It has been more than two centuries since mountain lions last called New Jersey home, but the property at Panther Valley Golf & Country nonetheless has an interesting history on which to base its club. The property was once part of the Panther Ledge Farm, a 4,000 acre plot where notorious robber baron Thomas “Fortune” Ryan raised cattle as a side business.
Golf goes all the way back to when the Ryans ran the ranch, and in fact the final four holes of the current course still trace the original routing for the holes installed by the family That said, when the property became part of a golf and country club, members brought in Robert Trent Jones to both add strategic intrigue to the existing four, as well as design the final 14 holes necessary for a regulation round of golf.
The course reflects styles both modern and classic for its 1967 design. Jones was clearly embracing his heroic side, as a creek wanders along the long property and a series of ponds also work to challenge golfers. On a more classic note, the course does not return to the clubhouse after nine, but if players are truly starving, they have an opportunity to jog over to the clubhouse following the No. 14 hole.
The assessment by Anthony is spot on. However, unlike him, I could not give the course a rating of four golf balls because the sum total of the design elements is a bit lacking when held against the array of classical designed courses throughout New Jersey that truly merit a four-rating number.
Panther Valley is a good Robert Trent Jones design. The course benefits from having a site that has plenty of early movement and the sweeping vistas one gets of northwestern NJ do come into view on a number of the holes.
The opening hole is superb. A risk/reward par-5 that turns left and heads downhill. Players can opt for either a conservative or aggressive line of attack. The hole is also reinforced with out-of-bounds that hugs the right side and it doesn't take much of a mistake to lose a shot to that side. There is a fronting pond to consider for those looking to reach the green in two shots. Having such a hole at the outset gets the golf juices flowing for sure.
Both the 2nd and 3rd holes are also fine counterpoints -- the former a quality par-3 and the latter a testing par-4.
The rest of the front side is a good mix of testing holes in the style Robert Trent Jones was fond in providing for his efforts. Large size bunkers with sprawling greens. There's also an assortment of tuning points in the drive zone which calls upon players to be especially vigilant in getting to the optimum locations to bolster their opportunities with approach shots.
The issue for Panther Valley is that the inward half drops down in terms of overall hole diversity. Part of that issue stems from a land site that's fairly limited and a bit cramped. The holes are just not as interesting; however, the par-4 18th does offer a fine conclusion given the close proximity of a pond that hugs the right of the green.
M. James Ward
Closer to 3.75 - really tests your shot making ability. Not a long course but position off the tee is crucial here. The toughest and most memorable thing about the course besides the view of the mountains in the valley would be the greens. Come July/August they roll clean, true, and quick!