Vineyard National was once a private club but has been open to the general public and Atlantic City visitors since 2007. As the name hints, the course is part of a winery resort, offering an alternative (or an addition) to a day of sampling.
Perhaps the most distinct portion of the club — in terms of features you won’t see at other courses — is the tee shot at No. 7, where the tee box is set within the vineyard itself, hitting across the grapes to the freeway. Perhaps the most distinct portion of the club — in terms of architectural approaches that you won’t see at other courses — is the tee shot on the next hole. The drivable par four (320 yards) is a much more attractive target when the flag is on the right side, where players must “simply” avoid the centerline bunker that runs vertically down the fairway, but when the flag is on the left, players must also cross the sand as it makes a “J.” to the left fairway.
The Ed Shearon design measures more than 7,200 yards from the back tees...if you choose the wrong set, you’ll need something stronger than the house blend by the time you’re done.
Vineyard at Renault is a good course. For 30 years I have traveled to this area. Our group plays 4 courses. Renault was past of those 4 for about 10 years. Then a private went public Ballamor and we tried it out. Renault fell out of the rotation and won't reappear most likely. There are some really great holes here. Conditioning is very good. The green complexes are good. It starts right out of the gate with a strong par 4. The staff is very accommodating and the restaurant is very good. A visit in the early fall has a very sweet smell as the grapes are ripe. Go visit, it's public and worth it.
Since the 1990s the proliferation of courses in and around the greater Atlantic City area has been a major storyline. Daily fee courses of all types sought to gain a foothold in securing players who were likely visiting the Jersey Shore at various times of the year -- most notably the more active summer month period.
The Vineyards at Renault is thoughtfully created by its designer Ed Shearon and the range of holes is quite good even with terrain that is fairly uneventful.
The smartest thing Shearon did is not get overly "creative" and attempt to overly manhandle the site and make it appear as if the course were superimposed on the landscape.
Right off the bat one has to be ready to play as the opening series of holes are a good bit more than simply stretching out the muscles for the rest of the round.
The opener is a muscular long par-4 of 478 yards and is smartly bunkered on the tee shot and for the approach. The 2nd, which follows, is another long par-4 and requires quality shots to leave with a par. The par-3 3rd is a fine change of pace hole that requires a short iron lofted to a target protected by water and sand.
One of the smart aspects Shearon followed is in the overall routing. There's enough movement so that players have to make ongoing adjustments during the round. The desire to have a few of the hole intersect with the vineyards is a quality inclusion. This is especially so with the par-4 7th which commences with a tee box straddling the vineyards.
The main weakness with the layout is that too many of the holes where bunkers are only involved from a cosmetic standpoint. The fairways provide sufficient width and when bunkers are placed to the far outside areas it takes a big-time errant shot for them to have relevance. There are notable exceptions -- the center-placed bunker at the 1st -- the bunker complex at the turning point for the 7th and the split fairway complex at the 8th is another. The greenside bunkers are also more for the appearance than having some significant role. There are exceptions -- the putting surface at the 9th is ably defended, however, there are far too many where the bunkers are added more for the cosmetic than strategic.
Shearon did provide enough internal contours for the greens and yet while the movements are nicely done the overall complexity is a bit on the conventional side.
The quartet of par-3 holes is also nothing more than sufficient. Having a broader array of such holes would have added to the overall diversity for shots needed.
It would be most fascinating to see the course updated by incorporating a number of more meaningful strategic calculations because the foundation of a number of the holes is good and would only be bolstered.
Too much of the daily fee golf scene in the greater Atlantic City area simply added courses with holes that are merely pedestrian. That's not the case with The Vinyards at Renault. The totality of the experience is well worth checking out and if one's play is successful hoisting a glass of wine is a fine way to commemorate the occasion in grand fashion.
M. James Ward