RUNNING DEER GOLF CLUB
Course Architect: Ed Carman (2000)
Year Opened: 2000
Location: Pittsgrove, New Jersey
Slope: 134. Rating: 74.3
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 383 Yds 10 - Par 4 406 Yds
2 - Par 4 491 Yds 11 - Par 4 378 Yds
3 - Par 4 373 Yds 12 - Par 4 479 Yds
4 - Par 5 523 Yds 13 - Par 3 246 Yds
5 - Par 3 153 Yds 14 - Par 5 552 Yds
6 - Par 4 421 Yds 15 - Par 4 361 Yds
7 - Par 3 185 Yds 16 - Par 3 187 Yds
8 - Par 4 411 Yds 17 - Par 5 546 Yds
9 - Par 5 502 Yds 18 - Par 4 477 Yds
Par 36 3,442 Yds Par 36 3,632 Yds
Key Events Held: NFL Alumni Tournament (2009).
Awards Won: Ranked number 20 in New Jersey - Golf Digest (2005-06).
HISTORY: For original owner Ed Carman and his family, Running Deer Golf Club
was a labor of love. You see, Carman designed the layout, and his sons - J.R.
and Ted - were head professional and course superintendent, respectively.
Carman, a member of the PGA in the early 1950s, was head professional at Buena
Vista Country Club, but always dreamt of his own golf course. With help from
his family, those dreams turned into a reality.
As the years went by, Carman's design, spread out over 300 acres, began to
receive high marks, including being rated 20th in the state of New Jersey by
The past several years, however, have been quite a contrast. According to many
reports, Carman overextended himself and failed to pay many bills, thus
allowing the golf course to fall into disarray and lose many members.
Fast-forward to 2008 and the sale of the club to former NFL quarterback Ron
Jaworski. The current Monday Night Football analyst and his partner Ken
Kochenour purchased Running Deer in the fall of '08 and were able to persuade
Charlie Clarke, the former superintendent at Woodbury Country Club, to join
"Charlie has done a fantastic job of turning this course around," Jaworski
said, adding, ""We are extremely excited to take over a facility with this
Only time will tell, but it seems Jaworski and company are ready to take
Running Deer to the next level.
REVIEW: The opening hole at Running Deer is a modest par four of 383 yards.
The tree-lined fairway is made even tighter by a 70-yard bunker down the left
side. Three-metal is a good play off the tee, setting up a short iron to a
very difficult putting surface. The green boasts several humps and bumps,
making it difficult to get it close. Birdie is a possibility, but par is
Number two is a bear of a par four, stretching 491 yards from the tips. The
split fairway is quite deceiving with the 150-yard stake residing in the
rough. In fact, you'll be left with a very long approach regardless of how far
you blast your drive. Trees on both sides certainly narrow the fairway, but
it's the length that will get you. Another sloping green from back to front,
so stay below the hole for your best shot at saving par.
The third is a beautiful, short par four that's target golf at its best. Just
373 yards, you'll need a fairway metal or long iron off the tee to hit a
landing area, which is flanked on the right by trees and the left by a sandy,
clay pit which wraps around most of the hole. Your second shot will be played
down towards the island green which is surrounded by clay and the natural
sand. The immense putting surface is three-tiered and slick, so be careful or
a three-putt could be in the offing.
It's risk-reward time when you reach the fourth. A relatively short par five
at 523 yards by today's standards, this one requires splicing the numerous
fairway bunkers that dot the landing area. If accomplished, then you can have
a go, otherwise, play it as a three-shotter and give yourself a shot at birdie
the old fashioned way, sinking a 10-footer for birdie. That's what I did, but
I still missed the putt.
The first par three on the course is the shortest of the quartet at just 153
yards. Trouble on the right will keep you honest, but with a short iron in
hand, you should be able to navigate the approach. The putting surface has
plenty of character, so depending on the pin placement, don't get greedy.
Another tree-lined par four, the sixth is straightaway with plenty of sand to
catch your errant tee ball. Still more sand protects the green, so play right
of the green if you must and rely on your short game. It's the fourth-hardest
hole on the course and rightfully so.
One of the several signature holes at Running Deer, the seventh is a great par
three that runs up to 185 yards. The trouble is club selection, as the entire
hole is played over a clay and natural sand quarry. The putting surface is 50
yards wide and shallow, making your target even more difficult. A back-left
flag could add 20 yards to the hole, forcing a draw around a group of trees.
Who said par threes had to be easy?
No surprises on the eighth, it's just a straightaway par four with trees
running down both sides of the fairway and a pair of bunkers on either side of
the landing area. A short to medium iron will remain to a well-bunkered green.
This hole can be had, but you'll have to be spot on.
The closing hole on the outward nine is the shortest and trickiest par five on
the course. The key is the tee ball, which must favor the right side or play
short of the "Pine Valley" like waste area down the center of the fairway. A
successful tee shot will leave a 200-220 yard shot to the green. This is where
the fun begins, as the putting surface is tucked to the right behind a section
of tall trees. The front of the green is protected by several bunkers, so if
you can manage a high-cut with a hybrid or a fairway metal, then go for it.
Otherwise, play down the fairway and leave yourself a short pitch to another
undulating green. If you haven't found out yet, birdies are hard to come by at
The back nine starts with a rock-solid par four that requires thought on the
tee. Several traps guard both sides of the landing area, especially where the
fairway tightens as you get closer to the hole. The best play would be a
three-metal off the tee, as this sets up a medium to short iron to a long
putting surface with sand on both sides. The two-tiered green slopes hard from
back to front, so once again, below the hole is the best position.
