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.
The Seaview Bay course currently hosts the LPGA Shoprite Classic. In 1942, the front nine was also used for the 1942 PGA won by Sam Snead for his first major victory. The back nine utilized holes one, two and twelve-eighteen from the Pines course.
From the blue tees, the course is but 6366 yards, par 71, rated 70.4/124 while from the White tees it is 6011 yards rated 68.0/118. We played the Blue tees. The course was designed by Hugh Wilson, the designer for Merion East and the final four holes at Pine Valley. Donald Ross also assisted on the design, particularly with regards to the placement and shaping of bunkers.
The course is a links-like course with views across the bay to Atlantic City, an east coast gambling area. The course is nearly flat and therefore the wind can be a huge factor.
As Mr. Ward discussed in his review, the course seems to be a pushover at only 6366 yards, yet I found it to be one of the most difficult courses I have played for its length. Somehow Lexi Thompson shot 64 in her opening round in capturing the 2019 Shoprite Classic. That amazes me given the opportunity to either lose a ball or the likelihood of dropping a shot due to three primary defenses. First it has small greens that have a lot of contour on them. Second, the fairways are lined with tall grasses, reeds, thick rough, with narrower fairways on the front nine. Finally, there are raised mounds of tall grasses and micro-contouring near the greens.
Having played the Pines course in the morning which is very much in the woods and features numerous doglegs, the transition was difficult for the afternoon round on the Bay course. On the Pines course the fairways are generous and the trees are often the primary hazard, but on the Bay course for the opening nine holes one notices the tall grass immediately beginning with the first hole. The grass is essentially knee-to-waist high. The rough is nearly as problematic as it is very thick and often difficult to advance the ball as far as one thinks they should be able.
I commented to my playing partner as least ten times throughout the round that I did not understand how the slope could only be 124. I could somewhat see the index at -0.6 to par as the back nine is much easier except for the greens, but I kept thinking the slope should be at least 130. I told my partner that I felt the course was nearly as difficult as Merion East (where he is a member) which I consider to be the most difficult short yardage course in the world. I wanted to rename the course as Seaview Black as a homage to Bethpage Black, known for its difficulty. My partner’s response was that neither us were playing well for the second eighteen after posting low scores in the morning round on the Pines. I disagreed. The course made me play defensively even though the starter told us there are only three doglegs on the course. I counted five doglegs. In addition, the greens and the locations of the greenside bunkers make many of the holes favor one side of the fairway over the other.
The routing is very good with only holes 1-2 moving consecutively in the same direction.
The bunkering is good in terms of location. Some of the fairway bunkers are a certain dropped shot due to their raised nature built into mounds and tall grasses. The greens are often raised (thank you, Donald Ross), and have all sorts of contours to them.
If I were trying to play two public courses in the area I would choose the Bay course and Atlantic City. One can skip the Pines unless they are trying to play the composite 18 from that 1942 PGA (holes 1, 2, 12-18).
1 – par 4 359/345. One instantly sees the tall grasses and small mounds on the entire left of the fairway with a mound and bunker left. There is a mound and bunker on the right that parallels most of the fairway. There is room in the fairway but the sight line from the tee hides it. The green is slightly downhill but has subtle breaks that go three times as much as one thinks. There are two bunkers fronting either side. This is a decent starting hole.
2 – par 4 436/421. This is the most terrifying hole on the course. Again, the fairway is very narrow after a forced carry over rough and three bunkers coming in from the right. There is another mound on the right with two bunkers built into it. Much like the first, the entire left side also has out-of-bounds. On the right side of the fairway is a large and small bunker. The fairway pinches in before the green with a wetland area on the left with tall reeds. The green has a substantial false front and a bowl and spine in it sloped back to front. Behind the green is the wetlands before the bay starts. This hole seems to play 30 yards longer even if it is slightly downhill.
3 – par 5 484/464. There are bunkers going down both sides of the fairway and a centerline grassy/bunker area. Nearer the green are two bunkers left and one right. There is a small mound fronting the center of the green that will kill the momentum of any approach shot. Overall, it is the weakest hole on the front nine.
