Yes, golf is back in our coverage and yes, Harbor Pines Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township offers a first-class facility with plush fairways, well-manicured greens and outdoor food and drink. But this is the season of a larger world view. General Manager Allan Greenman has dismissed revenue forecasts, not merely downplayed them, amid his property’s civic responsibility.
“The key is to keep everybody safe,” he says. “Courses were shut down in the early part of the season and there have been restrictions, what everybody had to do in response to the virus was unfortunate, but it saved so many lives. We are not only doing all the appropriate things that marked our re-opening in May, but we have been enacting measures either before they were mandated or even if they never were mandated.”
That included the elimination of shotgun starts, bathrooms being cleaned once an hour, hand sanitizers at every bag-drop station, no outings and rakes being removed from the sand traps. They were placed on every cart, so that only a twosome or foursome uses each rake. The cart, including the rake, is treated with a high-grade industrial cleaner after each use. Customers were given the right to take the pin out on the green or use the pool noodles, which keeps the pin attached to the hole. Rules will continually evolve and some restrictions may soon be eased. But these practices are how Harbor Pines, figuratively speaking, teed off in the pandemic.
“I am proud of the way our people have come through this,” Greenman says. “It’s a credit to our staff here. We are all going to pull through this. I was pleasantly surprised about how excited people have been to simply come out and play. We are glad to be able to provide a respite to golfers during this unusual time.”
Spring rains kept the greens, a major strength of facility, running true. The putting surfaces are generally large, meaning they are not difficult to hit, but easy to three-putt. They also break sharply and are fast. Harbor Pines now has seven sets of tee boxes and plays 6,827 from the back set, 6,296 from the mid tees most people use and 5,101 from the most forward set. It has 12 ponds, 17 acres of water and a reclusive feel amid 520 acres. The bunkers are distinctive, particularly the 170-foot-long half-acre bunker that guards the par-4 17th and a long ribbon-like bunker players cross by bridge approaching the seventh hole.
There are a number of significant challenges on this course. The ninth is a 419-yard, long par 4 from the mid tees. It is the toughest hole in the layout. A long, right-side drive sets up a low-iron or fairway wood to the green, with water on the left and woods on the right. Ten is a twisting, sophisticated par-5, playing 511 yards from the middle tees. It takes three shots to reach the putting surface and players attempting to get close to the green in two may flirt with water creeping in behind the fairway bunker. Greenman calls it “tension on every shot” because there is little room for error throughout the hole.
The 12th is picturesque beauty. It fashions a short, 291-yard risk-reward tee shot, with the prospect of driving the green offset by a large body of water that must be cleared. Steelmanville Road beckons to the right, however, so a sliced drive could reach the road and wind up somewhere else in Egg Harbor Township. The 18th is an excellent scoring chance. It’s a baby par-5 of 479 yards that long hitters can reach in two shots, enabling them to putt for eagle. Two good straight shots and a chip to the green can set up a birdie putt too.