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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ring the Bell for Atlantic City Country Club

Atlantic City Country Club
It’s easy to see why the Atlantic City Country Club has been a favorite of pros and ams alike during its 117-year history.  Strategic, scenic, tradition-laden, you name the positive golf adjective and it applies in spades.  The club has hosted six national USGA championships and its fairways have been walked by everyone from Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Sam Snead to Nancy Lopez and Arnold Palmer.  The easy-to-say-hard-to-get term “birdie” was coined here, as was “eagle,” at least according to local lore.

The best news in ages, though, is that ACCC is now under new ownership. After years of less-than-benign neglect by previous owners Hilton Hotels and Caesars Casino, it was purchased this year by the Ottinger Family Group, which immediately began a program to bring course conditions and amenities back up to premium standards.  The family also owns Ballamor Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township and Scotland Run Golf Club in Williamstown, NJ.

Small greens and big bunkers define the ACCC course and make it a strategic pleasure (or pain) to play.  While sandy soil and wind are prevalent conditions, it’s not a links course.  You can certainly use a good ground game and it often pays to keep your ball under the wind, but flying the ball into most greens is your best choice. Besides, the voracious greenside bunkering often makes a high, soft approach necessary unless you’re in the one perfect position in the fairway to run it up.

The course plays 6,577 yards from the tips with a 72.3/133 rating/slope.  Three other tees are available including the forward set that brings it down to 5,349 yards. You tee off on the first hole basically from the practice green, which is a great old-fashioned touch.  Don’t get too wrapped up in nostalgia, though, because your drive has to carry a water hazard and avoid numerous fairway bunkers and deep rough to find the fairway on this 450-yard test of both skill and power. Beginning with the fourth hole, views of the Atlantic City skyline compete for your attention at many spots on the course.  The wetlands are brought into play when you reach thirteen and shape your play until you finally turn back toward the clubhouse on seventeen.

Daily fee rates at ACCC vary hugely by season and time of day.  Peak season weekend mornings are $225, but you can tee off after 3 PM for $99.  The best value is October, when the summer crowds are gone, the weather is actually nicer, and greens fees range from $58 to $160.

The grill and locker rooms are real treats for lovers of golf memorabilia. Take a few minutes to check out the photos of the many greats who played at ACCC over the years including a twinkle-eyed Arnold Palmer in his Coast Guard uniform from 1951. Stop, too, at the great bell hanging just outside the clubhouse entrance and imagine the rush of jolly golfers responding to its call to the last trolley back to Atlantic City.  The club today still rings it at the end of each day to invite you to “play a round with history.”

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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