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Springing Ahead at New Jersey Golf Courses
http://www.publinksgolfer.net/articles/90/1/Springing-Ahead-at-New-Jersey-Golf-Courses/Page1.html
Adam Barr
 
By Adam Barr
Published on 09/1/2005
 
Springing Ahead at New Jersey Golf Courses

Crystal Springs Resort continues to add fine features and fairways
As any modern marketer knows, messages to today’s time-crunched, digitally deluged consumers must be extremely short, but extremely descriptive. A difficult task to be sure, made even harder for Carole Huettig, who, as vice president of sales and marketing for this northwestern New Jersey resort, had the unenviable task of branding a product that has been constantly changing over the last 10 years.

As it grew, and added courses, accommodations and amenities, the resort’s name morphed into various combinations of Crystal Springs Golf Course, Crystal Springs Golf Resort, Crystal Springs Golf & Spa Resort and added new names like Minerals Hotel and Elements Spa. Even now, if you’re heading up that way and you say only that you’re “going to Crystal Springs,” that could mean the overall resort, one of its golf courses, or the opulent clubhouse that anchors it, the Wild Turkey course, and a residential development.

That minor bit of confusion aside, the new, simplified name—Crystal Springs Resort—will go a long way toward eliminating the rest of it. Why the switch? “When we first changed our name, we put the ‘golf and spa resort’ in there so people would be familiar with what we had,” says Huettig. “But now, I think we’ve created the awareness. Plus, under our logo it says ‘hotel, golf, spa, homes’ so they know exactly what we offer.”
And that makes it easier for Huettig and company to get back to the business at hand, which is creating one of the finest and most extensive resort experiences in the region, with much more to come.

Accommodations

In addition to the aspen-themed Minerals Hotel & Spa, which opened in December 2003, Crystal Springs has plans for three more hotels. The first, which will break ground this fall near the Wild Turkey and Crystal Springs courses, is called Grand Cascades Lodge. It will consist of 210 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units decorated even more lavishly than Minerals and offer such things as heated underground parking, a VIP lounge, a landscaped pool area with a waterfall, meditation gardens and an outdoor deck with a fire pit. Like Minerals, each of the units will be privately owned and placed into the resort’s room rental pool at the discretion of the owner. At the grand opening sales event in February 2005, phases I and II were completely sold out, raising more than $50 million for the project.

According to Huettig, the resort has also received permits to build two more hotels adjacent to Minerals. While the details are still being worked out, one may be a large hotel and the other a 30-room boutique inn.

For now, guests can enjoy the cozy, lodge-like look and feel of the Minerals Hotel & Spa, which consists of 200 guestrooms and condominiums, many with stone fireplaces to complement the Aspen-style décor. It’s also the hub of activity for overnight guests. Housing the Elements Spa, Minerals Sports Club (indoor/outdoor pools, tennis courts, racquetball courts, basketball court, fitness area) conference rooms, business center, Kites Restaurant and nine-hole Minerals Golf Club, there’s little need to leave the property—except to play the five other outstanding courses.

Golf

Crystal Springs Resort began managing nearby Great Gorge Country Club last season and word is the arrangement may soon switch to ownership, bringing the resort’s full repertoire to six courses. Plans for a seventh course, to be designed by Roger Rulewich and located near Wild Turkey and Crystal Springs Golf Club, are just that: plans. But don’t be surprised to see new holes taking shape in the next two years. For now, you’ll have to “settle” for these greats:

Ballyowen


This Roger Rulewich-designed course opened in 1998 and apparently keeps getting better with age. Golf Digest gave it four-and-a-half stars. Then Golfweek named it the best public course in New Jersey. Heck, even our readers named it the best course in the state of New Jersey in 2003.

What’s all the hubbub? Simply put, Ballyowen provides a complete golf experience that is unique to this region. In addition to an immaculately maintained, fescue-laden, exciting links-style layout, Ballyowen includes lots of extra “Irish/Scottish” touches that golfers love.

For example, members of the staff are adorned in knickers and kilts. A flock of sheep grazes to the right of the 12th hole, oblivious to the action around them. Bagpipes wail on the 18th hole, escorting the sun down to the horizon. Is it a bit contrived, a bit “Disney?” Of course, but where’s the first place Super Bowl champs want to go when they can go anywhere in the world?
“It’s the whole feel, it’s so different,” says Art Walton, director of golf. “They are things golfers aren’t accustomed to seeing and it’s a golf course they’re not accustomed to playing.”

Walton says some golfers purposely schedule their rounds during cloudy or misty days because the entire experience so well emulates that of Ireland and Scotland. Sometimes, if you catch it just right, a veil of fog hangs suspended a few feet above the fairways. Those looking for a warmer round are advised to go in June and July when the fescue has had time to complete its color change from green to red to blonde.

Wild Turkey


Though this course was also designed by Roger Rulewich, it is a complete departure from the links-like Ballyowen. It’s a true parkland layout that bobs up and down between ridge and valley sections, all the while passing trees that often guard one or both sides of the fairways.

There aren’t many facilities where you can have as much fun in the clubhouse as you can on the golf course but the County Club at Crystal Springs is one of them. This new, 50,000 square-foot clubhouse acts as the centerpiece for Wild Turkey and Crystal Springs golf courses.

Built in the style of a mountain lodge, there are huge wooden beams that, from the outside, give the building a natural, rugged look. On the inside, however, it’s all about comfort. On the lower level, there’s an indoor pool, whirlpool, sauna, fitness room, massage therapy rooms and the men’s and women’s locker rooms. The main level houses the Tavern and the Rotunda, dining areas that provide indoor and outdoor settings, respectively. An observation tower extends above the third level, which features a 300-seat banquet room and the highly acclaimed Restaurant Latour with its cigar bar and wine cellar.

