Old York CC at Chesterfield
|Golf Professional||Jim Vernon||(215) 378-9426|
|General Manager||David Wheeler||(609) 298-3322|
|Superintendent||Michael Deal||(609) 298-3322|
|Tee Sheet||Front 9||Back 9||Course|
Gary Player began designing golf courses in the early 1970s. Nearly a quarter of a century later, his first course in Golf Association of Philadelphia territory opened for play at Olde York Country Club, in Columbus, N.J., quite close to Trenton.
Ed and Corinne Eget are the owners of the club. It is their second such venture. They bought a low-end course near Princeton in the late 1970s, but sold it in 1985 when real estate values escalated. Still, owning a golf course was in their blood.
In 1992, Corinne urged her husband to “just take a look” at a 180-acre tract in Columbus. They were both so bowled over by the beauty of the land that the following morning they put down a deposit on the property and within weeks owned it.
This expanse of undulating grasslands and thickly wooded slopes had served from the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century as a dairy farm. In the 1950s, it was converted into the Arrowbrook Country Club, with an 18-hole course. Arrowbrook closed in the early 1970s, following which the property functioned for the next 20 years as the Dream Mare Stud Farm. It was when the stud farm declared bankruptcy and the property reverted to the bank that the Egets stepped in.
A 1996 photo of the clubhouse at Olde York Country Club.
The Gary Player Design Company was commissioned to lay out the course. The Egets were confident that Player would provide an eighteen that golfers of all skill levels could enjoy. They also set great store by one of his guiding principles: “To preserve the natural environment of every course I build.”
With Player on board, the Egets now sought a project coordinator who could bring it all to a satisfactory completion and remain to become the grounds superintendent. In Mark Stallone they found their man, a Penn State agronomy graduate who had just returned to this country after a stint as the Player Company’s design coordinator and construction manager for the Lost City Golf Course in Sun City, South Africa.
Construction of the course began in Oct. 1993, and over the next 18 months progressed pretty much on schedule. On April 28, 1995, at the official opening, the proud Egets and an equally proud Gary Player accepted the congratulations from what was already a membership of more than 200.
It is a course of extraordinary aesthetic charm, with an overall elevation change of 90 feet. Each hole is routed separately through the trees. There are no houses, no roads, no distractions of any kind. As at Glenmaura, it is a case of the golfer and nature.
From the day it opened, the course did not appear to be new. There was nothing raw about it. Huge old hardwoods line most of the holes. Included are several varieties of oak and maple, to say nothing of cherry, walnut, beech, and others. One of the black walnut trees is approximately 300 years old.
Still, perhaps no element of the vegetation contributes so strongly to one’s favorable impression of the course as the native fescue grasses. Often flanking the fairways, they range in height from three to six feet. They add variety in color to the course and, when waving in the breeze, they lend a suggestion of movement to this exquisite landscape. Not incidentally, they are the very devil to recover from, and they help materially to account for the fact that a number of players here find themselves reminded of such great old-world-style courses as Garden City Golf Club and Prairie Dunes and, to a lesser degree, even Shinnecock Hills.
Speaking of old world. Player has introduced a number of stacked-sod bunkers—from a distance you feel that you are looking at a brick wall—into the design, something one very rarely sees outside the British Isles. They incline to be deep, with steep, near-vertical faces.
The course, par 71, can be played as far back as 6,900 yards and as far forward as 5,000 yards, with three stops in between. Every hole has at least six tees and there is a total of 137 separate teeing grounds, which must be something of a record.
There is water, generally in the form of ponds, on eight holes. Only twice, however, is a forced carry called for. The other six times the hazard is a parallel one. The fairways are generous, but the scrub and the tall fescues that flank them are hostile. The greens tend to be huge: the par-3 8th, for instance, has a putting surface of 12,500 square feet. Fortunately, the slopes and undulations are not excessive. We have a reasonable chance of lagging close.
When Player was asked to name his favorite holes here, he cited 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, and 18. Asked the same question, Ed Eget cited the opening hole and the llth. The 1st is hard and dangerous, a distinctly inhospitable start to the round, but, on the other hand, fair notice that this is golf in earnest. This gentle dogleg left is 417 yards long from the regular tees, the entire right side densely wooded and containing a 45-foot falloff into a wooded valley. The fairway, one of many such, is bi-level. The 10,000-square foot green is a two-tier design, with a severe drop on the right, where “salvation bunkers” prevent a plunge to the bottom of the steep hillside. The hole is a classic card-wrecker, and this before we even have anything on the card!
On the other hand, the 185-yard 11th is a pure delight. Here another spacious green lies well below us and on the far side of a pretty pond. Bold fescue-cloaked mounds snare the unintended push (or the deliberate bail-out). The backcloth for the green is woodlands. A lovely hole, it is also no giveaway. And just for the record, it has nine tees.
Chesterfield is probably the best work Gary Player has yet done—and in a setting of uncommon natural beauty. The second time around in the golf course business, Ed and Corinne Eget have come up with the 18 of their dreams.
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