4 – par 4 377/347. I kept seeing the short par 4’s and saying it should be an easy par, yet I struggled. There are three bunkers down the left and a series of bunkers on the right shared with the fifth hole. The green is angled left to right and is raised, thin, and has subtle breaks in it. There is a single bunker on the right. It is a good hole.
5 – par 4 359/291. This is a dogleg right from the back tee and off the fairway to the right is lower ground, almost a valley. There is a bunker in the valley as well. The fairway is very narrow until about the 250 yard mark with a bunker on the left. The green is surrounded by bunkers with a slight false front. For a short hole, this requires good shot making and thinking.
6 – par 4 393/380. Another straight hole but a fairway bunker comes in from the right in a raised area that has tall grass all around it. About 40 yards later are two bunkers on the right. This straight hole has a bunker fronting either side and is another green with a huge spine and hollow in it. This is the second-best hole on the front nine.
7 – par 3 190/180. The first par 3 has a pond just off the tee but it is not in play. The difficulty of the hole is in a large, raised bunker left with bunkers surrounding the green. The green is slightly raised so it is difficult to run a shot onto it.
8 – par 4 319/302. The second easiest hole on the front nine is straight with no fairway bunkers to a small, raised green with three fronting bunkers and clever mounding just off of it. If you go left or long over the green, you will be in wetlands. The fairway is somewhat narrow.
9 – par 5 476/463. I needed better information here. We were paired with a couple who have played the Bay course many times. There is a line of trees down the right side and thick rough. Down the left side are long bunkers. There are three cross bunkers which the husband of the couple said to add fifty yards long to clear it. As I was in the rough right, I decided not to try to clear it and laid up. Those cross bunkers are actually only about 20 yards long. This left me a longer shot than I wanted to the short par 5 which has another slight false front. I jerked my approach shot left into the tall grass mounds. It is an okay hole with the right information and not an easy par.
10 – par 4 367/337. The tenth is a dogleg left with bunkers down the right side. If one is on the left side of the fairway they will have a blind shot to the green which is angled right to left and tucked behind bunkers and raised mounds on the left. The green sits in a half bowl on the left and behind with a vertical spine. This is a good golf hole due to an excellent green complex.
11 - par 3 230/221. This is a flat hole with two bunkers halfway up each side and then one on either side at the green. The green is the flattest on the course. For me this is the worst hole on the course because the green is bland.
12 – par 4 344/311. This hole is a sharp dogleg right with a bunker left not in play and then three left at the corner with three right and a line of trees on the right. The green is very narrow, raised, and angled left to right. This hole is no pushover due to the green where getting on it is the real challenge.
13 – par 4 415/401. A longer par 4 playing straight with two fairway bunkers left and one on either side of the green. It is a nice hole although not particularly interesting.
14 – par 4 420/403. This hole has another forced carry over bunkers and then then a single bunker left. This is another fairway that narrows considerably the closer one gets to the green. The green has bunkers on either side and has a very good back to front tilt. It is a good par 4.
15 – par 3 204/193. The best par 3 on the course as the green is raised with a false front and the fairway is angled to give the appearance of a dogleg making one want to take their shot left where there is perhaps the deepest greenside bunker on the course.
16 – par 4 377/366. This is a dogleg right with a deep bunker down the right side and a single one on the left side. There are bunkers on either side about 50 yards shy of the green which I did not understand followed by one on the right side of the green. The green was not as sloped as others.
17 – par 3 115/104. The most fun hole on the golf course to a raised green surrounded on all sides with bunkers. The green has mounds and slopes throughout primarily back to front.
18 – par 5 501/482. The tee shot plays as a slight dogleg right. Indeed, I thought I was in the center of the fairway with my tee shot yet it was just in the rough on the right. There are bunkers left and right followed by more down the left and then one on the right. These bunkers end about 40 yards from the green but are raised to block the view of the green. The green has a single bunker left and is another slightly raised green. It is a nice finish to the round.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Bay course and I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone going to the area to play either Atlantic City or Galloway National (both are better). I will likely go back again perhaps next year to see if it is as challenging as I think it is. There is a lot to like about the golf course.
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