Gary Player has taken to raising fine steeds on his ranch in South Africa following his retirement, but he found a different use altogether for the former horse farm at Old York in Columbus, New Jersey. Instead he’s designed a fine country club, measuring 6,900 yards.
The property rolls so that many of the fairways and greens are separated by valleys of second-cut. Player defends these landing areas with a variety of hazards. Bunkers both big and small pop up in time, and those of all sizes pockmark the lead-up to No. 9. At No. 16, when the architect isn’t using a splash of pot bunkers to defend the fairway, a pair of grass ridges defend the landing area of the second shot. Those who heard Player’s pleas for architects to stop cutting down trees will not be surprised by the hazard mid-fairway at No. 4.
A shadow has loomed over the property since it was first sold during 2012, and plans for redevelopment as a commercial center are under review. That said, Old York has kept its head up and continues to serve members. We’re hoping for the best, but it may be worth getting out to Old York sooner than later.
The story of Old York must begin with the vision of its founder Ed Eget. Ed engaged Hall-of-Famer Gary Player to design an 18-hole layout in Burlington County and the day the course opened it clearly made an impact.
Old York was clearly beyond the likes of a standard 18-hole course. To Player's credit the design features a number of holes where you encounter fairway separations. This requires players to assess their ball striking skills and then see if they can match their desire with sound execution.
Old York was actually more difficult when the course first opened than it is today. Standing on the 1st tee was a terror producing event because the long par-4 was bracketed by ball choking high fescue rough. This was no warm-up hole to loosen up the muscles but one where you had to be ready to stand and deliver. Over the years the length of the hole has been shortened a bit and the overall density of the rough far less penal and more sensible. Nonetheless, requires one's serious attention or the price paid will be a high number of the scorecard.
Old York commences with a fine mixed trio of holes at the outset. The long par-3 2nd is very challenging but quite fair in permitting shots to reach the green via a run-up. The par-5 3rd is the first of the fairway separation holes at the course and is both strategic and attractive.
The outward half is routed smartly -- constantly changing directions and offering a wide array of hole types for players to decipher. The closing trio, like the opening three holes, is crafted with a fine combination of par-5, par-3 and par-4 conclusion. The par-4 9h is one of my favorite holes at Old York. Again, you face a fairway separation -- between a lower portion and an upper landing area. The concept is one that should be used much more when short par-4 holes are created. Golfers have to decide -- is the risk in getting to the upper landing area worth the effort. Or, does remaining on the lower section mean an even more pressing approach shot?
The inward half at Old York is also good but the awkwardness of the routing at the par-3 15th in getting to the par-5 16th is clumsy. Holes should be routed without having to double back as is the case here.
The concluding two holes are fine par-4s -- each going in opposite directions from one another and both are strong. The main weakness of Old York rests with having a number of green sites fairly conventional in presentation and lacking in overall sophistication.
The sad reality is that Old York gets little attention because of a lack of visibility. The Player design provides for a quality mixture of holes and the elevation of shotmaking, is at times, quite rigorous.
If Old York were located in any number of other States its overall standing would be quite higher. Alas, being in a very competitive environment such as the Garden States means fare lesser fanfare. Gary Player has received plenty of credit for a number of his designs globally, but his effort at Old York merits serious attention. Kudos to the late Ed Eget for his stewardship in making his dream a meaningful reality.