Everyone learns to take failure in stride at Pine Valley. Abysmal scores are a way of life. That's because the underlying principle of founder George Crump's design for the course is the island. The tee is an island. The fairway, despite being 50-55 yards wide, is also an island. And so, of course, is the green. Each of these isolated plots is tightly defended by sand, scrub, rough, dense woods, sometimes water, sometimes steep falloffs -- a no-man's land of potentially unplayable lies. Players must tack unerringly from one island to the next, or pay a heavy price.
No wonder the slope, from the regular tees (6,532 yards, par 70) is a man-eating 153. Nonetheless, golfers dearly love the place. Though only 15 miles from Philadelphia, this 620-acre tract in the New Jersey pines occupies a world all its own -- simple, serene, the clubhouse an old L-shaped pebbledash structure short on style and grace but long on welcoming warmth. And the caddies are among the best anywhere.
One way of assessing a golf course is to determine how many great holes it possesses and how few banal ones. Well, Pine Valley has no humdrum holes and no fewer than 15 great ones, probably more like 16 or 17, or, some would argue, 18 -- every doggone one of them! No other course has so many sublime holes.
Pine Valley is as jam-packed with anecdotes as it is imperishable golf holes. The last hole (par 4, 425-483 yards) falls dramatically from a pinnacle tee to a broad fairway, then presents a long uphill second shot over water and deep bunkers to a vast green, both of its flanks defended by trench-like pits where the backswing may be constricted.
A guest who was staying overnight sliced his second shot, which trickled into the narrow bunker between the green and the first tee. A foursome about to begin their round watched sympathetically as the player struggled in vain to extricate his ball. The next morning, this same chap, shortly to tee off on the first himself, took another look at the offending hazard and decided to give it another shot. So down he climbed into it and began to swing once more -- just as the group who had watched him flailing away the day before approached the first tee.
"My God," exclaimed one of them, "he's still in there!" -- Jim Finegan, Golf Magazine, 2007
-- Dr. Gary Wiren, a GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher, named Pine Valley as one of his Fab 5 Courses. Here's what he wrote about the course:
"Like everyone else who has played it, Pine Valley is one of my favorite courses. The first time I played there, a couple of groups were waiting at the first tee when we arrived, so we were asked to start on the fifth hole. It's a par 3 requiring a 230-yard shot to a green perched on the side of a steep hill with O.B. to the left. Welcome to Pine Valley!
I love the challenges of the greens and the visual intimidation you face on almost every tee shot. There is a great balance between really long, tough par 4s and drive-and-pitch par 4s -- but those are really tough too!"