It’s the Ocean County golf course that could.
The Atlantis County Golf Course in Little Egg Harbor Township has seen its share of challenges.
“From a fire in our maintenance building to the drought’s effect on the greens to past problems with how the restaurant there was operated, even with all this, Atlantis is a county-run golf course that still continues to exceed expectations,” said Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation.
“Our golf courses are a great draw for residents and visitors,” said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “They are a great recreational activity that attracts all ages. Our courses are well-maintained and continue to grow in popularity.”
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders recently was updated on the course by Ocean County Parks and Recreation Director Michael Mangum.
After a fire that severely damaged the course’s maintenance building which is adjacent to the pro shop in November 2015, the county rebuilt the structure adding all new electric, heating, insulation, garage doors, phone lines and a host of other repairs. In addition, a fire wall was constructed to protect the golf cart storage area and electrical service.
“The cost to replace the equipment lost in the fire was almost $1.5 million which was covered by insurance,” Bartlett said.
In addition, upgrades have been made to the pro-shop by the Ocean County Department of Buildings and Grounds staff. The work includes a new snack bar, and the installation of new cabinetry, doors, fixtures and flooring.
“The Atlantis represents a working partnership between county departments in order to bring our residents and visitors the best recreational opportunities,” Vicari said.
Also providing a helping hand was the Ocean County Road Department by paving the parking lots and entrance road.
Ocean County Golf Course at Atlantis, located on Country Club Boulevard, Little Egg Harbor Township is one of two golf courses operated by the County. It is an exceptional par-72 championship course designed by George Fazio. It is well maintained and has many challenging holes, such as the scenic but tricky par-three sixth hole, where the golfer must negotiate a pond in the middle of the fairway in order to reach the green.
“We have been seeing our numbers of play increase substantially based on a three-year average,” Bartlett said.
Attendance at the County’s two courses also had been negatively affected by the recession and Superstorm Sandy and there was a growing concern numbers at Atlantis would fall because of the fire and drought effects.
Vicari noted the opening of Cuisine on the Green at the Atlantis County Golf Course has also helped to draw golfers to the course. It also has provided residents of southern Ocean County with another quality restaurant but this one also is a teaching experience.
“The presence of a quality eating establishment has helped increase group play at the course which is up from past years,” he said.
Seventeen new tournaments have been scheduled at the course and three new leagues are using Atlantis.
Cuisine on the Green also serves as the culinary program for the Ocean County Vocational Technical School.
“This has been a beneficial partnership,” said Vicari, who serves as liaison to the county’s vo-tech school district. “This is good for tourism and it’s good for the quality of life offered here in Ocean County. And, it offers real life experience to our students. Truly a win, win partnership.”
In addition, the Master Gardeners grow produce and herbs in a garden at the course which are used in the kitchen of Cuisine on the Green.
Mangum noted that the drought took its toll on the greens especially during the summer of 2016.
“Long periods of hot dry weather damaged almost all the greens,” he said. “The course staff worked hard to bring the greens back by September. Moving ahead we are implementing more frequent aeration and changes to irrigation zones.”
“Overall rounds of play were up at the course by almost 3.5 percent from the three-year average,” he said.
Bartlett said the Parks and Recreation department staff is always reviewing ways to create more interest in the county’s golf courses.
Another improvement included implementing Golf Now Tee Time Reservations, a global company that allows residents to reserve a tee time whether it is online, or on their phone, has made making reservations easier.
“With this reservation system, we are now much more accessible for golfers,” Bartlett said.
In addition, some changes to the course at Atlantis are helping to meet the golfers’ various levels of play.
“Forward tees have created a nicer round of golf for our players,” Bartlett said. “The changes are helping golfers play to their ability while also speeding up play. It’s better for everybody.”
“Our parks department staff does an outstanding job in maintaining the greens, the courses and also implementing creative ways to attract the public to our courses,” Bartlett said. “Our golf courses are true assets to the County.”
Ocean County also operates the Ocean County Golf Course at Forge Pond, located in the Northeastern region of Ocean County. It is a well-manicured par-60 executive course tucked into a 300-acre conservation area. The fairways offer a challenge to even the most experienced golfer, yet allow the novice to perfect their game. Here too, rates are very reasonable, especially for resident senior citizens.
More information on the Ocean County operated golf courses and parks can be accessed by visiting http://www.co.ocean.nj.us/OCParks.