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 restoration of the course 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.
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.
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.