Somerset County Park Commission is proud to operate a total of five public golf courses and it markets the 27-hole complex at Neshanic Valley as its number one facility.
Routed around a massive 350-acre property in Branchburg, the three nines – Ridge, Lake and Meadow – were laid out by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, with the Ridge and Lake circuits forming the premier 18-hole course.
There’s a certain symmetry to a round using this configuration as the more challenging holes on either nine are found at the 2nd (each of them a short par four) and the 5th (both of which are demanding par fives).
On the Ridge loop, the 379-yard 2nd doglegs left past a nest of bunkers to a green that’s protected at the front by a single pot bunker whilst the corresponding hole on the Lake nine starts the 362-yard flight from the tee with a forced carry then doglegs right to a shallow green.
Hole number 5 on the Lake measures 588 yards from tee to green and the narrow fairway plays uphill all the way, into the prevailing wind. Its counterpart on the Ridge nine – probably the most strategic at Neshanic Valley – finds the fairway split by an environmentally sensitive area that has to be crossed by one of a number of small bridges en route to a triangular-shaped green.
Neshanic Valley comprises 27-holes and is the handiwork of the former design duo of Dr. Michal Hurdzan and Dana Fry. The two have since gone in their own respective directions. The nines consisting of Ridge and Lake are done well but the golf architecture is merely "paint by the numbers" result. I have personally played other public designs from the former architectural twosome and when one sees the likes of an Eaglesticks in Zanesville, OH, you see what truly is doable when Hurdzan and Fry are hitting on all cylinders.
This is not to say the course is rudimentary or boring. There are a series of good holes that need to be handled with quality shot-making but the overall design is merely about providing golf that serves a utilitarian need. Hats off to the brain trust in Somerset County in adding another facility for local residents and those elsewhere to enjoy. If one should want to see a slightly better overall layout -- charging comparable rates -- head to Ringoes and play Heron Glen. Nonetheless, Neshanic Valley is a welcomed addition for the non-affiliated player to enjoy.
by M. James Ward