One of the more remarkable golf developments of modern times, New Jersey’s Bayonne Golf Club was financed and designed by amateur architect Eric Bergstol and built upon an industrial waterfront that looks across the Hudson River toward lower Manhattan.
Bergstol’s design was inspired by the heaving links of Ireland and Great Britain, but to transform this reclaimed landfill into a believable golfscape he had to import more than 7 million cubic yards of fill, mostly muck from the dredging of New York Harbor. This material was used to construct a series of towering fescue-covered dunes and create lumpy golf corridors protected by heavily sloped greens and nasty links bunkers. Although a few of the greens are unnecessarily extreme, they do feature plenty of exciting hole locations that members will delight in discovering how best to attack.
Despite so much earth being pushed around on this project, the front nine lacks playing space and several of the early holes are actually designed to force players to back off from using their driver. The inward nine is much better. Moving closer to the harbor, the golf here is more spacious and varied, attacking the wind from all directions. The best holes are the most authentically British, the 12th and 13th tumbling to and from the water and complicated by cunningly positioned bunkers and bewildering greens. The multi-level putting surface on the par five 13th is a real treat and set attractively in the shadows of the resplendent naval clubhouse and its 150-foot flagpole. Falling toward the shoreline, the views on the 14th and 16th are also quite special, while the cape-style 17th is a bruising par four that crosses part of the river and ends with a rolling green squeezed between dunes.
Bayonne was a monumental engineering achievement and, at upwards of $100 million, it is one of the most expensive clubs ever built in America. Despite the fact that it does give you the opportunity to hit some really cool golf shots, the layout will really only work for those prepared to suspend rationality and embrace the fun of playing this type of golf in the heart of an industrial wasteland.