Pine Valley Golf Club
New Jersey, United States of America

9th hole, 425 yards; Unlike many modern courses built today, Crump placed little value in having holes laid out so that the golfer could see everything. In fact, on the 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 13th, 16th, and 17th holes, the golfer is unlikely to see his ball land in the fairway. A lot of earth would have had to be moved to provide the golfer with perfect visuals and Crump saw no reason to do so. Also, on a course where the better golfer can continually seek an advantage by placing the ball in a particular spot in the wide fairways, the concept of the 9th’s dual greens is an an interesting solution to creating angles of play on what would otherwise have been a straight hole. Along with the original 8th green, Perry Maxwell also worked on the left 9th green and his back right hole location is a particularly thrilling one to try and get close to, given that a cliff is only few paces over the green. This green was originally a skyline one with nothing behind it but the growth of the trees to stabilize the sandy soil has negated that feature of the hole.

Looks can be deceiving: while the 9th looks tight from the tee, its fairway is one of the widest on the course.

10th hole, 145 yards; While a sub-150 yard hole in a windy location like Royal Troon and Royal North Devon can tax even the best golfer, rarely do inland courses feature such little gems. Amongst inland courses, the authors can only think of the 9th at Myopia Hunt Club and the 7th at Royal Melbourne (West) as being of the same calibre and quality as the 10th at Pine Valley. Furthermore, it should be noted that the length and spacing of the one shot holes are perfect at Pine Valley as the good player is likely to hit in something like a three wood, 4 iron, 9 iron, and 6 iron respectively into the 3rd, 5th, 10th, and 14th holes.

Recent tree removal, especially along the left, has opened up the 10th hole. The 18th tee to the left of the green is once again visible.

11th hole, 390 yards; This hole would be a showpiece for most courses and yet, it is rarely singled out for praise at Pine Valley. The hole is perfectly routed across the folds in the terrain and the approach shot is up a little valley to an elevated green. A central hazard in the form of a bunker is 40 yards short of the green and is a factor for anyone who didn’t find the fairway with their tee ball.

The view from the 11th tee before…

…the fairway twists its way up toward the green.

12th hole, 345 yards; Crump specifically thought every course should have a drive and pitch and run hole in addition to a drive and pitch hole, and this is an excellent pitch and run hole. The golfer always wants to hit his driver as far down the fairway as possible. From there, the hole turns sharply left, and if the drive is far enough, the golfer is left with a clear view down the length of the green. Exactly how to play the pitch shot can create indecision though as the green is open in front and runs away from the golfer. This hole is relatively level like the 7th but the angle of the green to the fairway and the two and half foot drop from front to back of the green more than creates plenty of strategic interest.

A drive long and to the right will give the golfer the best angle into the 12th green.

13th hole, 450 yards; Though Crump died before this hole was completed, he did hit balls to the spot that the 13th green now occupies and he declared that it would indeed be the site for the 13th green. So while Crump definitely deserves credit for finding the hole, the fact that it turned out so well belongs to Hugh Wilson and his brother who completed building it after Crump’s death and the end of WWI. While the 8th at Pebble Beach is often citied by many including Jack Nicklaus as their favorite approach shot in golf, the 13th at Pine Valley offers far more options without being any less thrilling.

The view from 200 yards back in the fairway: do I play safely to the right or go directly over the scrub for the green? Or perhaps play a hook out to the right of the green and let it run for 30 or 40 yards? Regardless, there is no more satisfying hole to play well.

14th hole, 185 yards; Since Crump originally roamed these grounds over 90 years ago, the amount of mature hardwood trees has multiplied dramatically to where each of the holes at Pine Valley is famously isolated from the rest of the course (and the busy world in general). While trees have encroached into the sandy areas around some of the fairways and greens, trees mercifully play next to no roll in the playing strategy of the holes. In the case of the 14th, the trees turn the hole from a visual terror where the green was once on an isolated finger of land into a hole of great beauty, especially in the autumn months. Whether this would please Crump or not seems debatable but there is no doubt that he would approve of the recent selective tree removal that has occurred around this green.

As with the 10th, the 14th has benefited from recent tree removal, especially along the right.

The 14th green as seen from below with the lake laping up to the bunker on the left side of the picture. This hole was built after Crump’s death and has one of the flatter putting surfaces on the course.

15th hole, 590 yards; This hole exemplifies the definition of a classic three shotter in that each shot gets progressively harder and more exacting with the fairway starting off over 60 yards wide but narrowing to less than 20 paces by the time one eventually reaches the green.The 15th was the last hole built by Wilson after Crump’s death. A Crump drawing in the clubhouse suggests that he might have been toying around with a bunker arrangement in the fairway, perhaps at the base of the hill that the green is now on. This makes some sense given that seeing an uninterrupted 420 yard stretch of fairway at Pine Valley seems odd. Conversely, the topography is ripe with challenge and such an uninterrupted stretch only adds to the variety of the overall design. Also, Crump was keen for the 15th to play as a distinctly different three shotter to the 7th, and in this regard, Wilson succeeded admirably.

16th hole, 435 yards; Another superlative use of angles with the golfer weighing risk/reward scenarios on both his tee ball and approach shot. The immense 11,400 square foot green must surely rank as one of the dozen finest in the game.

The short way home – and the longest carry – is to the right.

The further left the golfer goes off the tee, the more his approach shot is angled toward the lake.

On a course full of outstanding greens, the contours found at the 16th are among the very best. Note: the green falls sharply to the right just past the day’s hole location.

17th hole, 340 yards; Though Pine Valley has long set an unmatched standard for architecture in the United States, name another famous U.S. course that has a two shotter that measures under 340 yards in its last two holes? Oakmont, Crystal Downs and Olympic are rare examples, which is a great pity but it only highlights how revolutionary George Crump truly was and how well he understood the psychology of the game. Like Donald Ross, Crump understood that there must be give and take by the course architect and he allows the golfer a chance to birdie the penultimate hole to break 80 … or 90 … or 100. Of course, rash tactics that place the greedy golfer above the day’s hole location on this sharply pitched green can be the undoing of an otherwise fine round.

The view from the 17th tee with the green uphill and to the right, below the ‘V’ in the tree line.

18th hole, 430 yards; Along with the 2nd, this hole was a particular favorite of Crump’s and it is as heroic a finisher as one would expect. All of the playing surfaces are on a grand scale from the height of the elevated tee to the width of the fairway to the expansive 11,000 square foot green. And while the hazards are equally eye-catching, the subtle left to right slope of the fairway and the sloping green are just as likely to create problems for the good golfer as is the cacti that grows in the right greenside bunker!

All kinds of problems await the golfer if he loses his tee ball to the right of the 18th fairway.

As seen above, given that each hole is imbued with classic design features of genuine excellence, wouldn’t it make sense that these features be emulated by architects today? Why don’t more architects build 6,700 yard courses (which is what Pine Valley now measures from the back markers) that are manageable off the tee and challenging at the green? Why not re-create the dilemma posed by the bunkerless 1st green complex? Why aren’t the waves across the 2nd green seen elsewhere? Why is the Redan copied so much more than the 3rd green? The list goes on and on.

Just as Macdonald did at National Golf Links of America, so did Crump at Pine Valley: he built a course rife with strategic options that make it as fascinating to play the 100th time as it is to play the 1st time. And given the heroic scale of the natural features and how they were incorporated into the designs, nature steals the show and makes all but a handful of other courses and their hazards seem puny and almost irrelevant.

Even Pine Valley’s halfway house is special!

The End