Township of West Orange purchases Rock Spring; course open to Public
Historic Rock Spring Club in West Orange is now open for play as a municipally-owned public daily fee golf facility.
Following a ceremonial first ball on Thursday night, May 9, West Orange Township – the new owner of the formerly private club – formally opened the course for play the following morning, May 10.
The 6,600-yard, par 71 golf course, which opened in 1928, sits on a rolling tree-lined site along the first mountain ridge in West Orange. It features many design elements from the design partnership of legendary architects Seth Raynor and Charles Banks, with green complexes designed by Raynor. It is one of only two Raynor/Banks-developed courses open to the public in the United States.
Rock Spring has hosted the New Jersey State Golf Association Open Championship in 1981, 1990, 2000 and 2009, and many other NJSGA events including the NJSGA Amateur in 1957 and the NJSGA Women’s Amateur in 1992. It has also been the site for the U.S. Healthcare Classic, several New Jersey PGA Championships, and USGA qualifying events.
“There are a couple reasons why this purchase was important to West Orange,” said Mayor Robert Parisi. “There is the historical element to a place like this that has been a golf course since 1928 and was here before most of the neighborhood was built. Secondly, as part of a densely populated county, the idea of completely developing 138 acres caused a lot of concern to the whole town because of the impact a development that size could bring.”
“There’s always been the idea of preservation, with there being an open-space trust fund in town, and combined with the recreational aspect, it provides a very unique opportunity. We’re very excited about it, although it’s not something we planned on back in December,” Parisi said.
The sale of Rock Spring Club from the Montclair Golf Club was completed at the end of April. Montclair Golf Club had merged with Rock Spring Club three years ago.
“We think people from around New Jersey will travel to play Rock Spring, a course they have never been able to play. We have to figure out uses here that will gain public support, whether in the clubhouse or whether by constructing a walking path around the golf course or other uses. We want to make this a place the entire community can enjoy. It is a beautiful piece of property,” Parisi noted.
KemperSports, which currently operates Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth, The Knoll in Parsippany, Heron Glen Golf Course in Ringoes, and the Skyway Golf Course in Jersey City – as well as 42 other public courses in the U.S – has been contracted to manage the facility.
Besides the golf course, KemperSports will oversee the clubhouse and banquet facilities. Outings, dinners and various functions are already being planned.
“We want to present Rock Spring not only to the golfers of New Jersey, but throughout the area and the whole Northeast region,” said Val D’Souza, KemperSports’ vice president of operations.
“This is such a special place. Raynor’s architecture is so unique and so profound, that as soon as you are on it, you recognize it’s his golf course. Golf is the core business, but what we do well is entertain thousands of people for events that don’t have anything to do with golf. We want to see the demand for this facility. We’re good at listening to what the community wants and we’re quick to react to it,” D’Souza said.
Said NJSGA Board of Trustees member David Cronheim, who acted in an advisory role for West Orange Township: “Seth Raynor’s template here is the vision of famous holes from the British Isles. There is a fantastic Road Hole here and one of the best Redan holes Raynor ever built. Also, there are stirring views of the Manhattan skyline from the clubhouse. Now, as a public daily golf course, Rock Spring is a great value.”