Those traveling between the golf hubs of Philadelphia and Atlantic City will have a convenient place to stop in-between...Scotland! Well, Scotland Run, a public-access facility.
The course does share something in common with its ancestors across the Atlantic, however...sand. We’re slightly misleading again: Links golf is noted for its sandy soil, and Scotland Run is built on the former location of a sand quarry. This does create a rather diverse set of nines, however, as some holes are styled to look like their links ancestors, while others embrace the wholly American idea of playing heroic golf on the former mining site. Ponds and fescue groves abound, and some fairways are separated by large swathes of waste-style sand, with scrub growing in-between.
There are hints of New Jersey and Scotland, of course, but also a taste of Japan: At the second hole, players will find multiple greens, depending on how the superintendent is feeling that day.
The design comes from the pens of Stephen Kay and Doug Smith.
Scotland Run is a joy to play. It's a public course in a fairly remote area but near to Phila and Atlantic City. The course has a linksy feel with a rolling playing field and a number of holes around an old sand quarry. It's usually in very good condition and the club has an active restaurant and events planned continuously. A definite play if you are in the area.
Until the arrival of Scotland Run in 1999 the overall quality of public golf in the southwest corner of New Jersey was really lacking. Many were nothing more than pedestrian designs and the overall conditioning was simply satisfactory but rarely more.
Scotland Run is located in a former sand quarry and the site was helped considerably by the hiring of architect Stephen Kay who did not get carried away in overdoing things. In sum -- the land was there -- Kay simply worked well with it.
The outward half of holes is good with the likes of two long par-4's at the 2nd and 5th. The routing moves around so there's no real predictability.
But, it is the inward side that really picks up the pace. Kay marvelously not only keeps up the quality routing but the overall design ingredients is truly enhanced with strong holes that don't suffer foolish play. The par-5 10th provides a birdie opportunity -- but it doesn't give it away cheaply. Kay keeps golfers on their toes with an excellent blending of different par-4 holes throughout the side. The 11th and 12th both go in different directions and each calls upon quality approaches to get near enough for a birdie try.
The uphill par-3 13th belongs among the elite public holes one can play in the Garden State. The green is fiercely protected by a frontal bunker and there's sufficient slope to keep one honest when putting. The blemishes are the 14th and 15th holes. The former is a lame short par-4 and it's a hole type that Scotland Run would benefit from strengthening. The par-3 15th is simply vanilla.
The final trio of holes is what closes the deal in solid fashion. The dog-leg right 16th is a quality example of a Cape hole. The golfer is confronted by a mega-sized bunker that runs the entire side of the hole. Attacking the corner aggressively can pay huge dividends but the shot must be hit with plenty of gusto to do so. Those pulling shots away from the bunker can catch a fairway bunker on that side and the net result will mean a very demanding approach to an angled green with another greenside bunker needing to be avoided. Kay also provided a slew of interesting pin positions so the hole is always ready to defend itself. Finding par-4's at 402 yards of this quality is no easy task. Like the 13th -- the 16th easily belongs among the best public holes in the Garden State.
Scotland Run's penultimate hole is a long par-4 and while it often plays downwind and is somewhat downhill the tee shot is truly a rigorous test. There's a left fairway bunker and a nearby pond on the right that has to be accounted for. There's also a slight jog in the fairway so players of varying ability levels have different strategies to ponder before pulling the trigger at the tee. The green does provide for run-up shots but again it's no automatic situation without proper execution.
The closing hole is a fine par-5 and provides a bit of a Pine Valley look with sand and water coming into play. The tee shot is a daunting one and which demands a quality mix with sufficient distance married to adroit accuracy. Going down the left side is most helpful - provided two fairway bunkers are avoided. Strong players can take a stab in getting home in two shots but the carry has to be solidly hit as the hole climbs just a bit.
Scotland Run provides a clear picture of what public golf should be about. The course is not overly penal but it does not permit wanton mishits to be rewarded. Turf quality is also generally very good but don't expect greens to be 12 or more on the Stimpmeter. The greens are sensibly paced so one will not need to make full shoulder turn from 6 feet to drain a putt. Without question, in my mind, Scotland Run can make a very good case in being among the top five public courses in the Garden State. As I stated earlier, Stephen Kay did a fine job in both the routing and the range of holes. For those who happen to be in the southwest corner of NJ or even nearby in the greater Philadelphia area a visit is certainly something one should schedule.
by M. James Ward