If you would have told me 10 years ago when first I started making trips to New York that my visits would evolve to the point that they included golf courses and grill rooms rather than cover charges and last calls I would have said you were nuts. Here we are 10 years later and my time in New York is spent chasing a white ball around the hills of Southampton and Westchester County instead of chasing skirts around Hell’s Kitchen and the Upper West Side. I guess it is true Mr. Dylan, the times really are a-changin’.
Bayonne Golf Club in Bayonne, NJ is a marvel of modern engineering. At the time the land was acquired it sat a mere 10 feet above sea level. 7.5 million cubic yards of harbor sludge later . . . voila! – You have a golf course. It seems that the designer of the course struck some sort of deal to dredge the nearby New York Harbor and the sludge he pulled out was used to create the golf course.
So my friend Jay has a business associate who had become a member at Bayonne last year and as we were lining up our annual New York golf trip it ended up working out that we would be able to pay a visit to Bayonne.
When the day arrived we drove to Bayonne from Jay’s house in Westchester County and I have to say it was the most interesting drive to a golf course I’ve ever had. The town of Bayonne is kind of an industrial feeling harbor town. As we drove through the industrial neighborhood on our way to the course I wasn’t exactly sure if we were on our way to meet Tony Soprano in an empty warehouse or if we were going to play a game of golf. Eventually we wound our way around to the gate and drove up to the clubhouse. You can see from the aerial shot below that the course is literally an oasis amidst the industrial area around New York Harbor.
Once we arrived at the bag drop we met up with Bill, our host, who was arriving in the car just in front of us. What I found particularly funny is that although Bill had been a member for some time at this point and had never actually set foot on the club himself! When we arrived we were greeted by the General Manager who proceeded to give his “new” member (and us) a tour of the entire facility. Pretty cool. Like many modern clubs the clubhouse is absolutely huge and no expense was spared in the lavish decorating.
After we finished the clubhouse tour we headed down to the range to hit some balls. Although the course is a walking course you must take a cart to the range which was some distance away from the clubhouse. The most interesting thing about the range is that it was just a small strip of grass and you actually hit the balls out into New York Harbor. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite like that before!
I forgot to bring my camera with me so I’m afraid I don’t have any pictures to share. Basically Bayonne is a links style course. There are a lot of blind shots and tall fescue grass. There were a number of pot bunkers where I discovered the art of playing backwards in order to get out. Players at this course had better be able to drive the ball straight or else it is going to be a long day with lots of lost balls. I managed to do pretty well and lost my first ball on my tee shot at the 18th hole. Below is a photo I got from a friend that gives a slight idea of what the course terrain is like.
The course is very hilly and by the end of the day I felt as if I had run a marathon. It was exhausting climbing the hills all day and for some reason the round took a really long time. There weren’t many people out on the course but it took us a little over 5 hours to play . . . and we were a 3 ball! In hindsight I think it was a combination of looking for lost balls in the fescue and just the sheer physical task of climbing the hills that slowed the round down.
Bayonne is a unique golf course, there is no doubt about it. It’s the only place I have ever played a pristinely groomed course with views of industrial construction and New York City. As we stood on a tee box looking through all the machinery and cranes I commented that it was a shame that the skyline view was obstructed by nasty industrial sites. Bill aptly pointed out that the industrial setting is what makes Bayonne unique. It wouldn’t be the same place if the machinery wasn’t there to remind you that no matter how much it felt like you were playing on British links land that you were indeed still in New Jersey just a short boat ride away from the largest city in the U.S. After considering that comment, I’d have to agree.