2013 Golf Getaway in New Jersey

Every golfer should put away the cigars, poker chips, and bottomless beer cooler at least once a year so he can take a buddy trip with some folks who would really appreciate it — the wife and kids


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The perfect place for a long weekend (or even a week) of golf, family activities, and relaxation is Crystal Springs Resort in Sussex County, New Jersey. The resort offers seven excellent golf courses, four hotels, two spas, a water park, and a dozen dining venues. Need more? How about zip-lines and a mountain-bike park, a sports club, and a 135,000-bottle wine cellar? There is literally something for every family member to enjoy at Crystal Springs. Golf is the biggest single attraction, with a real variety of courses from which to choose.

Ballyowen is the crown jewel of the Crystal Springs collection. The links-style design by Roger Rulewich may not play like a links course, but it feels like one. Mounds and hillocks surround the fairways, and the big, big greens invite long running chips and pitches. The wide-open layout and views of the golf course reminded me of Kingsbarns Golf Links southeast of St. Andrews, where every time you look up after your shot you can see other golfers in the distance.

The course sprawls over 250 acres atop a plateau surrounded by rolling farmland and craggy knolls, giving it a wide-open, windswept feel. It is virtually treeless, and fairways are defined by yellow fescue and other native grasses that literally eat errant shots, further giving the course a Celtic touch. Both greens and fairways are generally wide and welcoming, however, so well-played shots are rewarded. Just don’t expect much links-like roll from the lush fairways.

Ballyowen measures 6,508 yards from the gold tees, which is as far back as all but the pros should play. With a 71.5 rating and 130 slope, the gold tees provide plenty of challenge. There are five sets of tees in total, ranging from 7,094 to 4,903 yards.

If you’re a fan of spacious fairways, expansive greens, and eye-pleasing vistas, you’ll also like Wild Turkey, another Roger Rulewich design that opened in 2001. It’s an excellent resort course with just enough bite to give the serious golfer his or her money’s worth.

Wild Turkey is routed over two distinct terrains: a ridge that gives you multiple elevation changes and a treeless basin that lends a hint of links to the round. Throughout the course, Rulewich provides plenty of fairway to work with, but demands that your tee shot be in the right place for a precise approach to deceptively difficult greens. Many of the par 4s have limited aprons to punish a miss, as well as multiple pin positions on seemingly acres of putting surface to command pinpoint accuracy on your approach. The course measures 7,202 yards from the tips, but is a good round from the blue tees at 6,555 yards with a 71.4 rating/131 slope. Four sets of tees are available in total.

Aside from a few exceptions, most of the holes are fairly forgiving—as long as you observe and play to some of their design features. The 450-yard par-4 fifth hole, for example, has a green that runs away from a straight-on approach. The seventh, a 181-yard one-shotter, plays over a quarry lake. There’s a minimal bailout area left and out-of-bounds right, so the hole deserves your full attention.

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