. The layout itself feels grand and is routed across a large canvass. I played off the tips (over 7,000 yards) and failed to break 80 (3 handicap). I’d have Hollywood ahead of Bayonne and Old Trump Bedminster any day. I have no idea why Golf Digest rate Hollywood so lowly and am losing faith in their rankings year-on-year.