The title of Lookaway Golf Club is a dare. As Rees Jones describes great golf courses as “you remember it when you get home, it must be visually appealing...and can't be so hard that you never want to play it again." The title may also be advice for first-time players when confronted with Jones’s collection of large sand hazards...after all, if you’re looking at them when you tee off, you’re increasing your odds of landing in!
There is little doubt that they are visually appealing, and hopefully they are not so hard that you never want to play it again. Nos. 4, 5, and 6 each feature a large cluster of bunkers along the fairway, which all but guarantee that GIR will not be possible. No. 17, a short par five at just 500 yards, is certainly reachable in two. A mishit on your second shot (especially a slight slice) may result in a similar result.
The most familiar looking of these bunker complexes, however, may be at the closing hole, where a carry over a marsh and six bunkers fronting the green may be reminiscent of the not-too-far closer at Pine Valley.
Located just west of Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, and a touch north of Philadelphia, Lookaway offers a getaway from several bustling cities for its members.
Rees Jones has created a number of outstanding courses but as is common with many architects there can be times when a final product is nothing more than an effort that is simply a rendition of what's been done previously.
Lookaway Golf Club is presented very well -- the turf quality is certainly first rate. But the architecture is not in the same league with the top tier efforts that Jones has created at other sites.
The routing is nicely done to get to all corners of the property and there are a few holes of note -- the 4th and 7th are both done well and each are par-4's under 400 yards from the championship tees.
The saving grace for Lookaway comes with the final hole. Playing 434 yards the 18th generally plays back into the prevailing wind during the season. The visual dynamics are very good and the need to properly play one's tee shot is an absolute must, as the hole swings gently from right-to-left. Unfortunately, the insertion of a cluster of bunkers in the front before the green is just overkill.
The greater Philadelphia area is one that includes a very rich, diverse and deep roster of top quality courses. Lookaway is sufficient in what it provides -- it's just not especially noteworthy given the high bar of courses in the region.
by M. James Ward