The Itinerant Golfer

The Itinerant Golfer's Take on Galloway National Golf Club


Galloway National Golf Club

Architect: Tom Fazio
Year: 1995

270 South New York Road , Absecon, New Jersey 08205
(609) 748-1000

driving range available
motorized golf carts and caddies available


Once I had confirmed a tee time at Merion Golf Club’s East Course for June 20th I decided to try to find another course nearby that I could tie into the same trip. Several months back I had exchanged emails with a fellow golf blogger who is playing the Top 100 in the World. His blog is located here and is quite a good read. He likes to maintain his anonymity so I’ll just refer to him at Bill.

When we initially exchanged emails Bill offered to help me get on at Galloway National Golf Club and I of course made a note of it. When I was looking at my list to see which courses were near the Philadelphia area Galloway National, just outside of Atlantic City, popped onto my radar. I contacted Bill again and he emailed me back with instructions to meet him at Galloway National at 8AM on June 19th. It turns out that his home club has a reciprocal agreement that grants him access to the Galloway National course.

Galloway National Golf Club is one of the modern courses on the Top 100 list being just 13 years old. It was designed by Tom Fazio who is one of my favorites as far a modern course design goes. Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way about Fazio because at the time of this writing there are 13 Fazio courses on the Top 100 list – more than any other architect.

The club opened in 1995 and is owned by Vernon Hill, the founder of Commerce Bank. The story goes that Mr. Hill wanted to join Pine Valley Golf Club but couldn’t get in so he started his own club just 40 miles away. Golf is rife with exaggerated stories of would be members spurned and tee times so tough to get that Arnold Palmer himself would have to have a letter of recommendation, so I have no idea if this story about Mr. Hill is actually true. If Bill Gates had trouble getting into Augusta I guess just about anything is possible.

When I pulled up to the course at 8AM that morning I was stunned to see that the parking lot was packed. This was a surprise as my research on the club had indicated that the membership was very small and there were few local members. After talking with the caddiemaster I learned that most of the people were there for a clinic and there were only 2 other golfers playing the course that morning beside Bill and me. Nice, thats the way I like it!

Bill and I met on the practice green, found our caddie and decided to go straight off without hitting any balls. The clinic was taking up most of the practice tee, so rather than fight for a spot we just headed out to the course to work the kinks out on the first couple of holes.

The course was a typical Fazio design, fair but challenging. I particularly liked the 2nd hole (pictured below) which is a mid-length par 3.
 
Galloway National Golf Club
 
One thing I did notice, though I failed to capture any photos of it, is that some of the holes had a striking resemblance to the look and feel of what I expect to see at Pine Valley. Bill who has played PVGC a dozen or so times confirmed that this was true. Maybe there is some truth to the story that Mr. Hill wanted his own version of Pine Valley. Hmmmm.

Below is a picture from the 11th hole which is a par 5. Bill’s 3rd shot just barely trickled into the water. About 2/3 of the ball was above the waterline so he decided to play it rather than take a drop and penalty stroke. Unfortunately he didn’t get the ball out of the water and essentially turned a 1 stroke penalty into a 2 stoke penalty when he ended up dropping outside the hazard after his attempt. Sometimes you just have to go for it though!
 
Galloway National Golf Club
 
The hole pictured below, the 13th, is a the longest par 4 I have ever played. It is 449 yards all uphill and on this day it was into the wind . . . It was playing loooong. I hit a nice drive and then a perfect utility club and still found myself 80 yards short of the green.
 
Galloway National Golf Club
 
Below is the 16th hole and our caddy pointed out that they designed the fairway to be shaped like the state of New Jersey which was a little surprising since Fazio is not one for gimmicks. The truth is that it’s so subtle I would have never even noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out, so in reality its not as cheesy as it sounds.
 
Galloway National Golf Club
 
The 17th hole below was my favorite par 3 of the day. It played long being 212 yards on the ground, but dead into the prevailing wind. Thats the Atlantic City skyline in the distance. I hit a great 3 wood to the green and 2 putted for par.
 
Galloway National Golf Club
 
I generally tend to judge a course on whether or not I want to play it again. While this was a great course, it didn’t really strike me as something special and I wouldn’t go out of my way to play it again. I had a great time playing with Bill and we spent more time sharing Top 100 stories than we did focusing on our golf game. With only 25 courses left to complete on his list he had more than a few interesting tales to tell. He also gave me some valuable advice about playing Merion that I would use the next day on that course. Onward to Philadelphia . . .

  • top100golfer

    Steve – nice pictures, especially the one of that hack trying to hit out of the water! It was an enjoyable day and you have great momentum on your quest. I agree with your assessment of the course. A lot of Fazio courses pop up on the ranking lists and then disappear (World Woods, etc.) They are nice, enjoyable courses but I’m not sure they are truly distinctive enough to rank so high.

  • JGolfer

    Horrible assessment. Galloway National is an amazing golf course. The views alone beckon me back, not to mention the layout and conditioning. I’m interested to know what you didnt find pleasing about Galloway National?

