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The Shore Club in midst of impressive comeback in CMCH
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The Shore Club in midst of impressive comeback in CMCH

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Fred Reidel, head PGA Professional and Director of Golf for The Shore Club, watched from a seat on the patio on a recent summer afternoon while golfers took aim at the large, undulating green on the par-4 seventh hole.

“We built a completely new green for the seventh hole,” Reidel says while putts took a serpentine path toward the cup. “We had to do it because the new patio is much larger. The old green was closer (to the patio), and we were getting a few close calls (with approach shots), so we decided we needed to relocate it. It’s a much better design now. It’s become one of our crowd favorites, actually.”

The fact that the course even has a crowd is a testament to Reidel and a few longtime members.

Five years ago, Wildwood Golf & Country Club, the private club located just off the Garden State Parkway, was in dire need of a makeover. The course, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016, had started to show its age. Dwindling membership affected finances. Band-Aids were being used on projects that needed reconstructive surgery.

The Shore Club debuted in 2018.

“It’s almost miraculous that we’re even sitting here at a private club and looking at this beautiful view,” Reidel says. “Five years ago, we were literally on the verge of bankruptcy. We were very close to becoming a public course.”

A group of members got together to save it.

First up on the to-do list was changing the name. Designed by Wayne E. Stiles and John Van Kleek, the course began in 1916 as Wildwood Golf & Country Club and enjoyed a rich history. In the early 1950s, the legendary Arnold Palmer was one of its most avid players and played there quite often while stationed at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May.

A few months before his passing in 2016, Palmer helped the club celebrate its centennial by providing an autographed letter that still hangs in the clubhouse, along with an autographed flag.

Despite its legacy, however, the club felt that a new name was needed, along with a cool, fresh logo, so that first-time visitors wouldn’t think they have to “Watch the Tramcar, Please” on their way to the first tee.

“When the new entity came onboard, the plan was to rebrand, revitalize and recapitalize the property,” Reidel says. “The rebranding was part of the vision to create a feel of more of a shore type of facility.

The old name lent itself for people to belief we were (located) on the island. If people were looking for golf in this area and saw Wildwood in the old Yellow Pages or on Google Search, they thought we were in Wildwood. The Shore Club kind of made a lot of sense for us.”

Next up was upgrading the course, which features five sets of tee boxes ranging from 6,714 to 3,765 yards.

A new irrigation project was completed in the spring. In the fall, plans call to finish renovating the bunkers.

“Instead of sand going up the face of the bunkers, the sod and grass rolls down to the bottom, so you don’t have a steep face of sand,” Reidel says. “It’s a new style, but it’s an old-school design that is going back to our roots.”

The course does not have a traditional signature hole, but Reidel is partial to the 15th, a par 5 that plays 408 yards from the white tees. A well-placed drive on the left side of the fairway sets up a potential second shot to around 100 to 120 yards, followed by an approach to a contoured green.

“The second shot makes the hole because there’s so much trouble,” Reidel says. “And if you do happen to navigate that, you have to miss on the right spot on the green to have a chance at birdie or par. And when you’re on the green, it’s so picturesque. I think it’s one of the best holes in all of Cape May County because it has a lot of character.”

Tap-ins: Amenities have also made it very attractive to would-be members. The club recently joined forces with Cape May’s Peter Shields Inn to upgrade the restaurant and is also planning on adding pickleball courts to the facility. ... As of Aug. 1, the club capped its membership at 320 full-time members and has established a wait list. ... Children and grandchildren of full members are permitted to play the course for free until age 26.

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