WILDWOOD GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
Course Architects: Wayne E. Stiles, John Van Kleek (1924), Brian Ault (1995)
Year Opened: 1916
Location: Cape May Court House, New Jersey
Slope: 135. Rating: 72.9
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 430 Yds 10 - Par 3 216 Yds
2 - Par 5 465 Yds 11 - Par 4 409 Yds
3 - Par 4 353 Yds 12 - Par 5 506 Yds
4 - Par 4 356 Yds 13 - Par 4 417 Yds
5 - Par 3 170 Yds 14 - Par 4 358 Yds
6 - Par 4 361 Yds 15 - Par 5 545 Yds
7 - Par 4 371 Yds 16 - Par 3 155 Yds
8 - Par 4 393 Yds 17 - Par 4 424 Yds
9 - Par 4 404 Yds 18 - Par 4 381 Yds
Par 36 3,303 Yds Par 36 3,411 Yds
HISTORY: The history of golf at the Jersey Shore certainly revolves around
Atlantic City Country Club and Seaview Marriott Resort's Bay Course, but few
people know that Wildwood Golf & Country Club is one of the oldest clubs in
That's right. Five men back in December of 1916 incorporated the club on "Old
Joe MacKissick's Farm," which operated for roughly five seasons during the
World War I era. When financial trouble almost spelled doom for the club,
10 men took control and re-named the venue Wildwood Golf Club.
Just a couple of years later, Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek were brought in
to design the course that would once again become WG&CC several years later.
Stiles and Van Kleek designed many courses in their careers, including
Brigantine Golf Links (N.J.), Taconic Golf Club (Mass.) and Nashua Country
Club (N.H.). Built on the same land as the original layout, the club opened in
the summer of 1923, holding an exhibition match between the flamboyant Walter
Hagen and Joe Kirkwood.
As the club grew in stature, several invitational tournaments were held at
Wildwood, including the first "Eastern States Inaugural Tournament" in 1924,
which would later be known as the C.A. Gus Heil Memorial Tournament and the
William H. Bright Memorial Trophy. Former PGA Tour player Al Besselink, who
grew up in Merchantville, New Jersey, won the Bright Memorial in 1944. Called
"Bessie" by the other tour players, Besselink won four PGA titles, not to
mention dozens of events around the world.
The early 1950s were an interesting time for Wildwood G&CC. With the
construction of the Garden State Parkway, four of the original holes were
affected and, in 1953, longtime Head Golf Professional, Harry "Pop" Avery,
retired after 28 years. Although a relative unknown at the time, Arnold
Palmer, who was stationed at Cape May with the Coast Guard, made several stops
to the course during the summer of 1951. Palmer would later win the 1954 U.S.
Amateur, turn professional and the rest, as they say, is history.
Following Avery's retirement, Ed DeBaufre served as his successor. DeBaufre
held the position for 11 years, but was killed in a car accident in the spring
of 1964. The following season, Ronnie Ward was named head professional after a
four-year stint at Atlantic City CC and served 19 years. It was during this
time that current assistant professional Terry Smick started his run of club
championships. Smick, a 15-time club champ, won his first in 1981 and then
added 10 straight starting in 1986.
When a new practice facility and driving range were added in 1995, the club
brought in Brian Ault to build two new holes (11th and 12th). During this
time, Fred Riedel became head professional. Riedel, who left for a few years
to join a pair of nearby clubs, returned in 2004 and has remained loyal ever
"People find a home here and don't seem to want to go anywhere else,"
commented Riedel. "It's just a place where people can walk in and feel like
they walked in the front door of their house. It's very welcoming. I wouldn't
want to be anywhere else."
REVIEW: The opening hole at Wildwood is certainly no gimme par four. In fact,
it's one of the most difficult on the course and the longest four par
on the layout. Bending slightly to the left, the play is down the left side,
as this will open up your approach. Be wary, as trees flank both sides of the
landing area. With a slick, back-to-front sloping green, your second must be
below the hole or you'll run the risk of a three-putt.