  • gallowayjock

    you don’t know what you’re talkin about if you called this place nothing special.

  • FromthePorch

    top100golfer,

    You might be correct in your statement that Fazio’s courses pop up and disappear, I’ve not done the research. But your ignorance lies in the fact that you lumped Galloway into into this statement when it clearly isn’t true. Do a little research my friend and you will find that Galloway has done nothing but climb in the rankings. First appearing on Golfweeks list when it opened and moving on to, within the last few years, Golf Digest’s list and continually moving up on it I might add. You may have your opinion on a particular course but please don’t spread your stupidity by making untrue claims.

    -a concerned golfer

  • LeftToRightBreaker

    This guys caddy must have been Jay. Probably one of those “4’s” that shot 91

  • Please let me clarify. I enjoyed this course. i thought it was great. Though not included in my original post, I would rank it in the top 2 of the dozen Fazio courses I’ve played to date. I simply said I did not find it ’special’.

    The word special gets bandied about a lot in the golf world. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a number of places that I found, in my personal opinion, to be special. Each individual’s definition of that word is unique, relative and 100% based on personal experience. This relativity is surely the genesis of expressions like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one man gathers what another man spills and one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

    As I stated in my original post, I enjoyed the course and thought it was great. In my personal experience and in the context of the Top 100 courses in the U.S. I didn’t feel that it ranked on my personal list of ’special’ places. Clearly it does rank with a number of others based on the comments above. I’m glad that GNGC affects a number of golfers in such a positive way.

    This discussion brings to mind another idiom that some of you may find appropriate to describe my assessment of the course . . . there’s just no accounting for taste. I can certainly respect that.

  • PastChampion

    Does “special” mean that you like the atmosphere of the old clubhouse? Does it mean that a club serves something off the menu that everyone knows about? Does it mean that Jack, Arnie, Hogan, & Jones have played it?? I have played big name places that the course falls short of “special” like PV or like Seminole, but Galloway is not one of them. Aren’t you to assess the course and not everything else? Sounds to me like GNGC didnt have much of a chance from the start because you didnt get to hit range balls.

    “Probably one of those “4’s” that shot 91? <—– Im sure thats the case!!

  • gallowayjock

    can’t wait till this genius plays augusta. good thing nobody reads the itinerant golfer.

  • jaybird

    i did not caddie for this group but any time you would like to play i would love to take you on lefttorightbreaker or would you rather retract your statement,as far as the course i would love for you to name 20 better courses in a 500 mile range from Galloway National,i bet you couldnt find more than 10-12.Its a diamond in the ruff.

  • Phila Golfer

    I agree completely with your write-up. Although the course is very capable and quite nice, there are only a few holes that I even remembered distinctly after playing it. The dissenters who’ve posted comments undoubtedly are members that are self-justifying the pretty reasonable initiation fee. The clubhouse is very 1990s and will not age well either. I definitely would go back, but I, like you, will not go out of my way to do so. Overall, I liked it, but I very much doubt this course deserves to be in the top 100.

  • If the 16th fairway was made to look like New Jersey…the only way anyone would ever know is if someone told them. I’ve looked at the overhead on Google Maps from all angles and the resemblance is barely there, to the point that I might say there is no resemblance. As far as the course in general, it’s certainly one I want to play, but it’s not as far up the list as some, for any number of reasons.

    Back to one of the above comments: just because this is one of the 15 best courses within 500 miles of it’s location doesn’t mean the writer must want to play it again. I’ve played more than a few courses that I thought were really good, but that I wouldn’t make significant effort to play again.

  • Mike Fedele

    This course looks absolutely stunning. very pristine and very well maintained with gorgeous fescue and bunkers. I am surprised you did not enjoy it as much. It seems a lot more exquisite then some of the other courses you have really enjoyed. Definitely better maintained,

  • michael nowacki

    I am a big fan of Fazio courses and I’m a member at Sand Ridge (Fazio course that used to be ranked in top 60 in Golf Digest). I agree it is not “special” like Augusta or Pebble Beach, but only a handful of courses are “special”. The author should have refrained from making that statement though, unless he includes it for all courses outside his top handful of courses. Something that went unmentioned is that Galloway has one of the best ranges I’ve ever seen. I agree with other comments that the clubhouse is too modern and a little bit of a bummer from an architecture standpoint, yet it is still very nice inside. The course is scenic, challenging, and has some spectacular holes. Holes #2 and #17, as the author pointed out, are as good as any par 3s you’ll ever come across. Holes #13 and #15 are tough and memorable par 4s. I played Galloway in the summer and the green flies are distracting, so where pants and long sleeves if playing in the summer! Our forecaddie and all the staff were exceptional.

  • Adam Joyce

    “Nice, but I’m not dying to play it again”… Me, after playing most Fazio courses.

  • Draodan

    I used to work on the landscaping team at Galloway National. From everything I’ve heard, including from higher ups, the story about Vernon Hill and Pine Valley is spot-on. Everything about the course was inspired from Pine Valley. They were even intending on adding cottages several years ago based on Pine Valley designs, but backed out due to the current state of the economy.