Golf resort

A golf resort in the New York area? Crystal Springs is a rare commodity

Ballyowen’s design offers a taste of Ireland in New Jersey.

courtesy crystal springs

You come to New York for Broadway, the Empire State Building, the Museum of Modern Art and the soup dumplings in Chinatown. If you come for the golf, are you…trying to secure valuable tee time at Bethpage Black? Scan your phone contacts for Winged Foot members?

The city that never sleeps can be an exhausting place for public golfers, and that from someone who has called it home for more than a decade. Traffic is a bear, classes are crowded. Other parts of the country offer many high-end resort stays. To the west, Bandon Dunes and Pebble Beach; Pinehurst and Sea Pines in the southeast; Streamsong in Florida, etc. Less, no worries in the Northeast and especially in the New York area — because Crystal Springs Resort in northern New Jersey, just 50 miles from MoMA and set among the beautiful Kittatinny Mountains, is overlooked. It shouldn’t.

I recently visited my wife, my teenage son and my father, mother and sister-in-law. No, it wasn’t a creative piece of criminal sentencing by a judge; we get along well. But when we tried to think of a driving destination where we’d all have enough to make us happy, we were baffled – until a friend suggested Crystal Springs (where more than 90% of customers are drive-in). Cue slapping his own forehead: of course! I had been to this place a decade earlier with my wife, Lorraine, and son Ike and had a delightful stay, but somehow it fell off my radar.

A water obstacle that you won’t be afraid to find.

courtesy crystal springs

We arrived in the morning – my family and in-laws, Herb and Adrienne, from the Hudson Valley, my sister-in-law Denise from the hipster enclave of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, all in about 90 minutes. Very easy. The women are crafty, so their first stop was the Paint-and-Plant activity, each decorating a planter, one of the many activities at the resort, run by young, energetic and friendly staff, to keep people busy as much that they wish. be . (Later, the sisters will face off in archery, and in the interest of family harmony, I’ll avoid noting the winner.) Herb treated himself to a bike ride and, more later, a hike along a stretch of the Appalachian Trail.

Along the same lines, Ike and I headed to the resort’s 9-hole Cascades course, without our golf clubs. Instead, we signed a pair of soccer balls and started a game of FootGolf, the soccer/golf hybrid. Apologies for the parental bragging, but years ago Ike was New York State’s first U-10 FootGolf champion, beating a stacked field of four. However, after quitting football a while ago, kicking a ball had also fallen off his radar.

Kick and chase, kick and chase.

Evan Rothman

Our game was messier than Messi’s, but we had a blast. Kick and chase, kick and chase – what a happy break from stressing over 4 feet with a putter! One of the measures of staying at a resort, in my opinion, is how far back in time it goes in your life, and Crystal Springs succeeds on that front, in many ways. Later, Ike would cool off in the Biosphere’s tropical pool, taking several runs down his serpentine two-story waterslide, all traces of a surly teenager replaced by a mile-wide smile, chatting down the stairs until at the top with small children and overgrown. similar. Yes, we all ate ice cream from the Biosphere Café when he was done, and it was delicious.

This proved to be a theme throughout our three-day visit: the food and beverage offerings are exceptional at Crystal Springs. It starts at the end of things, with gourmet restaurant Latour consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in the state, and perhaps the finest. I’m not one to photograph my meals, but I couldn’t resist taking a photo of every dish. It’s food like art, and best of all, everything tasted as outrageously good as it looked.

The name “Latour” does not come from nowhere. According wine spectatorCrystal Springs has long boasted of North America – not New Jersey, North America – the best wine collection, currently 75,000 bottles strong (reduced from over 125,000 at one point) and yet still longer in quality than quantity. Surely there are few better places to do the blowout, the bucket list, the priceless meal; if you’re an oenophile, add the wine pairing, guided by sommelier Gianni Chiodi Sr. of Palermo, Italy, to the chef’s tasting menu for a not ultra live. (And also take one of the daily self-guided tours of the wine cellar.)

