At GOLF.com, our hobby is also our job. That means, just like you, we spend much of the year teeing it up high, swinging hard and trying to avoid double bogeys. But some courses we stumble upon are simply more memorable than others. Here, for the second straight year, we unveil our favorite public courses we played in 2022.
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The New York metro area is home to some of the greatest golf courses in the world. Winged Foot. Bethpage. Baltusrol. Ridgewood. Leave the City in any direction, and soon enough, you’ll bump into a Top 100 course.
With most of those gems, the public is not allowed. The initiation fees are almost as high as the fences that surround them, and most will only ever dream of stepping foot on their hollowed grounds.
If you know where to look, though, you can get Top 100 quality all for less than the cost of a steak dinner in Manhattan.
Enter Rock Spring Golf Club. The public track is located under half an hour west of the Hudson River, and it might be the best deal in the entire state of New Jersey.
I first heard about the course through coworkers. At first, it sounded too good to be true.
It’s a classic Seth Raynor design. Used to be a country club, but now it’s open to the public. And get this — it’s only 60 bucks!
Usually when something is too good to be true, it is. But as I learned the first time I went to Rock Spring, that’s not the case at this course.
Tucked away in West Orange, N.J., Rock Spring is short on exclusivity and long on character. The course is one of two publicly-accessible Raynor designs in the U.S. (outside of resorts), and if you’re an architecture enthusiast, you know how special that really is.
The course features all the template holes typical of a Raynor course, and for the typical muni golfer, that’s a hell of a thrill. The 3rd is a redan. The 6th is a short hole. The 11th is a punchbowl. If you’re a fan of classic golf course architecture — or you want an intro-level course — Rock Spring is the perfect place for it.
But even if you’re not an architecture snob, Rock Spring has plenty to offer. The course is extremely playable (it measures just over 6,600 yards from the tips) and there are even some views of the Manhattan skyline. Whether you’re a scratch golfer or struggling to break 100, the course has plenty to like.
Getting out to Rock Spring for the first time last spring was like a dream come true. I’d always wanted a fun and interesting course to show out-of-towners when they come to the northeast, and Rock Spring affords me that opportunity. And (unlike other famed public tracks like Bethpage) scoring a tee time is never much of an issue. As long as you’re flexible on time, getting a spot on the tee sheet is never too difficult.
If you’re in the New York City area and need a great place to play, I can’t recommend it highly enough. But you better act quick — this hidden gem won’t be hidden much longer.