One could expect a club founded way back in 1897, with a fabled past, to be, well, a bit stuffy and pretentious.
But Atlantic City Country Club is a warm and welcoming place, were high rollers and members mingle easily with the daily fee golfer, all enjoying the very cool routing.
The Northfield, N.J. club has the distinction of being the home of many firsts, such as being acknowledged as the “Birthplace of the Birdie,” and also where the term “Eagle” was coined. Six USGA championships have been played at the club’s legendary and beautiful layout. The club’s professional at the time, Johnny J. McDermott, became the first American to win the U.S. Open in 1911. The great Babe Didrikson Zaharias captured the first of her three USGA Women’s Open titles at the club in 1948, and Don January won the inaugural PGA Senior Tour event played here in 1980.
The “Atlantic City Country Club Bell” was originally used in the early 1900’s to remind golfers and other members that the last trolley was about to leave for Atlantic City. The club still rings the bell at the end of each day.
The club was purchased from the Fraser family by Park Place Entertainment, and Tom Doak was commissioned to supervise a complete renovation of the layout, while maintaining the course’s tradition of fast and firm greens and sweeping vistas of the Atlantic City skyline that is located only minutes away.
The club boasts Tour-like playing conditions, which, no doubt, has been instrumental in its winning a number of prestigious awards, including being named the Number One Daily Fee Course in New Jersey and one of the Top Overall Courses in the State. In 2001, the club was named by Turnstiles Golf and Travel magazine as one of America’s Best 40 Resort Courses, the only resort course in New Jersey to make the list and the only course north of Virginia and east of Illinois to earn the honor.
John Reid, Willie Park, Jr., Howard C. Toomey and William S. Flynn, in addition to Doak, have laid skilled hands to the ACC course design. Some 6,575 yards from the tips, the slope is 128 with a par of 70.
I’ve played ACCC twice in dramatically varying weather conditions. The first time, the wind was gusting to perhaps 25 to 30 miles an hour and made the holes near the ocean extremely difficult. A 200-yard carry off the tee became a massive undertaking with the wind in my face. The second time I visited, the wind was down, the day balmy and the course was, I won’t say easy, but certainly more approachable. ACCC isn’t a long course, even from the tips, so you can score well here if you keep your tee ball straight and play well on the rather tricky par-threes.
The layout starts with a tough par-four, a 450-yarder that rates as the seventh toughest hole on the track. It begins with a forced carry over water that leaves a long iron to a well-protected green. Tee shots missing the first fairway often find the deep rough to the left and or a large fairway bunker on the right.
The course lightens up a bit for the next three holes–two short par-fours and a short par-three–before passing through perhaps its toughest stretch at holes five, six and seven.
Although short, the very good 353-yard third requires an accurate tee shot to avoid out of bounds to the right and a massive fairway bunker that is strategically placed down the entire left side of the fairway. A good tee shot and you’re left with a mid- or short-iron approach to an elevated green that is protected by bunkers on three sides.
The back nine features holes that wind along marshland. Hole 14 is a scenic, short par-four he measures only 339 yards from the tips. But the tee shot is over a salt marsh and more aggressive swings bring a greater portion of the marsh into play. A conservative shot is a long-iron off the tee left of the salt marsh, which will leave you a short-iron approach to the undulating, two-tiered green.
The 432-yard par-four 18th is aptly named “Trolley” after the vehicle that once brought guests back to Atlantic City following their rounds and perhaps a quick cocktail on the club’s veranda. Enjoy the view as you stroll up the 18th and toward the clubhouse that stands majestically behind then green.
You just hang out in the quaint pub inside the clubhouse and take in the many old photos and paintings that grace the walls. If you like nostalgia and golf history, this is the place for you.
For further information, visit www.accountryclub.com.