With stunning views of the Atlantic City skyline, the old-fashioned links-like Bay course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club was designed by Hugh Wilson in 1914 and completed by Donald Ross the following year.
Venue for the ShopRite LPGA Classic, fickle winds and small greens make scoring tough on this historic layout which was restored by Bob Cupp in 1998.
I had the pleasure of playing the Bay view course in mid April 2019. Is this a true links course, no, more of a seaside course with a links/heath like character but that’s not a bad thing, reminded me most of a Walton Heath by the sea! It's a great fun layout with the front nine being tougher and the back 9 more generous from the tee. When I played the course was just emerging from its winter hibernation and the numerous mounds lining most holes were not at their most penal, loose drives were not too costly. The greens were surprisingly quick despite still healing from aeration, numerous breaks and undulations that need to care to avoid 3 putting, I imagine in summer they become a serious challenge. Even after heavy rain the fairways retained a links like bounce and the numerous bunkers were fun to play out of, not too hard if you find one and are not too greedy with yardage. When I played it was a rare still day, like any links style course it needs the wind to compensate for the relatively short yardage, further protection is in the numerous elevated greens which I like, wayward approach shots are punished with deep run off areas or bunkers. The only negatives were the pace of play; we were stuck behind a very slow 4 ball who took nearly 3 hours to play the front 9 even in buggy’s, the course needs an roaming marshal to manage pace of play. I also think there are probably too many trees on the course taking away some of its links/heath charm, looking at pictures from the early days in comparison there now seems to be a larger number and out of character, clearing those not in the original design would really help.
The golf club dates from 1914, when public utility magnate Clarence H. Geist founded the Seaview Country Club in 1914. The original course -- known today as the Bay Course opened in 1915 and was partially designed by Hugh Wilson -- the man responsible for the two courses at Merion Golf Club. The following year Donald Ross completed the course.
Seaview remained a private club till 1984 when sold to Marriott which then continued operating as a resort open to the public. The club has since moved on from Marriott and is managed by Troon Golf.
Seaview has been an annual stop for the LPGA Tour with the ShopRite Classic -- held intermittingly since 1986 and annually from 2010 to present. The 1942 PGA Championship was played at Seaview and provided the first major championship victory for the highly talented Sam Snead. The layout used in that championship featured a combination of holes from both the Bay and Pines Courses.
The Bay is subject to the unpredictable winds which blow off nearby Reed's Bay. Be forewarned - when the temperatures rise during the playing season the native mosquito population swells and golfers become easy targets for these pesky intruders. Be especially mindful of the greenheads -- they're the equivalent of zombie bugs always in search of blood -- human, animal or any other for that matter. Bug spray can be effective -- but only to a small degree. The best way to play the course is when the wind is blowing from the west off the land so that the opportunity to play the course is clearly more tolerable.
The Bay is blessed with a quality routing that constantly keeps moving players around. There's no continued pattern -- adjustments are always needed. While the course is not long the issue of the wind can certainly complicate matters throughout the round.
The opening hole allows players to get started without being overly demanding. But, matters change noticeable with the long par-4 2nd. At 434 yards the hole has out-of-bounds down the entire right side and the fairway is protected on the left side by two bunkers -- one is particularly troublesome for its narrowness and length. The fairway narrows the deeper one goes -- a wetlands area does await but only the likes of a Dustin Johnson can reach it. The green juts out into Reed's Bay and generally most players come up short on their approach because anything hit too long can reach the adjoining Bay. The only real downside for the hole is the intrusion of a cart path cutting in front of the hole and then swinging along the left side of the green.
One of the really fascinating design inclusions at the Bay is various mounds sprinkled through the course and which have native grasses that can grow to extended heights of 2-3 feet or even more. The contrast between cut areas and the native grasses provides a stunning view. Players need to keep their concentration and be sure to avoid locating a ball in and around such mounds.
The par-4 6th is another first rate hole. Playing just under 400 yards the hole follows a similar path like the 2nd. The fairway tapers nicely on both sides and the putting surface also extends out into Reed's Bay. The putting surface also adds solid array of different internal contours and fall-offs.
The outward half is the longer of the two sides but it is the back nine where landing zones are harder to find because a number of the holes move ever so gently either right or left.
The inward half is aided by three solid par-3 holes -- the 11th at 230 yards is demanding; the 15th at just over 200 yards is impacted by crosswinds off Reed's Bay; and then you encounter the seductive 17th which plays just 115 yards to a green that appears even smaller from the tee.
The Bay is a finicky layout -- harkening back to a time when knowing how to shape shots was a key talent that only the most gifted could do again and again. Positioning shots adroitly is what the course accentuates so well. The funny thing about the Bay is that when golfers come to the course for the first time there are many who snicker at the overall short yardage but as they are about to leave the 18th green they realize the course has had the last laugh. The Bay, you can be sure, will have the final say.
by M. James Ward