Atlantic City Country Club – New Jersey – Best In State Golf Course

Coherence. It's an element often neither raised nor understood when courses are reviewed. Often, layouts from years back — especially those created originally by a master architect — have undergone a series of alterations, yet then have produced a baffling mixture of conflicting elements. In this hodge-podge you get some original features of note which have been retained, but there's also the inclusion of other features, which while some may be quite good or unable to blend in sufficiently so that the experience is not one of varying disjointed contributions.

Atlantic CC is rightly celebrated as one of the Garden State's cherished golf venues. The course was for many years the grande dame of the "Jersey Shore" with its link to old time Philadelphia money and those annually venturing for their summer pilgrimages when the city along the Jersey coast was still the cat's meow.

The Fraser family's ownership provided much of the storyline for many years and the original design of the course went through a series of changes — some good — some less so. Different architects placed their fingerprints and, as a consequence, the course lost a central focus on its overall delivery of sound and consistent architecture.

Matters were not helped when the Fraser family eventually sold the property and the club's private status opened to outside play. Fortunately, through the efforts of then head professional Billy Ziobro the casino ownership invested some serious money and smartly hired Tom Doak to come in and clearly bring some sanity to the property.

Doak did much more than a restoration — he actually renovated the design and his involvement clearly provided the long overdue architectural coherence that was missing.

ACCC, like so many other nearby courses, is on dead flat land. Smartly, Doak did not go the route in creating land forms that would have further removed the course from its rich pedigree. The existing layout is a quintessential member's course. Fresh daily breezes off the nearby bay and Atlantic Ocean can mean playing a course with different looks and feels. The bunkering pattern is quite impressive — smartly placed in key lines of play and being able to secure the proper position allows players to have the best opportunity to score.

The Ottinger Golf Group purchasing the property in 2014 really helped matters. The daily golf experience is one to savor and the turf quality is clearly far beyond the tail end of the Fraser years.

The opening two holes is quite good. The 1st is a straightforward long par-4 and often times plays into the summertime wind. The 2nd is a superb par-4 just under 370 yards. Doak's bunkering effort comes to the forefront here. The ideal line is down the left side but bunkers await the half-hearted play. Go too far right and another bunker is present and those that do come in from that side will have a more challenging approach. One of the special features of the course is that it's not primarily routed in strictly a two-dimensional manner. You see early in the round with holes 3 and 5. The former going out towards the marsh — the former returning away from it. This stretch is aided by a tantalizing short par-3 at the 4th – playing 144 yards and to an angled green.

The stretch of holes along the marsh is also good — just be sure to catch the course when the greenheads and mosquitos are not an issue. I really enjoyed the par-3 15th as it plays back into the prevailing wind. Players have to hit a penetrating flight approach to the target. The par-4 16th is also good going back in the return direction and hugging the marshland on the right. I only wish the fairway tapered down considerably so that stronger players would need to be prudent about going alll out from the tee. The par-4 9th — at 452 yards ends the outward half is fine fashion. Turning left in the drive zone and requiring a well-played tee shot that avoids the encroachment of trees camped on that side.

The 10th starts the inward half with a clear risk/reward dynamic. The par-5 turns right off the tee and a pond hugs the left portion of the green. Possibility there for eagle — as well as double-bogey.

Once you arrive at the par-5 13th you then have a series of holes through the 16th that are nearby to the marshland. The holes are done well — no artifice is done and the requirements are right to the point in terms of the execution needed.

The par-4 14th presents a cape-like risk to the right and is beautifully carried out by Doak. The green is also vexing on the approach with a narrow landing spot in the extreme rear.

The 15th that follows is a great counterpoint and reverses direction — this time playing back towards the marsh and into the general prevailing wind. Listed at 190 yards the hole can play quite longer and the shotmaking challenge is quite clear on what's required. The ending trio concludes the round in a quality manner — although I would have liked the par-4 16th to have more of a tapered fairway to plant the seed in stronger player's minds that being too aggressive with the requisite accuracy would be punished accordingly. The closing par-4 18th at 432 yards plays as a dog-leg right and returns to a magnificent setting with the stately clubhouse in plain view

I looked over the earlier comments and when I see people rate the layout with six golf balls that's clearly a stretch. Such a score is reserved for iconic layouts like Pine Valley. In the immediate area of AC — Galloway National is the top of the crop and it's one of the very few courses in NJ I would give a max ratings assessment. In my experience with courses in the State, ACCC a top 20 candidate That's not a poor reflection of ACCC but more of the extremely competitive nature that lies at the heart of golf in the Garden State.

To be clear, the return to a coherent design is now present at ACCC. When you walk the grounds the array of varying holes and the manner by they link together provides for a quality experience. The course is not very long and unless the wind emerges — which is often frequent — scoring opportunities will be enhanced. If there's one real deficiency it's that driving the ball is not tested consistently throughout the round.

Be sure to tour the clubhouse to get a better appreciation of the history of golf that has taken place at ACCC over the years. Personally, I'd love to see the ladies return for another US Women's Open. Credit Doak and his team for their efforts and now with Ottinger providing the steady hand in guiding this Jersey jewel along the Atlantic coast.

M. James Ward

December 15, 2019