The cavernous wine cellar.

courtesy crystal springs

Then there was the buffet for the cops – stay with me here. The night we arrived coincided with the station’s fifth annual Law Enforcement Open, a day-long fundraising event that brings together police officers from the tri-state area for friendly competition as a thank you to the owners of the station to men and women of blue. Kelsey Grammar, famous for “Cheers” and “Frasier”, lent his stardom, melodious voice and range of local craft beers to the event. The stars of the show, however, were the pipers playing “Amazing Grace” and “Balmoral” as the top four two-man teams returned to the 18th green after the aforementioned after-golf buffet at Ireland- in Jersey. Of course Ballyowen – that, and the vicious but good-natured heckling the teams, about to head into the playoffs, endured from their battered comrades. (This event is for law enforcement only, but those who want to play alongside them can take part in an, as yet unnamed, inaugural event on October 12.)

While it was a drive out for the day, Crystal Springs—the largest golf, spa, and culinary resort in the northeast (and the largest sun resort west of the Mississippi)—is it’s all about offsite meetings, with 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and banquet space and a large team of concierge, catering, AV and conference service veterans to beat the pack. (They can also find you a group.) With two separate hotels (one mountain, one valley) with all kinds of rooms and suites; two day spas (including Reflections, where a successful massage my previously stressed wife happily informed me, again allowing her head to spin 180 degrees); three clubhouse and pool complexes (including the Jersey party vibe at the Vista 180 infinity pool); 10 restaurants; a fitness club; and nature center, there really isn’t any type of gathering you couldn’t pull off here.

Me, I needed more team bonding with my 14 year old son, and that eventually meant golfing with golf clubs. Of the resort’s six championship courses, Ballyowen sits at the top (as it does on several publicly available state rankings), followed by Wild Turkey. Both were designed by Roger Rulewich, partner of Robert Trent Jones Sr., the first in 1998, the second three years later.

Ballyowen predated Instagram, but today it’s truly an Instagram course, with countless glorious photo opportunities. Oh, the heather in the sun. That he looks more like a link than he plays isn’t surprising; it’s not firm, fast ground, and the aerial game you’re used to at home is in effect. The “Links style” is fine with me, as long as the moor aspects work, and they do. Likewise, you will be driving a cart, not on foot, as there are a few routes between the holes. The fashionable configuration of earthy minimalism, it is not.

Ballyowen predated Instagram, but today it really is an Instagram course.

What Ballyowen is is muscular, beautiful, often heroic, beautifully presented and maintained golf. Pure golf too, with no house in sight. Based on my sample one, the back nine is a bit more marked and varied in terms of shot demands. In sum, Ballyowen is a powerful and scenic test that is enjoyable no matter how you perform on this test.

The Wild Turkey course is a bit of a turducken, that famous turkey/duck/chicken mashup. The treeless holes in his basin area, No’s. 3 and 12-17, evoke Ballyowen and would settle comfortably there. (It’s also not walkable.) Elsewhere, the design pays homage to the resort’s first eponymous course (i.e. Crystal Springs), with its many significant elevation changes.

There’s plenty of eye candy here too, the most famous and photogenic being the gorge-spanning par-3 7th hole (just beating the wild one-shot at #10), but the neatest and most elegant hole on the course might be the 6th, a beautiful almost but not quite passable par-4 with an overhanging tree that makes the left pins inaccessible to drives too far left. Like hybrid clubs, this hybrid course has proven to be very effective at its job, in this case providing a winning mix of challenge, playability and beauty.

The 7th all-carry at Wild Turkey.

courtesy crystal springs

However, Ike’s favorite course was tackled hours later – after sunset, in this case. Crystal Springs features one of the nation’s first (and best laid out) all-grass 18-hole courses, something that is now almost strictly in the best seaside resorts. It’s great fun during the day, no doubt… but at night, playing “Glow Golf”, with balls and flags lit up? Now we have a total hoot because what isn’t lit is the greens. It’s like the golf version of pinning the donkey’s tail.

On our last night, the whole family was there after the sun went down, tidying up, giggling as the balls strayed without warning, cheering as we miraculously deflected to the hole and, once, even for a hole-in-one. (It’s Ike, of course.) Do you remember that story of a successful vacation that takes you back in time? A carefree teenager surrounded by parents, aunts and grandparents, all Oh and ahhh on a dumb play – Crystal Springs had worked its magic. He will no longer be forgotten.

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A former editor of GOLF Review, Rothman is now a remote freelancer. Her primary role centers around custom publishing, which involves writing, editing and gaining client approval on travel advertising sections. Since 2016, he has also written, under a pseudonym, the popular monthly column “Rules Guy”, and often writes the recurring page “How It Works”. Rothman’s freelance work for GOLF and runs the gamut from equipment, instruction, travel and feature writing to editing major championship previews and service packages.