If you thought the first 10 holes were something, just wait to you reach the
11th tee. One of the shortest par fours on the course, this sharp dogleg left
must be played carefully. Trees hug the entire right side of the fairway,
while three bunkers guard the right-corner of the landing area. Water creeps
out on the left side and then runs in front-left of the green. Bunkers guard
the rear and right of the putting surface, which slopes from back to front. A
short pin can be attacked, but be leery of the pond.
There is no question that the 12th is the hardest hole on the course. At 479
yards its length is not impossible, but its shape might be. A hard dogleg
right around two sections of water, makes you think twice on the tee. First of
all, your tee shot must cut the corner and be high enough to clear the trees
down the right. The left side of the landing area is wall-to-wall trees, so no
bailout possible. Then you're left with an uphill approach to a well-guarded,
sloping green. The one question mark of the hole is the hard-canting fairway
that slopes toward the water.
The 13th is a brilliant par three, not to mention the longest on the course at
246 yards. If the wind is up, you might need driver to get home and if the pin
is back-left, good luck. I'm not so sure this isn't the hardest hole at
Running Deer. The bunker short and left gets plenty of action, but the green,
with its back-to-front slope, is a killer. Not many people will make birdie
here, let alone par. My downhill six-footer for birdie didn't even scare the
One of my favorites at Running Deer is another risk-reward signature hole,
the par-five 14th. Out of a chute of trees, your tee shot plays slightly
downhill towards the tight, tree-lined fairway. From there, a player has a
couple of options, go for the green or lay up short and right. If you go for
the green, you'll have to fly a group of tall trees on your way, not to
mention waste area and sand. The sensible play for us mortals is out to the
right, leaving a short pitch to a very long putting surface. Not only is the
green lengthy, but it features several swales, putting extreme pressure on
your short game.
Fifteen can be sort of a breather, as it only runs 361 yards from the tips.
Don't be fooled - this little gem has plenty of bite, especially if you miss
the fairway. Hybrid or long iron off the tee will leave a wedge in hand,
giving the player an opportunity to attack the flag. The problem here is the
massive trap short of the green and the two-tiered, bowl-like putting surface.
A front flag is simple, as all shots will funnel towards the pin, but a back-
left or right can be hard to get at. Take your best shot, because birdies on
the final three holes happen rarely.
The 16th is a modest par three, with a bunker on either side of the green. The
putting surface does slope from back to front, but it's not as severe as some
of the others at Running Deer. Deep pins will be hard to attack with woods
right and rear. Take par and move on.
The final par five on the course, the 17th, can be fun if played right. The
fairway is split in two and putting driver in your hand does run the risk of
running down into the gully that divides the landing area. Having said that,
this is not a bad play, as it will leave a long iron or hybrid to an
accessible green. Laying up is not a problem, as no fairway bunkers lie in
wait, just a couple of pot bunkers at the green. Mounding right, short and
rear can either help or hinder your approach, but this can be a birdie if you
play your cards right.
The bottom line on the finale at Running Deer, it's just a hard hole.
Doglegging to the right, the 18th is a hard driving hole with two bunkers
pinching the fairway. If you can cut the corner of the dogleg, you'll give
yourself the best chance of reaching the bunkerless green. The biarritz-style
putting surface is slightly raised, so take an extra stick to get home in
regulation. Put the pin in the back-right corner and you have one beastly
BJ Jaworski, the Director of Golf said it best, "This is an exquisite layout
for a golf course. You can't duplicate what we have here; every hole is
different and unique." My sentiments, exactly.
FINAL WORD: I must admit that when I first played Running Deer several years
ago, I swore that I would never play the course again. Well, my wife always
tells me, never say never, and that couldn't be more accurate in this case.
I just recently went back to Running Deer Golf Club and was more than
The key to the sudden transformation has to be Ron Jaworski and his team. The
original owners had let the golf course go. Tees and fairways were almost
undiscernible and the greens, well, let's just say they were rolling seven on
With a new superintendent (Charlie Clarke) and a new attitude, Jaworski has
Running Deer heading in the right direction.
"He was able to do extraordinary things over the winter months (2008-09) when
it's hard to transform a facility, but Charlie has done it," commented general
manager Bob Ewing.
Always a wonderful design, the course is now well-defined, as several hundred
trees were removed, irrigation was added and drainage updated.
With half a dozen teeing grounds, ranging from 5,080 to over 7,000 yards, this
South Jersey gem is for all skill levels. Just remember to pick the right
Tree-lined fairways riddled with plenty of sand (approximately 60 bunkers),
several water hazards and greens now reaching 11 on the Stimp, makes Running
Deer a must-play, not to mention a soon-play. RDGC is currently semi-private
with every intention of going private in a couple of years, so book your tee
The reasonable rates make Running Deer all the more enticing. It isn't often
that a championship layout costs just $70, and that's just on the weekend. A
top price of $55 Monday through Thursday is tough to beat.
But that's not the half of it. Running Deer also features the Dick Smith Golf
Academy. Brothers Dick and Tom Smith have more than 40 years of experience,
not to mention that Dick was the former President of the PGA of America. "We
are very excited to team up with Dick and Tom," mentioned Jaworski. "It fits
nicely with our goal at Running Deer to provide the very highest golf
experience for the golfer."
Jaws calls Running Deer his "Crown Jewel" in the Jaworski portfolio, which
includes other New Jersey courses, Valleybrook Country Club and RiverWinds
G&TC, not to mention several layouts in Pennsylvania.
There's more to Running Deer than golf. The stately 17,000 square foot
clubhouse features a spacious banquet facility, with elegant surroundings and
a beautiful cathedral ceiling. And the food...outstanding. Whether for a
wedding or corporate outing, Running Deer Golf Club can fill all of your
One thing is certain, with Jaworski taking the snaps, Running Deer Golf Club
will soon be at the forefront of championship golf in South Jersey.