The course at Pine Barrens Golf Club began life in 1998 as a pay-and-play facility until it fell into private ownership a decade later. Designed by Eric Bergstol of Empire Golf Management, this 7,118-yard layout lies within a 420-acre heavily wooded property near Jackson Township, close to the New Jersey Wildlife and Game Refuge.
Waste bunkers totally dominate the design here, with huge expanses of sand found at every hole. Some of the larger traps are actually shoulder deep (and capable of consuming a small person, never mind a golf ball) so golfers suffering from eremikophobia (fear of sand) be warned!
Holes 1 to 9 are where a score can be made, as it’s by far the easier of the two nines. The 389-yard opener and 437-yard 8th are certainly solid par four holes and the short par four 7th, with its narrow approach, is another fine hole on the outward half.On the back nine, the pace picks up at the heavily-bunkered 10th, culminating in a very strong finishing stretch that starts at the long par three 14th and ends at the 607-yard 18th, where the fairway swings left to the home green.
Pine Barrens is a course which sits higher than it should here. I have played this when it was public and a few times since it went private. The club carries an attitude that is out of touch with reality. The course is nice. But NJ has many very nice. Nuff said.
The course started as an upscale daily fee and then became private. The terrain for Pine Barrens is fairly ordinary -- with really little in terms of significance.
There's nothing wrong with the design per se, but there's nothing that truly elevates the course to a level worthy of being inserted into the mixture of the State's top 25 courses.
One of the key reasons to hire a professional architect is having someone capable in providing for a rich slew of details -- most notably in the areas in and around
the putting surfaces. Pine Barrens covers the "science" of the design well. The holes are spaced out well -- there's enough differences -- but the true measure of
top tier quality rests on inclusion of the "art" of the design too. In this area, Pine Barrens lacks that extra edge.
In the years following the opening of Pine Barrens, developer and also course architect Eric Bergstol, would refine his techniques when he fashioned the more detail rich Bayonne Golf Club. Those able to play both can easily see the differences at play.
The central portion of NJ has a number of fine golf courses -- Pine Barrens is in that conversation. But, when one assesses the layout on the State level the bar is truly high and high for a very clear reason. The Garden States is quite rich in the golf arena even with a very small portion of land available. Pine Barrens is a quality layout but it's architecture heft is simply more functional than aspirational.
by M. James Ward