Pennsauken Country Club, the municipal course in its namesake township, is never going to wow anybody with its length (5,749 yards from the white tees) or difficulty (117 slope).
But thanks to lush fairways, user-friendly greens and several fine, fun holes -- none of them especially penal -- Pennsauken never lacks for golfers.
For the low-handicapper, Pennsauken is a place to score well. For the mid- and high-handicapper, Pennsauken is a course to make your way around without hunting all day for lost balls or hacking your way back onto the fairway.
``I'd say people like it the most because it's always in good condition,'' said Bob Prickett, the golf superintendent and general manager. ``If I had to point out a weakness, it's that we don't have enough tee times. We did 7,600 rounds in July.''
For most of its 67 years, Pennsauken was known to area residents as Iron Rock, which Prickett, a municipal employee, thinks was a private club. He doesn't know who designed the course. But in 1982, with Iron Rock closed, the township stepped in to maintain the land as ``open acres,'' Prickett said, rather than see the site become yet another apartment complex.
``The city fathers thought it was in the best interest of everyone,'' Prickett said. ``Golf courses produce more oxygen than 800 apartments, plus it's not a burden on the school system or the police and fire departments. It has been a tremendous success.''
Part of that success may be due to the fee structure. What other course charges the same -- $26 to walk, $38 to ride ($2 less for residents) -- every day of the week, including weekends and holidays?
As for the layout itself, the back nine has a little more spice than the front, which suffers from too many open, up-and-back holes.
Pennsauken starts you off with a short (309 yards), flat, mild dogleg left. Even stumbling out of the car cold (there's no driving range), you'd have to work to make double bogey here. The second hole is only slightly longer (344) and dead straight, although there are out of bounds and a railroad track up the left side.
No. 7 is the favorite hole among many Pennsauken regulars; at 216 yards from the whites, it's easily the longest par 3 on the course and a test for even better players.
The 10th -- long (461 yards), narrow and tree-lined on both sides -- is another favorite of regulars, as well as the No. 1 handicap hole. It's the one hole at Pennsauken where even low-handicappers will likely find themselves hitting at least a mid-iron into the green.
Come to think of it, No. 10 is the beginning of the best stretch of holes on the course. The par-3 11th is a picturesque 117-yard shot over a pond, with trees right and left.
The 13th, despite being only 313 yards, is a delightful little easygoing dogleg over a crest and a pond into a sloping yet receptive green.
The weakest hole is easily No. 17, barely a par 4 at only 271 yards and nearly defenseless with only two feeble fairway bunkers and a flat, unguarded green.
``The whole back nine is better, except for the 17th,'' said Prickett, who is considering moving the green back into the woods to give the hole more muscle.
The 18th is another short, leisurely dogleg par 4 that should allow even high-handicappers to walk off the course with a par, bogey at most.
Orginally published August 10, 1997