SOMERS POINT, N.J. - Summer golf at the Shore is one of the season's pleasures.
It's a time to feel the breezes instead of worrying about the bogeys. Those who agonize over the dogleg-right on the home course seem unfazed by the high grass on the par 5 at the Shore. Somehow, the agita of the tense hacker fades in the balmy air.
Fortunately, the Jersey Shore is now awash in public courses. Over the last 10 or 15 years, several new ones opened and older ones were reconditioned.
Ed Abrams and Harry Donohue are KYW-AM's golf mavens. Many mornings, when one is doing sports and the other news, their byplay between segments is completely golf-centric. So Abrams and Donohue have cheerily consented to be Weekend's guides to the best in public courses on the Shore, choosing a number of the best between Brigantine and Cape May.
Twisted Dune. "It's one of the most unusual layouts in South Jersey," said Donohue of the 7,200-yard Egg Harbor Township course. "There is not a tree on the golf course, and it is hilly in places, so it is like a Scottish course."
What is wonderful about Twisted Dune, said Donohue, is that it won't frustrate someone who is coming to the Shore for a respite.
"Since there is not that much high grass and no obstructing trees, you can land a 747 on some fairways," he said. There is some saw grass and dune grass, he said, but the course is beautiful and just hard enough to challenge a golfer.
There are four par 5's of more than 500 yards, so a long drive can be essential for pars.
Abrams said the course, opened in 1927, often hosted pros practicing there before going off to the British Open, since it was the closest thing on the East Coast to the links courses where the Open is most often played.
"The wind is ever present there," Abrams said, "and that is what makes it attractive, and somewhat different from the other courses close to Atlantic City."
"It is an understated course, a beautiful one," said Donohue, who mentioned that local celebrities such as Flyers executive Bob Clarke and announcer Steve Coates often play the 6,700-yard layout.
The club has a 50,000-square-foot racquet and fitness complex, which offers summer memberships for $395 that allows for reduced greens-fee play after 2 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays.
"These are two excellent courses," said Abrams, "but I love the feel of playing along the bay.
"The Bay is a little sportier, and the Pines course is a little longer and tighter," he said, meaning that the fairways on the Pines course will be more challenging for those who tend not to hit the straightest of shots. "The grand old hotel on the grounds is beautiful as well."
"The course is in great condition," Donohue said, adding that Harrah's, the casino company that took over the club a decade ago, has groomed the grounds immaculately. "When you get on the back nine and are looking over the bay and the marshes, all you want to do is put down your clubs and take a photo."
That said, it is probably the most expensive public course at the Shore. "But it is worth it, at least once," Donohue said, "for any golfer who wants to play the best places in the area."
"You are liable to see 100 egrets in the trees on some holes," Abrams said, adding that you can see bass in the lakes and that ospreys often come around to dive in for dinner. "It is not that it is filled with water hazards, but what water there is makes the place special."
Abrams praises the staff at Cape May National for being "extremely friendly," which is what a visitor really appreciates on vacation.
"Opposite of Twisted Dune, this has tight landing areas and trees alongside the fairways," Donohue said. "Because there are 27 holes, they can stagger the tee times and accommodate people even in busy hours.
"The way it is laid out, the trees make every hole an entity in itself," he said, "so even though there are 27 holes, you are never bothered by people shooting down another close fairway."
"Everything down there, as you would have it by the name, is pine trees," he said. "It is still an extremely solid course and a good place to play - both a challenge and good-looking.
"Even with all the newer courses," Abrams said, "you can't overlook it."
"There are some really challenging holes, so you had better pick the right tee boxes, or the course will definitely be too long and difficult," he said. "If you have a double-digit handicap, you had better play the front tees.
"There is a good undulation on the greens, and there is a par 5 dogleg around a lake, where if the wind gets you," Donohue said, "it is as good a hole as you are going to see anywhere."
Donohue said that a recent townhouse development nearby diminished some of the luster of the course, but that it was still challenging and convenient to both Seven Mile Island, which has Avalon and Stone Harbor, and Sea Isle City.
"It may not be as challenging as some of the newer courses, like Twisted Dune," he said, "but certainly a worthwhile course for any golfer."