By Kevin Casey
Mendham Golf & Tennis Club just cut the ribbon on “The Links,” its take on the trend toward alternative golf courses. Opened May 11, this “short course” facility features three greens built to the same playing specifications as MGTC’s big 18, with multiple bunkers and nine teeing locations around its perimeter. Taking up less than two acres of land, The Links’ scorecard yardage is 719 yards, with the longest hole at 103 yards.
Explains MGTC’s Head Professional Joe Kelly: “Members and guests can play nine holes or hold a private skills challenge with a virtually unlimited number of short-game shot scenarios. It doesn’t take much time – about one hour to play nine – and requires for most maybe three clubs. It’s about as structured as a big practice putting green, only with infinitely more interest and variety.”
MGTC’s President Ron Slahetka, feels that “It’s great to see, say at 1 p.m., old golfing buddies getting in an ‘emergency nine,’ then at 2 p.m. seeing a gaggle of beginners out there, embracing their new game in a user-friendly way; and then at 3 p.m., a couple of kids with their grandparents.” He adds: “We expect it to appeal to a broad demographic and get more people to the club.”
(Above, commemorative plaque at the entrance of The Links at Mendham Golf & Tennis Club)
The Links, designed by architect Robert McNeil, also reflects the common wisdom that today’s golfers need options that take less time and that are more nurturing to new players than sending them right onto a “big course.” Celebrity architects in the game are listening, creating a variety of alternative short courses, see Doak (Ballyneal), Hanse (Pinehurst) and, more locally, Hurdzan/Fry (Hamilton Farm).
Gil Hanse’s “The Cradle” at Pinehurst opened last fall to considerable fanfare. At 789 yards, the course reaches out to the players – beginners, pros and everyone in between – who want to have a quality, but relatively brief time playing the game. Built right next to the famous Pinehurst clubhouse, The Cradle is designed to draw people to both the property and the game.
MGTC, responding to evolving member needs, has invested heavily in practice-area improvements over the last 10 years, with The Links project the latest to emerge. It joins a well-appointed full range, perhaps the most interesting practice putting green in the area (75 yards long, with a 15-foot vertical drop), an excellent short game practice area, and an indoor simulator.
“As our members and guests look for more value, we expect The Links to be a hit with MGTC golfers of all ages and abilities,” says Slahetka. “Like our other practice areas, there is no charge to use it – even for guests. We want the Links to be, as the plaque at the entrance to the course says, ‘a golf experience all can enjoy.’ ”