The North Jersey Country Club course is an early 1920s Walter Travis design, located in the township of Wayne in Passaic County.
Writing in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, Tom Doak commented as follows: “The membership here seems to be stuck in a dilemma of their own making. The course they have is full of blind shots, and Travis’s wild greens are a good fit for the hilly property, but not with the sensibilities of the younger members. So they’ve been slowly chipping away at the course’s most distinguished features, one hole at a time. About a dozen of Travis’s greens are left; go see it before they tear up any more of them.”
My most recent visit to North Jersey came with an outing there with the Met Golf Write's Association earlier this summer and I was heartened to see the club has come to its senses and finally embraced the necessity in re-establishing its Walter Travis pedigree.
Far too many club - in their zeal to "improve" a design -- only cause more harm. That was the case for many years at North Jersey. The cornerstone of the club is the sophisticated Travis greens -- of which, only eight remain.
Recognizing the issue was only half of the solution -- the other part came with the foresight in hiring Renaissance Design, via Brian Schneide, to thoroughly review the existing landscape. Expert eyes -- not novice ones. Good stuff.
The potential for North Jersey is clearly possible -- but that upside depends on the actual implementation still yet to happen.
The ten greens changed will be brought back to a genuine Travis pedigree. The most vexing of situations still remains to be solved -- the incongruous par-3 13th. The current hole is akin to someone who has underwent countless plastic surgeries. It is nothing short of hideous.
The more pressing question remains -- given everyone's acknowledgement the existing hole does not work -- what will the "new" one be? The original green site area is still present above the current green but there may be other options that can truly work well. Since the other par-3 holes at NJCC are fairly comparable / short -- creating a longer hole at the 13th may be the ticket for real success.
The preceding 12th hole will also have its pedestrian green changed to reflect the Travis signature and if both holes are reinvigorated properly the totality of the golf experience in that far corner of the property will be a huge plus.
The out of character par-4 10th hole will also be eliminated -- replaced with the original Travis vision of a par-5 hole in that location. There is sufficient space and the proposed green location can truly be something of note once the final details are sorted.
I actually think NJCC would benefit in having the existing par-5 4th hole played as a long par-4 when serious events are played. The club doesn't have enough long par-4s now -- the only others are the 5th and 16th holes respectively.
Ten new greens will need to be created -- that's no small task. The good news is that the club now has internal senior leadership committed to getting things straightened out.
In years past, quick fixes and glaring ignorance led the way at NJCC. The new marching orders are most encouraging and as someone who first played the course nearly 50 years ago, I am thrilled that a game plan of much promise is now in place.
We shall see.
M. James Ward
Very fun golf course to play. Some awesome green complexes with a wonderful use of the rolling terrain. The Par 3’s are short but very well protected and challenging. They are currently restoring the course to the original Walter Travis design 6 holes at a time. As with most Travis courses, they are very fair and fun to play. The course tips out at about 6,700 yards but plays longer due to the elevation changes. I played the course on a wet day but if the course was firm and fast, it could be a VERY stern challenge! I’d love another crack at the 18th hole which is a great finishing hole and a beautiful visual from the tee looking back at clubhouse.
The original pedigree of North Jersey CC was clearly a work of art from the extremely talented golfer and architect Walter Travis. The portfolio of top tier courses under his handiwork still carries weight with the likes of Scranton, Westchester, Hollywood and Ekwanok, to name just a few. The issue with North Jersey is that the club saw the need to "update" matters and the consequences meant that a number of the original Travis greens were completely altered. There's still a number of them remaining but the juxtaposition between the original and new makes for a combination that simply do not match. The same thing also applies to various fairway features that were simply eliminated.
The club has seen fit to spend considerable dollars in updating the famed Clifford Wendehack clubhouse and the turf condition are quite good. The qualities of a number of holes still standout with the likes of the par-4 holes at the 5th, 8th and 9th. The inward half as a few with the likes of the par-4 12th and the fascinating topography it provides. However, the original green has been altered to one that is considerably more vanilla in character. The par-3 13th went through major surgery -- the original green was devilish in its presentation with no bunkers but a long narrow green that proved a worthy challenge. The existing hole bears more of a modern appearance and is not a bad replacement but it relies more on adding elements whereas the original hole provided less but delivered more. The one major change that truly added a good deal to the course came with the par-4 16th. Originally, a non-descript short hole -- the new version plays 428 yards to an uphill green that is keenly sloped and requires a solid approach and steady stroke to leave with par. The ending provides for a quality par-5 and a fine mid-length par-4.
Overall, Travis provided North Jersey with a range of design elements that if still provided would have truly added to the overall golf experience. The course has its moments but the back and forth between old and new makes for an unnecessary and hard to fathom final product. Going back to all the original features is likely not going to happen. A pity.
by M. James Ward