Golfing Magazine Online -
Empire Golf and Club Max
John Torsiello
By John Torsiello
Published on 10/31/2007

A Winning Combination for Jersey Golfers

In a golfing sense the sun really never sets on Empire Golf Management.

You simply don’t have enough hours in the day to play every course that Empire’s Club Max offers its members. These special, one-of-kind tracks stretch from New York to Florida and include eight of the most highly rated new courses to open within the past decade.

Empire Golf’s Club Max facilities are Hollow Brook, Branton Woods and Minisceongo golf clubs in New York, Pine Barrens, Pine Hill, New Jersey National and Twisted Dune golf clubs in New Jersey and The Links at Madison Green in Florida. All except Twisted Dune and The Links at Madison Green are private clubs.

Club Max is the brainchild of Empire Golf Management owner Eric Bergstol, who also designed several of the courses in the cache. The goal of Club Max is to provide top-level golf and other amenities that go beyond the normal country club membership. Once you join a Club Max facility you enjoy membership at all of its private facilities. It’s an ideal offer for avid golfers who enjoy calling one club home but also love to throw the sticks in the trunk and travel around a bit to meet new people and sample world class golf at other locations. There really is nothing like Club Max in the metropolitan New York area.

“We have a solid plan and we believe the price we are charging for the product we are offering and the service we are providing is a bargain,” says Allan Irwin, COO of Empire Golf Management. “We looked down into Northern Virginia and saw fees of $40,000 to $50,000 and looked at the fees at New York private clubs and we thought that perhaps we were under priced. But we wanted to deliver a tremendous value for our members and I think we do.”

Initiation fees at Club Max facilities vary from $14,000 to $30,000 with annual dues ranging between $5,800 and $6,600, says Irwin. There are some guidelines on reciprocal play at other private Club Max facilities and visitors must pay a cart fee. Club Max members get discounted rates that vary according to season at the daily fee Twisted Dune and The Links at Madison Green, which, Irwin says, will never be taken private.

Club Max has also proved attractive to corporate clients who can sign up as many as four people for membership for a joining fee of $25,000, says Irwin. Being able to entertain clients and staff at such notable clubs as those included in the Club Max portfolio can be a valuable business tool.

“We had three great years bringing members into Club Max and we have been steady this year,” says Irwin. “One our biggest methods of selling Club Max is through member referrals. We have happy members who support their clubs and bring other golfers into the fold. We are definitely headed in the right direction.”

In addition to owning Empire Golf, Eric Bergstol is perhaps the most under appreciated course designer of his time. His work at Hollow Brook, Pine Barrens and Branton Woods are modern day masterpieces that blend seamlessly with the environments they are routed over and through. Bergstol collaborated with Roy Case on the design of Minisceongo Golf Club in Pomona, N.Y., which was skillfully routed around landmarks and archeological finds that date back to the 18th century.

Club Max courses have been nationally recognized as among the finest new designs in the country. Hollow Brook Golf Club in Cortland Manor, N.Y., which hosted a U.S. Open qualifier this year, is set on a 250 acre site that offers dramatic elevation changes, gently undulating meadows and Hollow Brook, which comes into play on several holes. Many of the holes on this brawny track (stay out of the British Open-style fairway bunkers!) are among the most scenic and demanding you’ll find anywhere.
Bergstol made wise use of the native sand areas, groupings of pine trees and other indigenous flora to create a rambling, challenging and pleasingly eclectic routing at Pine Barrens in Jackson, N.J., making the course a bit reminiscent of the legendary Pine Valley Golf Club.

Branton Woods Golf Club in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. was carved from the rolling hills of a former bison farm and its features include fields, streams, meadows and gently sloping hills. Bergstol designed open fairways that are often framed by fairway bunkers and large, undulating greens that are protected by sand traps and water.

