Pine Valley Golf Club is located in Clementon, New Jersey.
The course was conceived, financed and largely designed by hotelier George Crump who reputedly saw the land from a passing train. Once Crump has purchased the land in 1912 he spent the next 6 years living there scouting for golf holes. His project attracted attention in the golfing fraternity and he received some assistance from the likes of Harry Colt, A.W. Tillinghast, George Thomas & C.B. MacDonald. Unfortunately Crump died suddenly in 1918 with holes 12-15 unfinished, leaving William Flynn & Hugh Wilson to follow his plans and finish the course.
It is not hard to see what Crump saw in the terrain, which is heavily treed, and has huge sand dunes throughout. The property is immense giving the golf course a significant buffer from the rest of the world. The surrounding suburbs of Philadelphia are very poor, but remarkably Pine Valley is itself a recognised borough with its own police force and facilities.
When you drive in the gates and down the country lanes leading to the clubhouse you leave a rundown suburbia for a gentlemens club of the highest distinction. And it still is a boys club, even though women can now play on Sundays after midday. A small number of houses populate the property, owned by members- but if the member dies, the wife may need to leave the family home!
Pine Valley also has a an amazing practice facility and a short course which famously replicates a number of the second shots on the course itself.
The golf course is unique, and all attempted copies pale into insignicance. It is 'in your face'- it is very intimidating. I thought it was also extremely fair, but you need to be good enough to hit straight and carry the ball a good distance. If there is any repitition at Pine Valley, it is the course asking you to commit to long carries over sand and water. Having said that- there are no two holes alike. There is variation in direction, length and the type of holes, but each hole is a stringent test of your golfing ability. Poor shots are punished horribly- this is not the place to play stroke rounds...
But good shots are rewarded. The greens have plenty to command your attention, but are not overdone, and rolled well. Some of the bunkering surrounding the greens, however is diabolical. There is one devilishly small, deep, pot bunker at the front of the short par 3 tenth hole that sets the standard. It is called 'The Devil's Arsehole'. But is it one of many. Even on the same hole there would be a handful of bunkers that many would never get out of!!
If there is a theme at Pine Valley, it is islands. Each tee, fairway, and green is inevitably an island in a sea of sand, trees and undergrowth. Each shot requires a controlled carry to the target island!
There are many famous holes at Pine Valley, and no weak ones. The course runs out at only 6540 yards for a par 70 course off the regular tee (compared to 7101 from the tips), but it is all carry and plays significantly longer. The course rating off the regular tees was an amazing 153!
Each hole has it's own distinct personality.
Favourite holes include:
- hole 2- a 355 yard par with island fairway. The shot to the elevated green over the sand is intimidating.
Welcome to Pine Valley!
Ten out of ten!
- hole 3- a 181 yard par 3- all carry..
- hole 4- a 438 yard par 4 requiring a carry over sand to the top of the ridge, and then a long shot down the hill to the green (see pic top of page)
- hole 5- an uphill all carry par 3 measuring 219 yards over water and sand- hit the front half of the green and it rolls back off! One of my favourite holes ever!
- hole 7- par 5, 573 yards. Perhaps the truest par 5 I have ever seen. The tee shot is extremely tight, with fairway framed by pine trees both sides, and sand to carry to hit the fairway. The second shot needs to carry more sand than the Sahara desert! This area is called Hell's half acre, and unless you hit a very good tee shot, you will have no chance of reaching the second island of fairway in two. But if you do, you need to carry more sand..
Hole 7 requires three very decent shots to hit the green in regulation. I've never seen anything like it. Loved it!
- hole 8 is a short par 4 at 314 yards, but it has a very small, very well protected green. It's a fascinating hole, but it gets better- there are two greens!
- hole 9 is a strong par 4 with another enforced carry off the tee. It measures 422 yards, and also has alternative greens. Very cool!
- hole 10 is a short par 3 with teeth. Measuring only 142 yards the green is surrounded by some nasty bunkers, including the crudely named 'Devil's Arsehole'. This is one of the best par 3's I have seen.
- hole 13 is known as one of the best par 4's in the game. It is long at 442 yards, and requires a long strong tee shot, to gain a position where it is practical to consider the downhill sliding approach over sandy waste to a right to left, almost redan like green.
- hole 14 is a change up. It is sharply downhill- a 187 yard par 3 over water. It is a gorgeous looking hole, and my only birdie of the day.
- hole 15 is a long uphill par 5 which narrows the further you progress up the hill to the green. The tee shot is an uncomfortably long carry over water, but the real question is whether you can hit 3 long very straight balls uphill 574 yards. And is you nearly succeed the front of the green has a false front and will send the seemingly good back to try again...
- hole 17 is only 339 yards and is a par 4. It asks for an decent tee shot over the sandy waste to set up a short approach to a green which is tucked up in the sandhill to the right. It is only a short iron, but it needs to be accurate. Great hole!
- hole 18 is the appropriate closing hole to the best course in the world. At 425 yards it is long- but it plays longer. The tee shot must carry the obligatory sandy waste, but the approach must carry water and hit an elevated green with 5 yawning bunkers set in the bank in the front of the green. And pine trees each side of the fairway 'pinch' the airspace just short of the green. It takes two very healthy strikes to hit this green in regulation.
Pine Valley has been regarded as the best course in the world ever since ratings began. Nothing else compares.
Pine Valley is a private members club and not generally accessible by the general public
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