Egg Harbor Township’s Twisted Dune Golf Club, long considered one of New Jersey’s finest courses, sports an innovation made not from designers or architects, but from a unique source.
Players encouraged management to enhance their enjoyment of the 16th, one of the most scenic on the course, a couple of years back.
The resulting move — providing a drop area near the green with a penalty stroke for balls that can’t be found in the hazard — benefits all players and the club.
Sixteen is a par-3 playing 235 yards from the back tees and 190 from the mid boxes. It’s essentially a tee-to-green hole, meaning the tee shot either reaches the green or is stuck in a deep hazard below the putting surface. The hazard area includes two bodies of water.
What happens when a tee shot goes into the hazard? Under the old rules, it meant either looking for a lost ball or hitting another tee shot. Both substantially slowed play and often produced a high score on the hole. By extension, that could launch a string of tough holes for high-handicap players. Taking a 6 on a par-3? Ouch.
The new regulation actually kills three — not two — birds with one stone. Players get relief on the hole and can at least try to salvage a bogey. The group behind them does not get held up and can maintain its rhythm. Management avoids the pace-of-play bottleneck that reduces rounds and revenue.
Administratively, that’s a birdie 3.
“Over the course of time, we get suggestions from the customers and we listen to them,” says General Manager and Director of Golf Jim Endres. “This is one change we made to accommodate them. Players love this hole with the green, the setup and the visual. They do get a little nervous having to hit over that deep hazard. It’s tough to find a ball if it goes down there, and you probably won’t have a shot if you do find it, so we put in the drop area.”
The drop area brings another dimension to the hole, he adds. It allows bump-and-run shots onto the green, even a putt from off the green.
“This is one of those situations in which being off the green can be an advantage, especially if you can keep the ball below the pin,” Endres says.
Putting uphill on this green is preferred. It slopes sharply down from the back to the front. Downhill putts from the back of the green can actually roll off it.
The 16th is a customer favorite in one of the area’s most picturesque courses.
The club moved two million cubic yards of earth to turn level ground into an elevated taste of the Scottish coast. This produced a course that opened in 2001 with deep ravines, twisting landscapes, contoured fairways, towering grass-covered hills and more than 100 deep traps and bunkers.
Playing Twisted Dune well is an accomplishment. It’s lauded for having a back-tees distance of 7,270 yards — comparable to a professional tour — and a 4,930-yard tee box for high-handicap players.
The course plays four or five strokes harder than many in the area and demands good distance off the tee. It has four par 5s of at least 500 yards, 10 lengthy par 4s, and four difficult par 3s. But it doesn’t have to be intimidating, Endres asserts.
“Don’t let the mounds and everything distract you,” he advises. “The fairways are generous (width). Just play a nice conservative game and keep it straight.”
The third hole is listed as the second most difficult on the course (the long par-4 18th is No. 1). This par-3 plays 198 yards from the mid tees. The green is narrow, with the capability of wind pushing the ball right. There is a two-tiered putting surface with a left-to-right slope, meaning that even after a strong, well-placed drive, players find a strong challenge on the green. Birdies on this hole are rare, par is a very good score.