Members of the general public aren’t totally removed from Royce Brook Golf Club’s golf offerings; although the West Course only offers tee times to members, outsiders may play the East Course regularly. Both courses were designed by Steve Smyers, so public players will get a decent taste of what private players are experiencing on the other side.
That said, private members may be just as eager to head to the East when they have the chance, as it plays a touch shorter and easier than the West. Neither is a walk in Asbury Park, however. Smyers has blessed (or cursed) both nines with plentiful bunkering, many of which are sizable in scope and in many cases the greens are contrastingly small.
Coming in at less than 7,000 yards from the back tees, distance is not the primary challenge. Three of the par fives are eagle opportunities for those who wish to challenge Smyers's bunkering schemes. At 495 yards, players who can work it both ways can “easily” find the green on the double-dogleg at No. 7. No. 12 is even shorter...but getting home in two means carrying the trio of bunkers guarding a sharp dogleg.
Important update -- plans are afoot that will alter the golf that's available at Royce Brook.
A new configuration will likely occur if plans are ultimately approved and that mean holes from both courses being merged to create a "new" 18-hole layout. Whether that "new" remains public or private is still to be determined.
Originally, both the East and West courses were daily fee. Not long after opening -- the West changed its status to a private club and the East stayed open to the public.
Interesting side note -- should there be consolidation of the golf it will once again mean a Steve Smyers layout in NJ is impacted. Several years earlier, the highly acclaimed Smyers design at Blue Heron Pines / East was closed and sold for housing development.
Even with the surge in people playing golf -- the greater need in NJ for housing development has put golf course property clearly in the bullseye of deep pocket developers. That situation was ongoing prior to the pandemic and remains clearly in place now.
Give mega credit to architect Steve Smyers in crafting a fun layout that's fairly undistinguished with little in terms of land movement. The East Course is more user-friendly than its private counterpart the West. The aspect that holds matters together is the artful and strategic bunkering that Smyers so smartly includes along with a number of greensites that are angled appropriately and can be confounding at times with internal contours.
There's more than sufficient room off the tee so playability is certainly preserved. What the East lacks is meaningful inspiration. Yes, Smyers could have resorted to "dressing up" the land with a whole series of man-made land movements that would simply been out of place. In many ways the East Course reminds me of so many flat type courses one encounters when playing in Florida.
Landsites are so crucial to golf design that rises up and leaves an indelible mark. The East is by no means a bad course but it hardly screams out memorability when the round ends.
M. James Ward