Saturday, April 18, 2015

Deerwood Country Club

Overlooked course is pleasant surprise

There was certainly no reason to expect much from Deerwood Country Club, the semiprivate course just outside Mount Holly, in South Jersey.

At a glance
Getting There: Deerwood Country Club is located at 845 Woodlane Rd., Westhampton, N.J. From the New Jersey Turnpike, take Exit 5 onto Route 541 South, toward Mount Holly. After one mile, make a jughandle left turn onto Route 630 (Woodlane Road). The club is one-half mile on the left. The phone number is 609-265-1800. The Web site is www.deerwoodcc.com

Green Fees: Weekends, $84; weekdays, $72. Carts included. Closed Mondays.

Carts: Mandatory.

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Spikes: Non-metal only.

Amenities: Comfortable, country-club-style clubhouse with pro shop, locker rooms, banquet facilities, driving range, putting green. Outings welcome.

Rating: A bit pricey, but an innovative, fun, manicured course with a coastal feel.

Information accurate as of 8/15/2002

There had been no clamor about it, to my knowledge, not even a mild buzz, really. And judging from the length (6,231 yards from the back tees) and the difficulty (126 slope from the back), it wasn't going to be the most severe test of golf around.

Sure enough, Deerwood wasn't a backbreaker.

But as I made my way around the wetlands-filled "Carolina-style" layout, as the owner bills it, one question kept coming to mind: Why hasn't there been more talk about this place?

Deerwood is a pleasant, challenging, if overlooked little gem.

For starters, it has a fairly upscale, club-for-a-day feel to it. It is rarely crowded, doing only about 20,000 rounds this year, which is below the figure for even most top-dollar country clubs.

As for the course, Deerwood boasts several delicious holes, particular the closing five. Thanks to several considerable forced carries, it plays longer than 6,231 yards. And credit superintendent Joel Collura, because it is a safe bet you are not going to find many daily-fee golf courses in better condition.

So, why haven't you heard of Deerwood?

"We've done absolutely no marketing," head pro Greg Farrow said.

The reason is simple and somewhat ominous. Next year, construction begins on 400 single-family homes and townhouses around the perimeter of the 507-acre site, and Deerwood owner Dick Alaimo doesn't want to fill the membership roster of the semiprivate club before that happens.

Time will tell whether the construction and the housing intrude too much on the course. But for now, anyway, Deerwood, designed by Alaimo and area architect Jim Blaukovitch, is an engaging, fun track more like what you might expect to find around Myrtle Beach, S.C.

It is a curious blend of flat wetlands, wooded area and bordering farmland, which makes for a mix of wide-open and tight golf holes.

Because almost half of the property is protected wetlands, better than half of the holes at Deerwood require some kind of forced carry off the tee or into the green on the approach shot. Others simply run alongside trouble. Yet other holes -- Nos. 12 and 13, the back-to-back par 3s on the back side, for example -- are enshrouded by trees from tee to green, offering a more traditional, parkland style of golf.

If the fifth, a 465-yard par 4 over marsh off the tee, is the best and toughest single hole on the course, it only is preparing you for the closing five holes.

The fun, or misery, starts at the 14th, 398 yards from the tips, over a yawning chasm of weeds and water that looks almost impossible from the tee. The fairway is barely visible.

The 15th, a short par 4 (310 yards) dogleg over more mess off the tee, is another challenge entirely. Here, a well-placed iron off the tee is the prudent shot, before heading upward to a small, heavily bunkered green. Then there is the 398-yard 16th, which is forgiving on the tee shot but deadly on the long approach shot over still more wetlands.

"Sometimes, high handicappers play up the 17th fairway, around the marsh," Farrow said of the 16th.

The 17th, one of only two par 5s on the par-70 layout, is the longest hole at Deerwood at 556 yards, not to mention the No. 2 handicap. The closer is a sweeping, sloped 376-yard dogleg right around marsh that forces you to decide how much to bite off. Slice here and you are sunk.

As pleasant as Deerwood is, it's not for everyone. Even with four sets of tees, some high-handicappers, seniors, women and juniors are going to struggle against the marshy areas.

Others may not like that carts are mandatory -- but it is for good reason. Matters of revenue aside, there are some l-o-n-g hauls between several greens and the next tee. Finally, there are the rather pricey greens fees of $76 on weekends, $66 on weekdays -- no cut rates, no twilight rates, no special rates for juniors or seniors.

Still, for more than a few golfers, Deerwood will be a welcome change from many of the daily-fee options in the area.

Originally published Aug. 9, 1998

INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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