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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

User-Friendly Wild Turkey At Crystal Springs

If you're a fan of spacious fairways, expansive greens, and eye-pleasing vistas, you'll like Wild Turkey, the Roger Rulewich design that opened in 2001 at Crystal Springs in Hamburg, NJ. It's an excellent resort course with just enough bite to give the serious golfer his or her money's worth.

Wild Turkey is routed over two distinct terrains, a ridge that gives you multiple elevation changes and a treeless basin that lends a hint of links to the round. Throughout the course, Rulewich provides plenty of fairway to work with but demands that your tee shot be in the right place for a precise approach to deceptively difficult greens. Many of the par fours have limited aprons to punish a miss as well as multiple pin positions on seemingly acres of putting surface to command pinpoint accuracy on your approach. The course measures 7,202 yards from the tips, but is a good round from the blue tees at 6,555 with a 71.4 rating/131 slope. Four sets of tees are available in total.

Wild Turkey at Crystal Springs Resort
Wild Turkey Hole #7. Photo courtesy of the course.
Still, aside from a few exceptions, most of the holes are fairly forgiving as long as you observe and play to some of their design features. The 450-yard par four fifth hole, for example, has a green that runs away from a straight-on approach. The seventh, a 181-yard one-shotter, plays over a quarry lake. There's a minimal bail-out area left and out-of-bounds right, so the hole deserves your full attention.

As you make the turn, stop on the tenth tee to enjoy the view of three states, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, on the horizon at Port Jervis. You'll get another view worth pausing for at the fourteenth tee, where you overlook the entire basin from the twelfth to the seventeenth hole.

Wild Turkey shows its teeth on the finishing holes, beginning with the 392-yard fifteenth where you face a long forced carry over water, a menacing bunker complex on the right side of the fairway, and a difficult elevated green where the surface is hidden from view on your approach. You'll also have to contend with water on the sixteenth hole, a 170-yard par three, as well as on the tee shot for the seventeenth, a seriously-long 577-yard par five that looks like a Cape hole, but isn't unless you can safely carry the ball 270 yards. The better play from the tee is to aim at the right-side fairway bunkers, which are barely reachable by the average player but will put you in a position to avoid the cross bunkers on your second shot.

Wild Turkey is a user-friendly golf course, but certainly not one on which you'd be ashamed of posting par or a little over. Like all the courses at Crystal Springs, the amenities are excellent, the conditions good, and the staff welcoming and helpful. Greens fees are reasonable, too, so consider squeezing in a second round during the day.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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