Appeared in May/June 1999 LINKS
Metedeconk National is a secluded retreat located in Jackson, the geographic center of New Jersey. Yet, it has the advantage of being situated just 60 miles south of Manhattan. It tries hard to be a rustic, off-the-beaten-path golf retreat, but its facilities are so good, its 27 holes so well-crafted and maintained, that it’s akin to stumbling onto an Eden.
A spirited kinship exists between the members, with golf as the common denominator. Though strictly private, the needle points more to “accommodating,” rather than “snooty.” Ambiance is only one ingredient in the successful Metedeconk recipe. The main portion of the meal is the club’s 27 holes, which will satisfy the heartiest appetites. What’s interesting is that the club’s first 18 opened in 1987, the third nine not until 1998. Many times, an “overflow” nine suffers in comparison to an already acclaimed 18. They’re often built to handle extra play and to allow additional flexibility. In Metedeconk’s case, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Holes 19 though 27 may very well be the best nine on the property.
Metedeconk National was the brainchild of father-and-son combo of Richard and Herb Sambol. Counseled by family friend Ernie Ransome, chairman of Pine Valley Golf Club, the Sambols scrapped their plan to incorporate housing into the project and instead focused their efforts on developing Metedeconk into a world-class golf club. They hired Robert Trent Jones Sr. to complete their vision.
When Metedeconk first opened in 1987,the club received acclaim for the course’s difficulty as for its beauty. Most striking were the bunkers, all of which featured lacy, jagged edges, but causing the complaints was the wild, thick underbrush that lined every fairway and surrounded the greens. The combination of pines, smallish oaks, tall, red-tipped fescue grasses and thorny undergrowth framed the holes magnificently, but proved impossible to play out of, all but taking the recovery shot out of the equation.
Trent Jones’ favorite hole was the 7th, a 412-yard par 4 that curves around a hill with a bunker carved into it. Left center is ideal for the drive as it opens up a view of the spectacular approach, to a green placed on a diagonal and sloped toward a lovely lake. For those who drive it less than perfect, a bail-out sits nicely front-right of the green. Miss the putting surface anywhere else and you’re staring bogey or worse right in the eyes.
If there is a design defect at Metedeconk, it is one that is characteristic of Trent Jones: the lack of a good short par 3. Then again, the collective quality of each and every short hole of the 27 is so good, you don’t seem to mind. The 207-yard 6th, which calls for a long carry over a scrub-filled creek and the 203-yard 12th, with its enormous variety of teeing angle options, are two of the most memorable.
Also memorable is the stern finish to each nine, beginning with he uphill par-4 9th, to the equally rigorous uphill 421-yard 18th, to the gorgeous but brutal 452-yard 27th, which is guarded front and right by water. The 27th, in fact, culminates what many consider the best of Metedeconk’s nines, There’s just slightly more elevation change and variety on holes 19 though 27, plus a touch more contouring on the greens. No matter which combination you choose, you will be playing a classic.
Year founded: 1987
Architects: Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Roger Rulewich