Laurel Creek Country Club is a private course designed around a residential community just north of the Philadelphia area. Arnold Palmer, who has also been laureled for his work at Laurel Valley, laid out the course in 1988.
The concept was to create a links-style course but, due to the terrain of New Jersey, this concept is much more recognized in aesthetic than playing style. In that regard both Palmer and the staff have done well, with waves of fescue separating the holes, and designed mounding to offer uncomfortable lies to players who stray. In terms of play, the U.S. Open may be more accurate to describe Laurel Creek’s style, as the course stretches to 7,100 yards from the tips and brings numerous water features and marshland carries into play.
No. 9 is a gambler’s hole, tempting players to hit to the far side of a large bunker that splits the fairway, which will offer a shorter and more straightforward path to the green. To reach this par five in two, however, they will also need to execute a long approach across a pond to the correct portion of a very long green. Others may take the long way home and still end up with a better score than their more daring brethren.
It's hard to imagine how a charismatic golfer such as Arnold Palmer would produce an array of course designs failing to elicit much positive emotion. Sadly, the King created plenty of vanilla layouts but to his credit Laurel Creek is clearly not one of them.
The layout is located on relatively flat terrain and the main strength comes with a routing that never fails to keep players on their toes. Adjustments are a constant item of attention. There's also a number of smartly used water penalty areas that come into play throughout the round.
Yes, there is a heavy dosage of housing that engulfs the course but it's wisely situated so its overall impact is not an issue of major concern.
The detailing of the layout is especially good -- fairway movements are present and you have the creation of mounds that provide a clear outlining for where superior shotmaking is both rewarded and penalized accordingly.
The club makes it a point to highlight the "links" nature of the design but the inclusion is simply more marketing hype than actual reality. By no means does that diminish what is present.
Given Arnie's desire for bold play -- there are par-5 holes that tempt players to go for the green in two shots. However, each pf the four will bite back when the execution is lacking.
The King also included a quartet of good par-3 holes -- highlighted by the strong downhill par-3 17th at 227 yards.
Among the best two-shot holes on the outward side are the short 2nd and the dog-leg left 8th holes. In each case the need for proper positioning is of paramount concern. On the inward side the par-4 11th is most challenging -- a tee shot down the left side pays dividends when the pin is cut in the far-right corner nearest to the protecting pond. The uphill par-4 16th is also superb and mandates finding the fairway before being tested with an approach to a green that contains an array of hard to discern movements. The course closes out matters with a fine par-4.
Laurel Creek is also aided by a quality range of green sites -- both in size, configuration and positioning.
Like other courses that have opened in New Jersey in the last 35+ years it's incredibly hard to garner much attention given the depth of quality layouts that dot the Garden State landscape from earlier years. Nonetheless, Laurel Creek has much to admire and clearly showcases one of the best Arnold Palmer layouts I've played.
M. James Ward