Pine Hill Golf Club in Pine Hill, N.J. sits atop the Garden State’s highest point and was designed by world famous golf course architect Tom Fazio. The course features elevation changes not usually found on New Jersey courses and the fairways and greens that are framed by mature stands of trees and waste areas. The view from the 170-yard par-three 13th hole offers a stunning look at the Philadelphia skyline in the distance. Pine Hill’s clubhouse, a 43,000-square-foot structure, provides wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and is worth a visit by itself.

Case, a British architect, designed New Jersey National Golf Club in Basking Ridge, N.J., which is located on 260 acres of rolling terrain and mature woodlands. Again, this course features elevation changes, large, undulating greens and wide open fairway landing areas that make the track playable, albeit challenging, for golfers of all abilities.

Twisted Dune Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. is a markedly unique course that offers subtlety-rolling fairways that sit amid jagged dunes. With the dunes, sand and water everywhere, one can easily imagine he or she is in Scotland or Ireland instead of south Jersey.

The Links at Madison Greens in Royal Palm Beach, Fl. is considered one of the finest daily fee facilities in the Sunshine State. Water hazards abound on this impeccably groomed layout and natural sand areas complicate navigation.

“There is no questioning the quality of our golf courses,” says Irwin. “Eric has designed some incredible courses and having people like Tom Fazio and Roy Case in our portfolio only enhances the value perspective of joining Club Max.”

I have had the good fortune to have played all the Club Max courses except The Links at Madison Green and I can say they are truly magnificent layouts that offer their own ambiance and challenges. Branton Woods and New Jersey National are what would be best termed player friendly tracks, while Minisceongo, Hollow Brook and Pine Hill will test even the best players. Just ask the golfers who walked off Hollow Brook shaking their heads after trying to qualify for the U.S. Open this past May. Twisted Dune and Pine Barrens are both among the most visually unique courses you can play in the Northeast. The conditions at every Club Max course I have visited has been superb and the staffs welcoming and friendly. One of the side benefits of membership is the ability to enjoy the great dining venues and excellent menus served up by chefs employed by the Club Max facilities.

Joining Cub Max lets Jersey golfers enter into a magical golf world. But you don’t have to be a member to sample Empire Golf’s delights, what with Twisted Dune Golf Club available for daily fee play.

Twisted Dune is really like no other golf course in New Jersey. True to its name, Twisted Dune is a links style course with “twisting” landscapes, dramatic elevations, and contoured fairways. It’s a challenging, yet supremely playable design.
Designer Archie Struthers moved two million cubic yards of earth to create the course that offers up a true taste of Scottish or Irish links golf right at the Jersey Shore.

Deep ravines, towering grass-covered hills, and well over 100 deep traps and bunkers, make Twisted Dune’s 7,200 yards from the back tees a memorable golfing experience for all.

 Featuring four par-fives at over 500 yards, 10 par-fours, and four par-threes, Twisted Dune GC is the type of course that serious golfers love to play. Yet, with it’s many tee box options, Twisted Dune is friendly to golfers of every skill level.

Twisted Dune offers a visually stunning golf experience that rewards accuracy and course management and is consistently rated at the top of every major golf publication’s “Best of” list.
Number four here is a behemoth of a par-five, measuring almost 600 yards from the back tees with bunkers seemingly everywhere on your trip to the green. Numbers nine and 10 are also par-fives that stretch to almost 600 yards and feature water hazards and bunkers along their left sides.

Number 13 at Twisted Dune is a classic par-three. It plays almost 200 yards from the tips and the shot must be struck pure to find a green protected by water to the eight and bunker left.
The finisher at Twisted Dune is a massive, 486-yard par-four that calls for a booming tee shot in order to have a reasonable mid-iron or fairway approach to the green.

If you get down to south Florida you have to check out The Links at Madison Green where architect John Sanford designed a challenging tract. The course plays a demanding 7,051 yards from the championship tees. But even the novice golfer will enjoy this adventure as four additional sets of tee boxes accommodate golfers of every level.

For further information about Empire Golf or Club Max, visit, or call 877-425-8269.