Outside, members of the Country Club (memberships are available to the public) can splash around in three infinity-edge pools that overlook the first hole of Wild Turkey and the surrounding Kittatinny Mountains. Or, they can observe wedding ceremonies taking place in the wedding garden, which is surrounded by babbling brooks and cascading water features.

Crystal Springs Golf Club


When it opened in 1992, Crystal Springs Golf Club was recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top 25 new courses in America. And ever since, New Jersey golfers have recognized it as one of the toughest, with one hole in particular getting much of the attention. Its number may have changed from 10 to 11 due to its new clubhouse, but the par-3 at Crystal Springs Golf Club is unmistakable. This hole has been invigorating, and sometimes frustrating, golfers for years.

From a tee elevated 80 feet above the green, golfers hit to a double-peanut-shaped putting surface that is 50 yards wide but only 20 yards deep. Guarding the left front of the green is a spring-fed quarry lake bordered by a rock outcropping. The view is as impressive from green to tee as it is from tee to green, especially if you manage to hit it. But the wind makes it very difficult to gauge distance, and the shot can require anything from a pitching wedge to a 4-iron.

“You feel like you’re down in a depression,” says Art Walton, general manager, referring to what it’s like when you finally make it to the green. But that’s exactly how you can feel if the pin is on the left and you bail out to the right, as many people do. “That rock outcropping juts out in middle of the green and can prevent you from hitting a straight shot to hole.”

To make matters worse, the left side of the green runs downhill. That’s why a poor score here may not be as much a result of poor putting as it is poor positioning.

“The main difficulty is in club selection and there’s a very narrow margin of error with two-thirds of the pin locations,” said Walton. “You can par or birdie the hole, but you can also take a six, seven or eight.”

Black Bear Golf Club


Black Bear opened in July of 1996 and has enjoyed tremendous popularity ever since. Co-designed by the resort area’s main developer Jack Kurlander and top-100 teacher David Glenz, Black Bear serves up a breathtaking variety of terrain, scenery and shot options.

It is also the home of the David Glenz Golf Academy, a learning center consisting of 100,000 square feet of natural grass tees, multi-tiered synthetic launching stations, and a wide array of target greens and bunkers. The academy building features classrooms for swing analysis and enclosed teaching bay for instruction or practice during inclement weather.

Just steps away from the practice facility is the clubhouse and its Bear Den Grille with 180-degree views of the Hamburg Mountain range and outdoor, patio dining.

Great Gorge Country Club


Before there was Tom Fazio, there was his uncle, George. And it is the elder who created this 27-hole facility that used to serve the now defunct Great Gorge Playboy Club. The three nines consist of the demanding Quarryside Course, which plays past eye-popping rock outcroppings and knee-knocking water hazards; the Lakeside Course, which skirts sparkling lakes, mature trees and features dramatic elevation changes; and the most scenic and forgiving Railside Course, with remnants of the area’s mining and railroad era.

Last spring, Crystal Springs Resort began managing Great Gorge Country Club in an agreement with Japanese owner Shinni Hon, a move designed to raise the level of service for which Crystal Springs Resort has become known.

Crystal Springs Golf Club immediately promoted its head golf professional, Joe Glam, to general manager of Great Gorge and integrated it into its online tee time reservation system and call center. Aside from irrigation and drainage improvements, there are no immediate plans for renovating the three, nine-hole courses. There is talk, however, of bringing the Fazios (Tom assisted on the project) back when the time is right. Ideas are also being discussed for creating more separation between the golf course and the adjacent, rundown hotel. Right now, golfers must park in the hotel’s lot and take a shuttle to the course.

Minerals Golf Club


Located adjacent to the Minerals Hotel & Spa, Minerals Golf Club, formerly called The Spa Golf Course, is a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. layout with a variety of sporty par threes and fours that accentuate the dramatic natural landscape. It is beautifully maintained and presents golfers not with a long test of golf, but a wonderful mix of thought-provoking hole designs. Once exception is the signature hole, No. 7, a 407-yard par 4 that plays from an elevated tee, requiring a lengthy carry across a deep ravine, then a second shot to an uphill, backward-sloping green. Holes like this make this executive course one of the best in the state.

Dining

Crystal Springs Resort has no less than five full-service restaurants to choose from. Each is unique in its décor, menu and ambiance so no matter what type of meal you’re in the mood for, they’ve got you covered. Here is a brief snapshot of each:

Restaurant Latour: This intimate, 40-seat dining experience inside the Crystal Springs Country club has been garnering lots of attention for its fine food, white-glove service and unparalleled wine selection housed in its own wine cellar.

Crystal Tavern: Also located at the Crystal Springs Country Club, the Crystal Tavern offers an upscale pub menu with breathtaking golf course and sunset views. Wednesday nights are theme nights, Thursdays are seafood night and Friday nights feature live entertainment from 7-10 pm.

Kites Restaurant: Just above the lobby in the Minerals Hotel & Spa, Kites restaurant offers convenient and casual dining with its pub and wood-burning pizza section as well as a more upscale experience for dinner overlooking the outdoor pool. Its kitchen also services the poolside Tiki Bar and Grill which has themed activities during the year such as Hawaiian luaus and Halloween parties.

Owen’s Pub: It’s only fitting that the restaurant at Ballyowen Golf Club resembles an authentic Irish pub with a lively bar area and a Celtic menu that includes such things as fish ’n chips. Panoramic windows overlook the linksy course and the bagpiper can be heard during sunsets.

Bear Den Grille: Appetizers, sandwiches, hamburgers, hearty entrees and daily specials complete the all-day menu served at The Bear Den Grille, and the views overlooking the golf course and driving range complete the golf-centric atmosphere.