North Jersey Country Club set for '20 Mid-Amateur Championship
North Jersey Country Club in Wayne, one of the remaining six founding clubs of the New Jersey State Golf Association, will serve as proud host of the 37th New Jersey State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship on Tuesday-Thursday, June 2-4, 2020.
Founded in 1895 and designed by Walter Travis, the club will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2020. Over the past decade, North Jersey has invested resources into renovating both its golf course and clubhouse, transforming it into one of the finest all-around facilities in the Garden State.
A Historical Venue with a Championship Pedigree
Originally named the Paterson Golf Club, the club expanded from nine holes to 18 in 1897 when it moved to East Paterson (now Elmwood Park). In 1921, the club purchased a 327-acre farm in Wayne and retained legendary golf-course architect Walter Travis to plot the course, which officially opened on July 29, 1923. Johnny Golden, who played on the first two Ryder Cup teams, was among its first head professionals at the new site.
The club, one of the oldest in New Jersey as well as the United States, also holds the distinction of having joined the USGA as one of its first four “allied” members following its original five associate member clubs. It is also one of the few clubs which has hosted each of the NJSGA’s major championships, highlighted by two Open Championships (1949, when Emery Thomas was victorious, and 1995, when Ed Whitman claimed victory). The club has also welcomed the 1905 Amateur Championship, won by John M. Ward, and the second NJSGA Mid-Amateur Championship in 1985, won by Lee Martinson. Recently, the 2010 Women’s Amateur Championship (won by Kuriko Tsukiyama) and the 2016 Four-Ball Championship (won by the tandem of Justin Chae and Evan Quinn) were contested at the club.
A Vintage Walter Travis Gem
The golf course represents many characteristics of a traditional Walter Travis design. It is known for intricate and dramatic greens, distinctive mounding, and interesting terrain features. The natural topography adds to the great character of the layout.
“We are one of the few Walter Travis designed courses in the metropolitan area,” said North Jersey president Ernest Fronzuto. “Travis valued short-game play and our golf course really lends itself to that. It makes for a challenging experience. The course is not extremely long at 6,700 yards, so you need to be a good short game player to score well at North Jersey.
“Travis’s designs turn golf into a thinking man’s game. The newer designs go for bigger, longer and faster, but what makes golf interesting is the short game. And here, it’s about the quality of play around the greens. Scoring well once you are on the green is challenging,” Fronzuto stated.
The Course is Restored
The president said that as the 125th anniversary of the club drew closer, membership began looking closely at Travis’s original drawings and designs. Work began in 2012 throughout the property with tree removal and the introduction of large fescue areas. Holes 10, 11, 14 and 16 were restored based on aerial course photos from 1957.
On the par-4, 380-yard 10th hole, one tee box was moved to the right and elevated, and three new tee boxes were added. A left fairway bunker was moved 15 yards and a wooded area left of the hole was cleared. The green was pitched front to back, and the front of the green was raised.
New forward and back tees were added to the par-4, 11th hole. The back tee was moved 45 yards, lengthening the hole to 371 yards and necessitating a 200-yard drive to carry a pond, making it now one of the toughest holes on the course.
The 14th hole, also 371 yards from the tips, had a fairway bunker added while a huge rock in the fairway was reduced. A new elevated back tee and a shorter forward tee, at 351 yards, were added. About 10 yards of woods were cleared so the green could be visible from the back tee.
At the par-4, 415-yard, 16th hole, a great deal of work went into reshaping and enlarging a formerly severely sloped green, which went from 2,300 square feet to more than 4,000 square feet. A right fairway bunker was rebuilt and reshaped.
More recently, Tim Fazio was hired to address holes 13 and 18. On the par-3, 160-yard 13th, structural issues had started to impact the putting green, so it was lowered and moved in front of an exposed rock outcropping, to a spot where it was under the original Travis design. The tee box was also moved. On the 18th, trees were removed, bunkers were relocated, and the fairway was flattened, allowing golfers to see the green on their approach shots.
A current bunker restoration project, based on old aerial photos, is currently in the hands of Renaissance Golf Design’s famed duo of Tom Doak and Brian Schneider. It was Schneider who played a lead role in the recent restoration of Hollywood Golf Club in Deal, another Travis-designed course.
The Championship Test
PGA Head Golf Professional Brian Krulfeifer predicts a thorough, tee-to-green test of golf in the Mid-Amateur Championship, and that the eventual winner will be the player with the best ability around the putting greens.
“What I like most about North Jersey is that I have to use all 14 clubs in my bag. But, the green complexes are the defense of the course. It’s all about where you want to be on the greens. From certain spots, I guarantee it will take three putts,” stated Krulfeifer.
“There are a lot of blind spots here, but the longer hitters will only have to worry about three blind shots. For the average member, there are 10 blind shots. Also, the front and back nines are tremendously different. The back nine is wide open – and the fescue comes much more into play,” Krulfeifer said.
Positioned for a Great Future
In 2013, a project to renovate the 90-year-old clubhouse, originally designed by the legendary Clifford C. Wendehack (Ridgewood, Mountain Ridge, Winged Foot), was completed, turning it into a modern and most hospitable facility. Added to the clubhouse in the project – completed by North Jersey member Rod Donnelly’s Donnelly Construction – were a casual dining area, sports bar, family dining area, elegant formal ballroom, four-room fitness center and outside patios for dining and cocktails.
The work on the golf course, combined with the enhancements to the spectacular clubhouse, have positioned North Jersey Country Club for many more generations of success. In recognition of the club’s efforts, North Jersey was recently named 2020 Club of the Year by the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. And, for the contestants in the 2020 Mid-Amateur Championship, a truly special championship experience awaits.