You'll find out soon enough that you need to be very accurate at Wildwood or
you'll be playing from places you never thought possible. This becomes evident
on the short and enticing second. At just 465 yards, this par five is
certainly reachable in two and even the finest player must be quite precise.
This hole doglegs sharply to the right with a series of trees guarding the
tight landing area. The long hitter can cut the corner, leaving a long iron to
the small, undulating green. A narrow creek cuts through the fairway at the
150-yard mark, making a layup difficult for the less fortunate player. Miss
the putting surface left and your chances of getting up and down are slim and
With the salt marsh to the left, the third demands more accuracy than length.
At 353 yards, take out a fairway metal or long iron to place your tee shot in
play. Just a short iron or wedge will remain to another small putting surface.
Be careful, as this green is as fast as the first.
Similar in length, the fourth bends to the right and again, put the ball in
play. Laying back off the tee will still leave just a short iron to a two-
tiered green guarded by a pair of traps. A back pin is next to impossible to
get close to. If you haven't learned your lesson so far, stay below the hole!
The only par three on the front side, the fifth requires a carry over a pond
to a fairly large putting surface. Sand on either side will pique your
interest, not to mention the trap behind the green. When the wind is up, this
hole could play havoc with your score.
Another medium-length par four, the sixth is a dogleg-left beauty. Unless the
wind is blowing, your best bet is to keep the driver in the bag and play for
accuracy, as a small pond at the bottom of the fairway is certainly in range.
Another miniscule green awaits a short- to mid-iron approach. The putting
surface is guarded front, right and left with sand, so watch out.
The seventh -- originally the closing hole at Wildwood G&CC before the Garden
State Parkway was built -- is a tough driving hole, as it plays straightaway
towards the clubhouse. Although the green is not the hardest on the course,
there are plenty of subtleties that will keep you honest. Bunkers are featured
on both sides of the back-to-front sloping surface.
A very demanding hole, the eighth is rated as the hardest hole on the course.
Just under 400 yards in length, this par four bends to the left with trees
guarding both sides of the landing area. The fairway actually becomes quite
tight the closer you get to the green. Your medium iron approach must splice
through the trees in an effort to reach the putting surface. Open in front,
the green is fairly simple, but stay away from the sand and out-of-bounds
The closing hole on the front nine is a sharp, dogleg-left par four, a shade
over 400 yards. Playing uphill from the tee, you'll need a big blast to clear
the corner, where tall trees guard the left side. The putting surface features
a bunker on either side and mounds long and right. Beautiful vegetation behind
the green gets plenty of action and with a deep flag, must be avoided at all
The longest of the three par threes, the 10th is over 200 yards and is one of
the most difficult holes on the course. Sand on either side of the long
putting surface will make for a difficult up and down.
A wonderful dogleg par four, the 11th is tight and right as it winds through
the forest of trees. The S-shaped fairway features a pair of obstacles in the
form of bunkers. Playing down the left side of the landing area is key in your
approach to the green, as this will open up the hole. Be wary of missing
right, as you'll find the fairway bunker or, worse, the trees. The putting
surface, which is angled to the right, is guarded in the front and rear. The
green slopes from back to front and to the right, so pin positioning must be
taken into consideration.
At 506 yards, the 12th is certainly not the longest par five in the region,
but it most certainly is one of the most strategic. Nestled amongst the tall
Jersey pines, this hole requires a precise tee ball down the right-center of
the landing area, avoiding the fairway bunker to the right. At one time, a
thick group of trees guarded the approach, as the hole doglegged to the left,
but that his since been thinned out, allowing the player an option of getting
home in two. Oh, you'll need to be spot on to have any shot at reaching this
green, especially with the fronting pond. The putting surface is over 40 paces
wide and slopes from back to front. Making a big number here is a definite
Doglegging sharply to the left, the 13th necessitates a drawing tee ball that
must avoid the trees and out-of-bounds left and the thick rough right. The
tight landing area is hard to negotiate, with many balls running through the
fairway. This will set up a difficult approach to a long, narrow and two-
tiered green. The slickness of the putting surface makes up for the lack of
Often the shortest of holes tend to be the most difficult. Although only 358
yards long, the 14th is a nerve-racking little gem that features a thick
section of trees from tee to green on the left. Keeping the big stick in the
bag is the proper play, as accuracy is of utmost importance. Find the fairway
and you'll have a little wedge remaining to a small, shallow and slightly
elevated green. Miss long and you've squandered a shot or two.
