Ask anybody in South Jersey to name the daily-fee courses they play and it's a pretty sure bet they'll mention Rancocas Golf Club.
|At a glance|
| Getting There: Rancocas Golf Club is on Club Ridge Drive, Willingboro. From Interstate 295, take Exit 45B. At sixth light, turn left on Country Club Drive, then left on Clubhouse Drive. Phone is 609-877-5344.
Greens Fees: Weekends, $58 to ride; after 12 p.m., $46 to ride, $36 to walk. Weekdays, $45 to ride, $35 to walk. Everyday after 3 p.m., $26 to ride or walk; everyday after 6 p.m., $16 to walk or ride. Seniors, Monday through Friday, $32 to ride.
Carts: Mandatory on weekends until noon.
Spikes: Metal permitted, soft preferred.
Amenities: Moderately stocked pro shop, snackbar, driving range, practice green, banquet facility.
Rating: Respectable, well-run course. A bit difficult for high handicappers, good test for mid and low handicappers.
Information accurate as of 8/26/2002
The facility is well-managed, the price is reasonable ($38 to ride, weekends after 1 p.m.), and the course itself -- in quite decent shape considering the volume of play -- is a respectable challenge.
Rancocas plays as long as 6,629 yards and a 130 slope from the championship tees, or as short as 5,284 yards and a 122 slope from the forward tees. It gets three stars from Golf Digest's 4,200 Best Places to Play.
What's most noticeable about the course is the difference in the two nines. The front side is flat and wide open, and the back is tight, tree-lined and loaded with doglegs. Prudence suggests sheathing your driver at the turn.
The greens at Rancocas can also bite you. They are generous enough -- most are midsize and mildly undulating -- but they are almost all at least slightly elevated and well-bunkered.
``You had better bring your short game when you come, because if you miss the greens here, it's almost impossible to get up and down,'' head pro Joe Casey said.
Rancocas was built in 1966 as the now-defunct, semiprivate Willingboro Country Club. There have been no significant changes to the original layout by the prolific and successful Jones, who helped launch the design careers of his sons, Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Rees Jones.
About 1990, with Willingboro Country Club on hard times, National Golf Properties, the giant of the golf-course industry, bought the course and turned it over to its management subsidiary, American Golf Corp. The name came from Rancocas Creek, which runs along the dicey, par-3 11th hole.
Rancocas starts you off with a straightaway, narrow par 5 that should be no problem unless you hook your tee shot OB.
From there through the 7th hole, the course is a string of mid-length, relatively wide-open holes that are adequate but nothing special.
The first truly nice hole is the 8th, a short (316 yards), severe dogleg left, with woods and three well-placed fairway bunkers that make you think twice about trying to cut the corner. Assuming you play it safe, the second shot is a short iron onto a elevated green guarded by bunkers on the left and right.
The 485-yard ninth is the more interesting of the par 5s on the front, thanks to a dogleg, a pond fronting the green, and a very shallow green. Even if you can reach it in 2, the hard-to-hold green, with OB if you're long, makes the ninth a 3-shot par 5 for most golfers.
The 11th is the best par 3 on the course. It plays only 126 yards from the middle tees, but it's almost all carry over wetlands into a long, narrow green with a fence on the right and Rancocas Creek on the left.
In fact, the 11th is really the beginning of the best stretch of holes here. The 12th is a short, 301-yard, par-4 dogleg guarded on the right by trees and fairway bunkers.
The 13th, a 522-yard par 5, is the signature hole. It's a downhill, then uphill, double-dogleg, with fairway bunkers on the left, and once you've negotiated the first leg, a narrow, tree-lined approach.
Then comes the 368-yard dogleg 14th, with yet another tight fairway and another pond fronting the well-bunkered green.
And you haven't seen the last of the doglegs on the back side. At 373 yards, No. 18 is also tight and also turns, once again ending with a bunkered green.
Orginally published July 13, 1997