Rumson Country Club set to host Women's Amateur & Mid-Amateur Championships
The New Jersey State Golf Association’s two hallmark women’s championships, the 96th Women’s Amateur and 8th Mid-Amateur Championships, will be held at the majestic and newly renovated Rumson Country Club this July. It marks the fourth time that Rumson has hosted the Women’s Amateur, and the first time since 2005 when LPGA Tour member Marina Alex of North Jersey Country Club was victorious.
Situated on the banks of the Shrewsbury River in Rumson, players will experience a relatively open golf course with challenging green complexes. Most notably, wind speed and direction will play a major factor as well on a course which is renowned for its pristine conditioning and spectacular waterfront sightlines.
As usual, the Women’s Amateur and Mid-Amateur Championships will be played concurrently, and players age 25 and over are eligible to compete in both competitions. The Women’s Amateur will be held Tuesday-Friday, July 27-30, while the Women’s Mid-Amateur, a 36-hole stroke play competition, will be held on July 27-28. The 36-hole stroke play competition will also serve as the match play qualifying portion of the Women’s Amateur Championship which continues on July 29 and 30.
“We are very excited that the Women’s Amateur and Mid-Amateur Championships will be played at Rumson Country Club. Rumson is a premier course and will be a great test for the best women golfers in New Jersey. The Women’s Amateur has a long history. It will be a great event at a great venue and will result in another great champion,” said NJSGA Board of Trustees member Lisa Lifer.
Added NJSGA Director of Championships Brad Bardon, “The NJSGA is very excited to have Rumson Country Club host the 96th Women’s Amateur and the 8th Mid-Amateur championships in 2021. Director of Grounds and Facilities Ben Stover and his staff have done tremendous work in recent years to get the course primed for championship-level golf. We know the players will have a first-class experience, and the NJSGA cannot thank the Board of Directors at Rumson enough for their support.”
In the past decade, Rumson has made great strides in improving conditions, thanks to Stover, who has been at the Club since 2011. In each succeeding year, Stover systematically improved the turf health, green speed, and overall playability of the course.
Rumson has also retained Tripp Davis of Tripp Davis and Associates Golf Architecture of Norman, Okla., to design a master plan for the golf course. Davis recently completed a restoration of the Spring Lake Golf Club, another classic Jersey Shore venue.
“We have slowly been making improvements according to that master plan. We have redesigned our 8th, 11th, 12th (full renovation from tee to USGA sand-based green) the 13th tees, 14th, 15th and16th tees, and the 18th hole. This winter, we are redoing our 10th hole. We have certainly been busy, but I think the best is yet to come,” said club president Brett Flynn.
Rumson offers a wide variety of activities, some rarely seen at area country clubs such as a full marina, sailing program, trap and skeet shooting, plus paddle, tennis, and croquet. A viable junior activities program, including golf, is well established.
“I would say our capital desires across our various programs are high, but we are always focused on improving the golf course. Sometimes more slowly than desired, but we’re always focused on improvement,” Flynn said.
“I’m sure, thanks to Ben Stover and his staff, that come July when we host the Women’s Amateur and Mid-Amateur, the participants will find the course playing at a championship level,” added Flynn.
Stover noted that just before he arrived at Rumson, a number of trees were removed. “They cut down the majority of white pines that were really overplanted. I have photos from the early 1930s showing maybe 30 trees on the entire property. Those “nuisance” trees were impeding airflow and causing too much shade, thus preventing healthy turf growth. Removing them has opened up great vistas across the golf course, which hadn't been utilized. Now you can see the water from everywhere on the property,” Stover said.
One of the alluring aspects of the golf course is the unique nature of each hole, which has been the cornerstone of the renovation project, according to Stover: “There are a lot of design differences. Each hole shows very differently. Tripp Davis as a designer is very focused on restoring the original feel. We have some great Seth Raynor holes here.”
The Tripp Davis master plan concentrated on the back nine beginning in 2013, where changes abound.
No. 10 is a short, 247-yard par 4. This past winter, one of the main trees in the landing zone was lost.
“We did a quick redesign that we think has really improved the hole. The fairway was overly narrow and oddly shaped due to the lost tree, so we expanded the fairway considerably which allows for more people to find the fairway and challenge the proper angle into certain hole locations,” Stover said. “It is a great risk-reward hole, with a tiny angled green surrounded by bunkers.
Big changes were made on No. 11, a 317-yard par 4. Fairway bunkers were moved and positioned to add strategic challenge and visual intimidation. A run-up to the green’s right side was created, giving high handicappers and conservative players options of attack.
“With the wider fairways it’s easier to avoid the hazards, but the new bunkers are deep and are worth avoiding,” Stover remarked.
No. 12, a 401-yard, par-5, was totally redesigned. A new green took advantage of some previously underutilized land to give the hole a bit more shape and a bit of elevation change. The fairway was widened to include a 60-yard wide landing zone, but it quickly narrows to challenge aggressive players looking for a shorter approach into the well-guarded green. Avoiding the menacing pot bunker fronting the middle right of the green is certainly advised.
The par-4, 332-yard No. 13 is the hardest rated hole on the back nine. New back tees have been added, but otherwise, this hole has been virtually untouched. Water guards the approach into this small severely pitched green, and players would do well to stay below the hole here.
The par-3, 113-yard No. 14 is considered by many as Rumson’s signature hole. Based on the Macdonald/Raynor “Short” template, this “island green” is surrounded by water at the front and right and bunkering left and long. The 10,000 square-foot “thumbprint” style green is the largest and among the most difficult on the course.
New back tees were added to No. 15, a par-5, 409-yard uphill hole with bunkering down both sides putting a premium on accuracy. This “Double Plateau” style green is among the most undulating on the course, and players that find the correct level on their approach will be rewarded while those who don’t will be challenged to save par.
No. 16 is a short par-4 at 273 yards and could be set up to play shorter during the championship. For the longer hitters, the green may be drivable. Many players view this as a good birdie opportunity late in the round.
Uphill and normally playing into the wind, the Redan style par-3, 147-yard No. 17, has derailed many good rounds.
“A birdie feels as if it’s worth two strokes. This is one of toughest four holes to par on the course,” Stover said.
The 308-yard, par 4 No. 18, has been renovated and is a strong finish to the round. A restored and oversized iconic bunker dominates right side of the fairway. It sits in direct line to the green from the tee. Left fairway bunkers have been added to guard the optimal angle into a very contoured and peninsula-shaped green surrounded by deep bunkering.
The 18th is a good example of the renovation work that has been done around the course. While many landing areas have been restored to their original widths, choosing the proper angles into the greens and certain hole locations will be paramount and will reward thoughtful strategic play.
“The front side of the course is different in that it hasn’t been renovated. But there are a lot of difficult holes and forced carries, with some good variety and some really great greens,” Stover noted. “No. 1 is a great example of the classic Punch Bowl template. No. 4 is wonderful green with severe slopes and multiple plateaus. No. 6 is a Maiden-style green with plateaus on the left and right a channel down the middle. It’s just a great green featuring some even better water views. Water comes into play on holes 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 where there are a lot of forced crossings that players will have to negotiate to be successful.”
According to the superintendent, weather and the setup could be determining factors in the outcome.
“The course will play relatively firm, but the greens will be receptive. We want to make it a fun test; with firmness and offer a little greens speed for the golfers to deal with. The rough will be kept our normal length of 2 inches.” Stover added.
“We’re proud to showcase Rumson Country Club. We’ve come a long way since I’ve been here. The course is something we like to show off when we get the opportunity.”