The elements certainly come into play on the par-five 15th. Playing out
towards the salt marshes and Jenkins Sound, as you look towards the Atlantic
Ocean, this dogleg right is the longest hole on the course. Favor the left
side off the tee, as the fairway is quite accommodating, unless you plan on
getting home in two. Your second must be quite calculating, as the landing
area narrows with the marsh left and water and OB right, choosing the correct
course of action is not an easy one. The green is slightly raised with sand
guarding the narrow entrance. The putting surface features several plateaus
and can be quite tricky, especially when the wind is up and the match is on
Your final par three, the 16th, is the shortest of the trio at just 155 yards,
but remember: this hole is exposed like no other and can be as difficult as
the last. Throw into the mix water virtually surrounding the entire green and
you have a devilish little son-of-a-gun. You can bail left, but you won't make
Sharing the same tee box with the 16th, the second-to-last hole at Wildwood is
rated as the second-hardest on the course -- and rightfully so. One of the
longer par fours, this one bends to the left, features a forced carry over a
pond and possess a blind landing area with a pond hidden from view. Other than
that, no big deal, right? Wrong. The long putting surface runs from back to
front and features deep bunkers on either side, and let's not forget the stand
of trees to the right of the green. That was my downfall!
Don't be fooled by the relatively short closing hole. At 381 yards it's not
long, but it has plenty of bite. The fairway is one of the tightest on the
course, with trees lining both sides, so take dead aim, or you'll be playing
out of the woods. The putting surface is miniscule and slick, with sand on
either side, so even with a short iron, accuracy rules the day.
OVERALL: Wildwood Golf & Country Club is sometimes overlooked in discussions
of golf at the Jersey Shore, and that's an error in judgment. Sure, Atlantic
City, Hidden Creek and Galloway are some of the more sensational layouts in
South Jersey, but Wildwood Golf & Country Club is not far behind. "The course
is extremely underrated," said Riedel. "When you first play it, it doesn't
jump out at you as a great course, but at the end of the day, your score for
the first time out reflects that it gave you a good test."
WG&CC features wonderful conditioning, some of the quickest, tiniest and
undulating greens in the area, tight tree-lined fairways with many doglegs,
great views of the Jersey shore and, by the way, one challenging layout. "It's
a shotmaker's course," said club president Dave Burke. "You have to hit the
ball straight and be somewhat precise with your irons going into the small
greens." If there ever was a statement that rang true, that's it.
At 6,714 yards, Wildwood is not very long. However, the course only has a trio
of par threes, so the length is deceiving. There are four sets of tees -- with
overall length ranging from as little as 3,765 yards -- so all levels of play
can enjoy this test. A great walking course, Wildwood G&CC can tame even the
best of players, due mainly to the ever-changing weather. "The conditions are
almost never the same," said Riedel. "The wind blows from all different
In these difficult economic times, membership at Wildwood has remained strong
with over 400 full-time and an additional 100 House or "Social" members.
What was created there almost 100 years ago is a first-class "golf" club. No
swimming pool, tennis courts or the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk, just
golf and an atmosphere that's unmatched in the region. "Wildwood's been good
to my family," said Burke, who grew up in the area. "It's been a great place
to meet friends. You see folks from all walks of life and meet some very
interesting people. It's the friendliest group of people of any organization
that I've ever been associated with."
Isn't golf, and life, supposed to be that way? I think so.