Editor’s Note: This profile is the fifth in a series which showcases NJSGA member clubs and their unique story. If you would like the NJSGA to consider your club for a future article, please contact us.
There an old saying at the picturesque Oak Hill Golf Club, nestled in Milford in western Hunterdon County’s rural hills.
“You don’t read the greens here; you remember them,” said head PGA professional Mike Knight, alluding to the club’s topography. “Often, the positioning of the landscape gives you an optical illusion. A putt looks like it is going one way and it goes the other way. It is something you learn over time,” said Knight, now in his 31st year at the club.
Described by The Star-Ledger as “The Hidden Gem of Hunterdon County,” the course has stunning, long-distance views of the surrounding countryside.
“The scenery and vistas are spectacular. It’s what strikes people. From the top of No. 17, there is a beautiful view of the entire valley that sits below,” Knight said. “But the thing everyone enjoys the most at Oak Hill is the challenge. Golfers usually don’t play well here their first time out. But they can’t wait to come back here and do better the next time. The course is a challenge, and the challenge differs throughout the year with changing weather conditions.”
The course was designed by William F. Gordon, who also responsible for the Grace Course at the famed Saucon Valley Country Club in Pennsylvania, the 2000 U.S. Senior Open site.
Knight pointed out the long par-3, No. 15, as the club’s most difficult hole. It usually is played around 225 yards, but it can be lengthened another 20 yards. Getting past this hole with a par or better has led to victory in many club championships.
“There are trees on the left and right, and the green is extremely severe and extremely fast,” Knight noted.
Now in its 57th year, Oak Hill GC has always provided a unique and special experience for its members and guests since its inception. That tradition remains alive and well today at the club.
“Oak Hill truly is a special place” notes Club President Bob Chabot. “The camaraderie and friendships that exist among our membership is evident from the parking lot through the 19th hole. We are also a pure golf club, in that there is no swimming pool or tennis courts.
“I run an industry outing here every fall which attracts people from all over the northeast. The comments I hear about Oak Hill from the guests are consistent, in that they love the layout of the course and really appreciate the ‘golf only’ mentality that exists among the members and our staff,” Chabot added.
General Manager and Golf Course Superintendent Joel Jacquemot, commented: “Like many other clubs throughout the country, Oak Hill Golf Club has seen a dramatic increase in member activity over the past seven months.
“Our members needed a place where they can enjoy a responsible club environment surrounded by their friends and family,” said the diversified Jacquemot, who is noted for the lead construction on several area golf courses, including The Ridge at Back Brook in Ringoes.
To accommodate the increase in demand and the challenges of indoor dining restrictions, Oak Hill GC expanded its outdoor dining footprint with a new patio. This area includes seating for an additional 30 guests and became the most popular location for the members’ camaraderie, a club staple.
Throughout 2020, one of its busiest years ever, the staff and membership were challenged and continually made adjustments to maintain a safe environment during the pandemic.
Last year, the club added award-winning head chef Kevin Spiegler. Despite the challenging circumstances and restrictions throughout the year, Spiegler provided the membership with excellent food options.
“It’s a great place to play golf or even go to eat. But it’s really the people more than anything,” Knight commented.
The club is also noted for many accomplished golfers, including Ed Whitman who grew up playing Oak Hill, where his father was an original member. The longtime pro at Knickerbocker Country Club is one of only three players to win four New Jersey State Golf Association Open Championships as well as being named to the New Jersey PGA Section Hall of Fame.
Others are Rob Bradley (1995 NJSGA Amateur Champion and current head coach at Purdue University, which he has led to three NCAA Championship appearances), Mike Deo (2009 NJSGA Amateur and 2007 NJSGA Mid-Amateur champion), Dan O’Rourke (2017 NJSGA Amateur runner-up), and Zora Moore (a two-time Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex County Champion and First Tee National Scholar).
The club was equally proud in 2016 when eight of its members Jeff Kortina, Glenn Cocchiola, Keith Rickenbach, Paul Patent, Jeff Douglass, Sal DiFazio, Bill Swann, and Tom Cullinane combined to win the coveted Adrian “Bud” Foley Trophy, emblematic of the NJSGA’s Senior Interclub Matches.
The history of Oak Hill Golf Club is a fascinating one. The golf club sprang from an interest in the sport by local residents and employees of the nearby Riegel Paper Corporation. In 1957, an outline was presented for an 18-hole course on the Brush-Rounsaville farm tracts, then owned by Riegel Paper.
The company leased the land at a nominal fee, and the name “Oak Hill Golf Club” was adopted. At that time, the club was incorporated, and the sale of stock began.
Before the club officially opened in 1964, “rock-picking parties” became part of its legend. When the club hired the William F. Gordon Company for construction of a nine-hole course in 1963, one of the stipulations was the company would remove all large stones from the roughs and fairways. There were still too many rocks remaining for the members’ liking, so volunteers formed “rock-picking parties” that summer to clear the course. John Quigley was hired as Oak Hill’s first head pro, and president Monty Bidwell hit the first shot to officially open the course on May 30, 1964.
Three years later, the course expanded to 18 holes. However, in 1972, Riegel Paper was sold to the Federal Paper Board Company, which had no intention of honoring the lease agreement. With proposals of condominiums and townhouses on the 240-acre property, members took action and bought the property from Federal Paper in 1973, thus becoming a member-owned club.
Today, Oak Hill Golf Club offers a diverse selection of memberships to fit the lifestyles of golfers. To learn more about the club, visit www.oakhillgolf.com.