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Atlantic City Country Club thrives through pandemic
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Atlantic City Country Club thrives through pandemic

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There’s a silver lining in the 2020 pandemic. Golf has roared back, as the natural embrace for social distancing, outdoor activity and sports continues. As we conclude seasonal coverage, another angle makes sense for area golfers.

Consider a membership at Atlantic City Country Club. They begin at $495 and enable access to three courses — Atlantic City, Ballamor in Egg Harbor Township and Scotland Run in Williamstown. Atlantic City Country Club also is open to the public, with rates ranging from $125 to 225. For an increasing number of people, however, membership is enticing. And Atlantic City’s membership rolls have been rising according to Mike Burke, its director of golf. There are at least two months of solid golf weather left this year. Plenty of time to play quality courses.

One golfer who enjoys this package is Steve Johnson, who is based in Washington Township and utilizes the flexibility to play all three establishments.

“This works out great because we have not been allowed to work indoors,” Johnson says of the insurance business he’s part of. “You can come out here, enjoy the golf and you can use the place like an office. This is not just about joining a country club because you have access to tee times. You’re out here seeing people, you realize we are all going through this together and Atlantic City Country club is special to me. I just love being out here. And heck, if you just want to go out and play four holes sometime rather than just hitting balls at a driving range, you can do that as a member.”

The club is, of course, historic. It’s the birthplace of the birdie and the national Seniors Tour. Its former owner, Leo Fraser, was once president of the entire PGA. Golf and entertainment luminaires have cavorted through here. The layout has four tees ranging from 6,577 down to 5,228 yards. The front nine is more traditional, the back has terrific bay views and wind becomes a factor.

Some holes here allow the pitch-and-run shot, in which players can strike a low-trajectory chip shot to land in front of the green and then roll onto it. Other holes are affected by breezes, which influence club selection. The mid tees most people play are 6,175 yards.

Burke is partial to the 16th hole. It plays 353 yards from the middle tees and requires strong positioning. A drive placed on the left will provide a good angle into a well-protected green. How protected? Traps all around, a large body of water to the right and a terrain slope that leans right.

The widest view of the green will come from the left center.

Tap-ins: When indoor facilities were allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity statewide, the 1897 room roared back to life. It allows the use of simulators to give patrons the feel of playing a famous course. Burke says their popularity has caught on in the last couple of years, as golfers pretend to play famous golf courses with their friends. Many formed informal leagues and enjoyed a taste of prime-time golf in the winter.

The secondary benefit, besides the fun, is the ability to work on one’s game for the entire winter. The events unfold via the use of simulators, which have an additional use for golf lessons. The simulators take patrons through the course they can “play.” The screen guides one’s shot through the visual terrain of famed courses. Varied wind conditions and arrows denote yardage to the green and a putt’s projected break, bringing the video-game element into play. Other games offered here include Home Run Derby, High Heat Pitching, Quarterback Challenge, Field Goal Kicking, Basketball Shoot Out and carnival games.

The room has particular appeal when inclement weather prevents normal golf.

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