Originally published on May 26, 2002
As golf course architects go, Ron Fream's name does not mean much around these parts. He and his design partner, David Dale, are Californians who have mostly left their mark up and down the West Coast, as well as on a few far-flung corners of the globe. At the moment, for example, Fream is visiting one of their projects in Nepal, while Dale is at another in Finland.
We could get to know more of their work soon. Shore Gate Golf Club in Cape May County, which opened a week ago, is the impressive calling card they need.
Think of a course with a nod toward Sand Barrens, another nod toward Cape May National and still another toward Scotland Run. Shore Gate has water (seven ponds) and plenty of sand (88 bunkers, plus a few yawning sand hazards), and enough forced carries to keep you sweating.
It has doglegs with angled, deceptively generous fairways that make them appear narrower and more intimidating than they really are. It has fescue, wetlands and protected areas that were a major headache to build around. It also has spacious, gently tiered greens that dare better players to fire at the pin, yet provide high-handicappers with the safer option of running the ball up.
|At a glance|
| Getting there: Shore Gate Golf Club is located at 35 School House Lane, Ocean View, N.J. The phone number is 609-624-8337. The Web site is www.shoregategolfclub.com . Directions: Take the Garden State Parkway southbound to Exit 17/Sea Isle City. Turn left onto Sea Isle City Boulevard, heading west toward Ocean View. Go through the light at Route 9. Proceed to the entrance to Shore Gate Golf Club, ahead and on your left.
Green fees: Weekends and holidays during the season, $99 with cart; weekdays, $85. (For three holiday weekends, Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day, $110.)
Walking: Walking permitted any time, but cart fees are included.
Amenities:Comfortable, small, understated clubhouse. Well-stocked pro shop, snack bar, driving range and putting green. (Shore Gate has no liquor license.)
Rating: MustStrong addition to the Jersey Shore golf scene. A must-play for the well-traveled golfer and anybody looking for a good test. Reasonably priced compared to many shore courses.
Accurate as of May 2002
If you've got game, you will want to take on Shore Gate from the tips, all 7,227 yards, from which it plays to a whopping 75.3 rating and a 136 slope. Even from the forward tees, 5,284 yards, the course has enough muscle to go 71.2/126.
"This course does not cater to the 25 handicapper," Fream said last week, in town for Shore Gate 's unveiling. "We want the better players to gravitate here."
Even if Fream is dead on, that's the kind of comment that had Shore Gate 's general manager, Scott Turner, gulping. Turner's family, which has owned and operated a nearby vacation campground for 40 years, sank plenty of borrowed money into developing Shore Gate , and they know it must appeal to players and duffers alike to succeed.
Turner was quick to step forward to concede that, yes, Shore Gate can be "visually intimidating," but that it is quite manageable for any level of player, so long as the player tackles it from the proper tees.
If Fream and Dale have a design philosophy, it is not to get hung up on any one philosophy or style. They prefer to examine a site, see what the land gives them, then go from there - massaging where needed with bulldozers.
The result at Shore Gate , with the generally flat, sandy terrain common to the shore, is a visually appealing course rich with trees and even mildly rolling in places. By any measure, it is a stern, fair and fun test of anybody's game.
While Fream might not have a set style, it's fair to say he does want you to have to think your way around the golf course. Time and again at Shore Gate , no matter which tee you choose, you are confronted with a carry over water, sand or fescue. How much danger to risk? Attack or play it safe? You will not be bored.
Case in point, the 9th, a gargantuan par 5 that wraps around a lake on the left, and plays as long as 648 yards. That's a lot of golf hole, especially if you take the bait and try to cut the corner of the lake on your second shot. I did, and I hammered a 3-wood. I liked it, and I was posing, licking my chops, thinking birdie, right up to the moment that ball splashed.
The most bizarre hole, by far, is the 13th, a 556-yard par 5, where Fream has built a dozen giant wall-faced bunkers up the entire left side of the fairway. Each bunker is angled toward the tee in an effort to create a sort of wind-blown dunes look. You will love or hate it. It struck me as contrived, although Fream insists that in time the bunkers will take on a natural, weathered look.
Even if you do not care for the 13th, there are no bad holes at Shore Gate . There are, by contrast, at least half a dozen or more very good to excellent holes. The par 3s and short par 4s are especially strong. Shore Gate is a sure bet.