Suddenly the broad morass between great and greatest became clear
A Visit to Pine Valley

On Monday, September 28th I had the wonderful opportunity to play Pine Valley Golf Club as part of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of New Jersey’s monthly meeting…not bad. The experience was indescribable, and its inspiration made me feel like something needed to be written.

As you travel through the unassuming hamlet of Clementon, turn at the Clementon Amusement Park and Splash World it’s hard to imagine you are a driver, 5 iron away from arguably the greatest golf course in the country…maybe the world. Oh by the way, that’s according to Charles Blair McDonald and Donald Ross, among others. In the New York Evening Sun from January 23, 1915 McDonald proclaimed. “…Judging from what I have seen in its early stages and from the designs as I understand them, it will be the greatest course in America and will rank with the best abroad.” Imagine this praise came with only 11 holes complete from the founder and designer of the National Golf Links of America.

Continuing down East Atlantic Avenue the concept of greatness becomes even more baffling as you search for the gilded pillars or the long entry drive straddled by century trees or the impenetrable iron gates…instead you cross the old tracks of the Reading Railroad, traveled by George Crump from Philadelphia to Atlantic City in the early 1900’s when his interest in the property was born. Then, very simply, you to come face to face with the kind greeter in his 12x12 hut. Sitting directly “across the street” is the Pine Valley Police Station and Town Hall set amongst the pines in a small white and green building…that’s it.

From the way undersized parking lot you again look for the perfectly manicured walkway leading to the clubhouse…it doesn’t exist. Instead pick a sandy path through the pines worn by the feet of Crump, H.S. Colt and the many others that have graced the grounds. Make sure you look to your left as you will be crossing directly in front of the 1st tee. A few more steps and slight turn to your left you get your first glimpse of the rugged, strategically staggering style of Pine Valley looking back down the throat of the 18th hole. Certainly enough to get your blood flowing in anticipation.

As a Golf Course Architect, I have been blessed to have walked many of the wonderful, highly regarded courses throughout the US and abroad…this was my 1st visit to Pine Valley. Suddenly the broad morass between great and greatest became clear. This place with its secluded charm, simplistic elegance and powerful string of golf holes simply surpasses anything else out there.

I will not raise your blood pressure with a hole by hole diatribe or outline the intricate strategy the belies the player looking in at a 200 yard approach on the sweeping 12th hole or the engulfing natural landscape of the sandy par 3 third or the brute strength of the par 3, 230 yard uphill 5th or the power of Hell’s Half Acre on the 7th or the mesmerizing ridgeline running across the 6th asking for a bite to be taken or the hit it in the bowl 17th or the 250 yard carry from the back right tee on 18 or the broad reaching green contours on the 2nd that force you to step back and question your own eye sight. I won’t go into any of that because quite honestly, no justice would be done. It has to be your eyes that see the pine scrub and windswept sand scattered about, your feet that walk along the deceptively wide ribbons of fairway, and your golfing spirit that is inspired by this very special place.

Robert McNeil
ASGCA Associate
The Northeast Golf Company


The 18th at Pine Valley
The 18th at Pine Valley

About the Northeast Golf Company: The mission of The Northeast Golf Company is to provide clients with the best golf course design service tailored to meet their individual needs. To be the best requires focus on the business objectives of each client by providing a creative and strategic plan that responds to the inherent nature of the land, the players served and the project budget.

Robert McNeil operates as the team leader providing creative direction while bringing together the necessary expertise and overseeing every aspect of a golf course project to ensure that the vision becomes reality.

The McNeil Design Collaborative and McNeil Construction LLC design/build team approach combines years of experience in successful design, construction and project management.

"We take pride in developing relationships that are productive, long lasting and most of all fun, much like the courses we design." Robert McNeil

Contact: Robert McNeil, ASGCA Associate, Principal Golf Course Architect, Northeast Golf Company
(401)-667-4994 in Saunderstown, RI – (732)-747-1888 Red Bank, NJ
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