By Sean Fawcett

For golfers looking to play a course designed by one of the game’s greatest architects, A.W. Tillinghast, and a course where legend Byron Nelson was victorious, then Suneagles Golf Club in Eatontown is the place to go.

Tillinghast is the architect of world famous U.S. Open and PGA championship venues such as Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, as well as New York’s Winged Foot Golf Club and Bethpage Black Golf Course.

Opened in 1926, Suneagles wasone of Tillinghast’s personal favorites and more highly-ranked designs. From the 1930s until 2010,Suneagles was part of the U.S. Army’s Fort Monmouth complex. Now under new ownership, it is one of a kind, memorable, and open to the public.

Suneagles is a masterpiece of old-school American golf that golfers of any playing level and experience can enjoy throughout the year.  It is a traditional parkland-style gem with fine undulating and manicured putting surfaces that can challenge every level of player.

In 1935, World Golf Hall of Famer Nelson won the New Jersey State Golf Association Open Championship at the course, then called Monmouth County Country Club, for his first significant professional victory.

Byron Nelson’s rival and fellow Hall of Famer, Sam Snead, still holds the course record of7-under-par 65 at Suneagles.Additionally, Orville “Sarge” Moody, who gave up a military career to play professional golf and won the U.S. Open championship in 1969, placed second at the All-Army Tournament at Suneaglesjust two years earlier.

A Parkland Gem

 

“The par 72 (35-37) is a classic Tillinghast design with wonderful green complexes protected by large bunkers,” saidhead professional Ken Pridgen.

The history of Suneagles is nearly unparalleled among public golf courses in New Jersey, and pretty much anywhere else in the tri-state region. The beauty of this tree-lined course and its challenging, fair and improving layout is another part of its enormous, and resurging, appeal.

Measuring a modest 6,021 yards from the whites, and a little under 6,400 yards from the championship tees, Suneagles mixes short and straightaway par 4s like the downhill 338-yard first hole and drivable 240-yard ninth with reachable par 5s like the 430-yard third hole, and some dogleg and tree-defended holes like the tough par-4 No. 13.

Two short par 3s, the 110-yard seventh and the 144-yard No. 17, balance the longer 170-yard secondand the 196-yard No. 14. Small, sloping greens, a Tillinghast signature, are fronted by crisscrossing creeks and lily-padded ponds like those on Nos. 6 and 7, with most of the others guarded on all sides by strategically placed bunkers.

A favorite hole for many members is the par-4 sixth hole. The second shot plays up a 30-foot hill and over a creek 20 yards short of a deep and multi-tiered green framed by the old Tudor inspired clubhouse, Gibbs Hall, in the background.

The longest hole on the course, the 575-yard, par-5 No. 15, requires a long, straight drive to set up a long second shot designed to carry a series of massive fairway bunkers crossing halfway across at the elbow of the dogleg. A unique taco-shaped green on the next hole, the par-4 No. 16 (323 yards), is another course highlight, along with the sloping,490-yard par-5 finishing hole.

New Ownership

The course, which has been leased on a year-to-year basis since Fort Monmouth closed in 2010, was recently purchased by private owner Salvatore Martelli.

“Mr. Martelli is the first private owner of the club since the early 1930s,” said Pridgen. He has spent over $1 million in improving course conditions as well as updating the courses restaurant, The Tavern.”A planned clubhouse renovation will take place soon and will includea beautiful catering facility that can seat 500 people. 

The course is in its best conditionin more than 20 years, according to many long-time members and will continue to improve as we go into 2019,” Pridgen said.“These improvements coupled with the basic quality of the course make it a truly special place to play. We look forward to making many new friends here at Suneagles.”

 

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