July 26, 2019
The Cape Region’s private country clubs run full tilt at the height of summertime.
In part that is because a significant percentage of their members are seasonal. The non-locals here on summer weekends and vacations enjoy their clubs’ amenities during what are often the best golf days of the year – not counting the occasional heat wave, of course.
Country clubs that serve as the away-from-home club for their members are not unusual, but maintaining their viability is a challenge. Fortunately, the private clubs in the Cape Region, such as Kings Creek, Rehoboth Beach, and The Peninsula are doing quite well.
The Shore Club in Cape May County, NJ is another good example of how a seasonal club can succeed and thrive under the right conditions.
Located one mile from Exit 9 of the Garden State Parkway, about 15 minutes from the Cape May Lewes Ferry terminal, the club for many years was known as Wildwood Golf & Country Club. Arnold Palmer played it frequently when stationed at the Cape May Coast Guard base.
During the recession years of the early 2000s, however, the club lost members and had trouble attracting replacements. A new ownership group that included current members took over in December 2017, and the property was re-launched as The Shore Club in the spring of 2018.
The golf course is a Wayne Stiles/John Van Kleek design. A multi-year renovation project, using the golf architecture services of Tyler Rae Design, LLC, began shortly after the new owners assumed control.
I played the course last year and again this past June, and the changes were noticeable and helpful.
Several bunkers have been rebuilt with less sand flashing and more chances for the balls to finish at the bottom. More bunker re-builds are underway.
Dozens of trees have been removed, making the relatively narrow fairways less intimidating. Naturally, the tree project also improved the turf health. The fairways were immaculate and the push-up greens ran fast and true.
Like many private layouts, prior course knowledge is helpful. Thanks to last year’s round, for example, I now know my 5-wood is a better option than my driver on the tee box on several dogleg holes.
For those who enjoy plotting their way around instead of bombing and gouging, this layout will suit them just fine.
The tree removals also added to the strategic choices. On the dogleg left 506-yard par 5 twelfth hole, for example, there was no real chance to go for the green in two because trees blocked the left side. An entire stand of trees on the left of the fairway beginning at about 240 yards from the green is now gone, opening up that possibility for the more daring long hitters.
Other improvements updated and improved the clubhouse. One renovated room, called “1916” to honor the club’s founding, has a nicely intimate feel as it overlooks the course. It would make a fine location for a wedding rehearsal dinner or other small gathering.
MacKissic’s is the name for the renovated main dining/bar area, and has an inviting casual pub atmosphere. The main ballroom is more formal, and does a nice bit of wedding reception business.
The club’s location works well with the growing membership, not least of which because of its close proximity to Jersey Shore towns such as Stone Harbor and North Wildwood, in addition to Cape May and Wildwood a bit further south. Vacation home-owning members can easily reach the course in minutes and play a round in less than four hours.
Sounds like the private clubs in the Cape Region, doesn’t it?
Marketing and Membership Director Amanda Ruhl suggested the proximity factor among others for the club’s success in adding over 200 new members in the past year. She also felt that the fact the members see the continuing improvements being made on the property provides significant reassurance that their investment will pay off nicely.
The club’s family-friendly atmosphere is an added modern element of what private country clubs require. The Yellow Tees on the scorecard are designed for juniors and novice golfers, and set at 3,765 yards. Shore Club also supports high school golf in Cape May County, and has a busy summer camp program for junior golfers.
I suggested to Director of Golf Fred Riedel that Shore Club should try to set up a friendly cross-Cape competition with Kings Creek CC and/or Rehoboth Beach CC, similar to the annual Cape To Cape Challenge Cup races between the Lewes and Cape May yacht clubs. He liked the idea very much, and had fond memories of playing in the Rehoboth Pro-Am several years ago.
Let’s hope it happens.
Powell’s first ace
Congratulations to Lisa Powell for her first-ever hole in one, made July 10 at her home course, Kings Creek CC. She used a 7-iron for the 108-yard par-3 second hole.
Local club competition results
The Kings Creek Ladies 18-Hole group played a team shamble event July 18, with Jean Chlastawa, Melanie Pereira, and Susan Griesemer winning first place. Sheree Davis, Karen Wilkens, and Celeste Beaupre finished second, and Katie Heintz, Kathleen Irwin, and Carol Simon took third.