These are exciting times for Rock Spring Golf Club in West Orange, N.J. After years of operating as a private facility the club has opened its doors, fairways and greens to the public.
“The transition has gone very well, as the course has been very well received by the local community and golfers from all over the region,” said Jerrod Wittman, Regional Sales and Marketing Director for KemperSports. “The volume of play has been outstanding and we are very pleased with the local support from both past members and local golfers.”
Wittman explained why the change was made from private to pubic. “The Town of West Orange stepped in to purchase Rock Spring to preserve the golf course as green space and create an amenity for the entire community to enjoy. The property was destined for development into a residential community, which would’ve removed a beautiful golf course and quality of life amenity from the area.”
Aren’t we golfers the lucky ones, indeed?
Rock Spring Golf Club features one of only two public golf courses in the United States designed by legendary architect Seth Raynor, whose highly-ranked work includes Fisher’s Island in New York, Shoreacres on Chicago’s North Shore, and Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda. Twelve of Raynor’s courses are on GOLF Magazine’s list of the Top 100 in the U.S.
Rock Spring’s 6,600-yard par-71 course sits on a rolling, tree-lined site and features many of Raynor’s trademark design elements with unique and creative green complexes. Founded in 1925, Rock Spring Golf Club has played host to the New Jersey State Open (1981, 1990, 2000 and 2009), the US Healthcare Classic, and many state PGA and USGA qualifying events.
Located just 15 miles west of Manhattan, Rock Spring Golf Club also features a clubhouse with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, Cable Lake and Second Mountain.
The club had to hire and train an entirely new staff, as the existing employees returned to Montclair Country Club after the purchase and was closed in October of last year. At this time, the primary operation included the golf course and bar and grill-style restaurant. However, when requested the banquet rooms and patio are available for special events, parties and banquets. (I don’t quite understand this???)
“We have not made any changes to this Seth Raynor masterpiece and have enjoyed introducing it to public golfers for the first time,” said Wittman. “It took some time and hard work to catch up on maintenance practices coming out of winter and we are happy with the golf experience our team is providing. As we work our way through this first golf season, we are also very excited to continue enhancing the courses natural features and beauty.”
One of the aspects that makes Rock Spring such a great place to play and be a member of its storied history and link to the past. Said Wittman, “This is a rare opportunity to play premium public golf that very few golfers in the United States get to experience. In addition to enjoying this historic design, our staff thrives on delivering unmatched customer service that makes every public golfer feel as if they have been a member of Rock Spring for many years. It’s very rare to find this quality of golf experience without having to join an expensive country club.”
Being in its initial year of operation as a public course, Rock Spring is slowly ramping up its marketing campaigns. Therefore most of its initial play has been from the local towns and communities surrounding the course. Offering special rates for West Orange seniors and residents on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively, along with military and first responder discounts, was important to build a sense of ownership of the course amongst the local golf community, according to Wittman. “As we have expanded our marketing campaigns, we are also seeing a vast number of golfers from New York City and other major metro areas.”
The club has launched a Golf Pass for the rest of 2019 for a reduced rate. In addition, there are the special rates for seniors, military and first responders. “We anticipate other specials and promotions as the year moves along, which will be exclusively offered to our email subscribers and social media followers. Anyone can join these lists by visiting our website www.rockspringgolf.com
For those who familiar with the history of Raynor they will experience many of the “template holes” holes brought over to the U.S. by his mentor C.B. McDonald, who studied the most famous courses and holes in the United Kingdom. Many of the holes at Rock Spring have been heavily influenced by these great designs that have stood the test of time to challenge golfers of all skill levels.
“Amongst the most notable would be the par-three third hole,” said Wittman, “which presents golfers with a very challenging tee shot over a ravine to a traditional Seth Raynor redan green. The smart play is to play to the right side of the green to minimize the risk and still have a chance to make a solid par.”
Another wonderful hole is the par-four 11th, which offers golfers a risk/reward tee shot on a challenging long hole where taking on three fairway bunkers provides a great advantage on the second shot if successful. “If driving the ball is your strength, then going for the corner can result in a great advantage for the approach shot,” said Wittman. “If not, then there is plenty of room left to play the hole, but with a very long and challenging second shot.” With a very steep drop off behind the green, this hole takes golfers back to the home of golf, as it was constructed from the same template as the famous 17th “Road Hole” at St. Andrews in Scotland.
A few other of the template holes at Rock Spring are: the 4th called “Double Plateau.” At first glance the green appears to be one very large target, but a closer inspection reveals two raised portions. As a result, the hole plays very different depending on which section is pinned, more akin to three tiny greens sandwiched together; the 6th, “Short”, modeled after a hole at Royal West Norfolk (a club which is not reachable at high tide), a short hole that is an all-or-nothing shot to a green that is essentially an island of green surrounded by a sea of sand; and the 18th called “Eden”, a rendition of the famous 11th hole at St. Andrews. There are bunkers left and right with a steep back to front slope on the green, so keep it below the hole.
To sample these classic holes, and many more, visit Rock Spring Golf Club soon.
Rock Spring Golf Club
West Orange, N.J.