Have you ever had to hit a drive over rows of grapevines?
Well, that’s the treat my friend Vinnie Serella and I had when we played the golf course at the Renault Resort in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. recently.
Clearing rows of grape vines--hanging low with the fruit of late summer--was demanded of us when we played Renault’s par-four seventh hole, a tough 435-yard dogleg left. Driving through and under an arbor loaded with the fruit of the vine after we hit our tee shots, Vin reached up to grab a few of the grapes that were destined to become one of the winery’s award-winning offerings.
This little aside was only one of a number of delightful moments during our stay. For the golf course at Renault, routed by Arthur Hills and finished by Ed Shearon, is a links-style layout that winds its way over subtly rolling hills and past fields of grapevines and orchards. Stretch it to the tips and Renault plays around 7,213 yards and is a severe challenge for even the best players. We tested it from around 6,300 yards and the distance offered us a pleasing round, although even at its shorter tees Renault has bite if you wander off the tee or on your approach shots to the rather smallish and undulating greens. Much of the theme at Renault is angles. Hills wanted golfers to make decisions on whether or not to circumvent diagonal hazards or attempt to go over them to gain a better angle to the green
The golf course at Renault, which hosted around 25,000 rounds last year, is located about a half an hour’s drive from Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk, glitzy casinos and frantic nightlife. It has already won such notable recognitions as that given to it by Travel and Leisure Golf magazine, which rated it among the top 30 new courses the world for 2004. The layout is kept in superb condition (especially for a relatively new course) by superintendent Mike Renk and his able staff.
“We’ve been really happy with the progression of the golf course,” said Kevin McCarty, the busy director of sales and marketing and director of golf for the resort. “We’re in our third full year of operation with the course. It’s growing in nicely and we have had tremendous feedback from our golfers. It’s fun to play and user friendly, which is one of the biggest positives about the course.”
One of the reasons behind the construction of the course was to add yet another amenity to the resort, one that would bring additional traffic to the winery, hotel and restaurants.
“Our golf getaway packages have increased as well as our golf and dine packages,” said McCarty. “We’re seeing more and more golfers stopping into our restaurants after their rounds.”
Taken in total Renault is a unique resort, one that combines world-class golf with a working, historic winery and a wonderful hotel that offers amenities such as two outdoor pools, and several superb dinning venues.
The Tuscany House Hotel, voted the best non-casino hotel in the area, pays a notable nod to old world luxury and European charm with its rich Mediterranean interior and overall ambiance. Each of the rooms in the hotel boast old world décor and no two rooms are alike. The accommodations also feature a separate sitting area and Internet-ready computer ports. Executive chef Joseph DeGennaro whips up mouthwatering gourmet meals in the hotel’s Joseph’s Restaurant, where one can sample such dishes as herb crusted chicken and penne pasta with roasted garlic and imported parmesan cheese.
Just across the street for the hotel is the Renault Winery, which offers tours of quaint buildings that include the winery, a gift shop, and several dinning venues. Geese float in a small pond located at the entrance of the winery and large wine barrels grace the grounds, creating a park-like atmosphere.
The winery’s eclectic restaurant’s main room, once called “Method Champenoise,” is where the winery made its famed New Jersey Champagne. Several of the restaurant’s booths are made from the room’s original 100-year-old oak casks. Stained glass, antique furnishings, a large stone fireplace and a gazebo in the center of the room bear further witness to Renault’s rich and varied history.
A tour of the Renault Winery includes a stroll through an antique glass museum that houses champagne and wine glasses that date back to medieval times. A historical room presents the history of the winery and its founder, Louis Nicholas Renault, from the mid-19th-century to present. There’s a collection of antique winemaking equipment and a visit to the pressing room that allows one to see how Renault’s wines are made. The tour concludes at the wine tasting emporium where visitors can sample award-winning wine and champagne. There are wines, champagnes and a selection of gift baskets, stemware, carafes and other items for sale in the winery’s gift shop.
But let’s get back to the golf course. One of the toughest holes on the layout is the first, a par-four that plays 473 yards from the tips. You have to make sure you steer clear of fairway bunkers on the right in order to set up a long iron or fairway wood to a slightly elevated green.
Number three is a nice, 162-yard par-three that plays across a small pond, and the 562-yard par-five fourth hole is a great chance to make birdie, providing you stay away from woods to the right and deep rough and shrubbery to the left.
Number six is a 598-yard par-five that demands a lusty tee shot to clear a set of deep bunkers that will intimidate the golfer off the tee box. The hole is a slight dogleg left, so bite off as much of the bunkers as you feel is doable. But miss and you’re hitting out of the bunkers with a mid- or short-iron.
The eighth hole is a wonderful short par-four. It measures just 322 yards from the back markers and is driveable for the big hitters. But hit it a little short and you’ve found a huge waste bunker that runs up almost to the putting surface.
Numbers 11 and 12 are long par-fours measuring around 450 yards from the tips. The view from the tee box on number 12 is the best on the course and affords a nice sight of the hotel in the distance and the surrounding holes.
Number 15 is a reachable par-five that is very straightforward until you approach the green, which is well protected by bunkers. The 17th is another drivable par-four measuring 330 yards from the championship markers. But the green is raised a bit, which prevents balls from running on from the tee.
The 18th at Renault is a great finisher. It’s a beefy 588-yard par-five that is best attacked in three shots. A strong drive and accurate lay up that stays away from a pond to the right and wetlands to the left will set up a wedge into a green that slopes dramatically from back to front and left to right.
Renault is an ideal place for a quick visit on the way to or from Atlantic City and the nearby Jersey beaches, a one-night stay or a week-long vacation to sample not only the golf course at Renault but also the other fine daily fee layouts the AC area has to offer.
“We’re a nice place to visit either on your way down to Atlantic City or on the way back home,” said McCarty. “Being located so close to the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway makes it easy to get to us.”
The resort runs a number of specials, such as a Sunday brunch and round of golf for $65, and specials for firemen and police on Mondays, ladies on Tuesdays and seniors on Wednesdays that allows these individuals to play for $45.
There’s a great getaway package for October that includes a night’s accommodation in the Tuscany House Hotel, dinner, breakfast, a winery tour and wine tasting, and complimentary bottle of Renault wine for $103 per person Monday through Thursday and $166 per person Friday and Saturday. It’s hard to beat that offer.
And Renault is a perfect place to hold a large party, a wedding or a business conference, what with ample banquet facilities, beautiful grounds, abundant meeting space and Internet accessibility.For more information about the Renault Resort, the Renault Winery, the Tuscany House Hotel and Restaurant or Golf at Renault, visit www.renaultwinery.com or call 609-965-2111.