Cherry Valley Country Club
125 Country Club Drive | Skillman, NJ 08558-
|Golf Professional||Martin Kamara||(609) 466-4464|
|General Manager||Sean Vandak||(610) 688-8800|
|Superintendent||Greg Byrne||(609) 466-4464|
|Tee Sheet||Front 9||Back 9||Course|
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Cherry Valley Country Club is located in Skillman, New Jersey, four miles north of Princeton and next door to the Bedens Brook Club. The 644-acre tract, once a Guernsey dairy farm, features gently sloping meadows and woodlands with wonderful views of the long spacious valley. When the first nine opened for play, on September 12, 1991, the club had already signed up 125 members.
Rees Jones designed the Cherry Valley course (the full eighteen was in play by July, 1992). Few contemporary architects are as highly regarded as the son of Robert Trent Jones and brother of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Called upon frequently by the USGA to update courses chosen for the U.S. Open—The Country Club (1988), Hazeltine (1991), Baltusrol’s Lower course (1993), Congressional (1997)— Rees has also fashioned, from scratch, such excellent eighteens as those of the Atlantic Golf Club, Southampton, Long Island; the Haig Point Club, on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina; and Pinehurst Country Club (the #7 course).
Here at Cherry Valley he has produced a course that is beautiful to gaze upon, a great treat to play, and still genuinely challenging. It is no mean feat to combine these three attributes in one eighteen.
Perhaps it is Jones’s basic attitude toward the game and toward course design that is the enabling factor. Says the architect, “I think the reason people like my golf courses is because they know they will be playable and they will be fun to play. There are very few instances when they won’t have a shot to recover. Golf is a game to be enjoyed. It’s an escape.”
Rees Jones was given plenty of room at Cherry Valley, very like 200 acres over which to route his holes. The first nine, in the meadowland, is rather open in look and feel, and gave the designer more opportunity for, in his own word, “creating.” The rolling fairways, defined on both sides by the mounding that has become his trademark, are sometimes accompanied by generous grassy hollows and by big free-form bunkers with the sand flashed high so that there is no missing them. Jones goes to great pains to display his hazards boldly.
The second nine is perhaps the sportier of the two, thanks to the wooded areas, the greater elevation changes, and Bedens Brook itself, which must be crossed five times. Says Jones, “There was more topography to work with here. The brook and the stands of mature trees pretty much suggested the routing, and most of the fairway contours already were there.”
Par is 72. The course can be played at 5,575 yards, 6,518 yards (a husky length for the white markers), and 6,930 yards. And though for much of the way it is control and consistency that is called for rather than brawn, the windup is a humdinger. Admittedly, the picturesque 16th, a 471-yard par 5 where the drive over Bedens Brook from an elevated tee encourages us to swing away, can be birdied. But 15,17, and 18 are bears. The 15th—434 yards from the regular tees, 466 from the back—doglegs left (a brace of bunkers in the landing area) and requires the long second shot to fly a wetlands and a large, deep bunker at the left front of the green. The 17th measures 426 yards from the whites, 440 from the blues. It is uphill, it doglegs very gently right, and sand and mounds menace the drive and the second shot. As for the home hole, it is scarcely welcoming: 439 yards from the regular tees, 451 from the tips, slightly uphill, and into the prevailing wind. The drive is threatened by sand and mounds, and the 8,000-square-feet green is vigorously defended by sand.
Rees Jones has said, “In designing a course I strive to have a golfer immediately want to replay the course upon the completion of a round.” Those who have had the opportunity to play Cherry Valley have been eager to do exactly that.