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Course of history: at the Architects Club, a lesson in design awaits around every bend.

Over the past decade and a half, a curious trend has reared its head in the world of golf course design. Classic holes from the storied links of Scotland and Ireland and fabled venues across the United States have been painstakingly reproduced as part of "replica" courses. You can now tee off at a version of St. Andrews' Road Hole at Royal Links in Las Vegas, for example, or at a copy of Augusta National's devilish 12th at the Tour 18 in suburban Houston. For purists, experiences like these can feel more than a bit contrived.


It's against this backdrop that the Architects Golf Club, a little-known course in the rolling hills of western New Jersey, positively shines. A thoughtful tribute to the game's Golden Era designers rather than a crass imitation of their work, the course offers a walking tour through the history of golf architecture. Opened in 2001, it was created by Stephen Kay, a contemporary architect schooled in classic styles, and Ron Whitten, the architectural editor at Golf Digest.

Each hole is laid out in the style of a different architect, in chronological order from 1885 to 1955. The well-groomed, public course begins with a lay-of-the-land par 5 inspired by Old Tom Morris, who had an early hand in such Scottish gems as Carnoustie, Muirfield and the Old Course at St. Andrews. An original rock wall runs along the left side of the downhill 509-yard hole. The green sits on a crest that offers panoramic views of the surrounding valley.

For a CEO who belongs to a classic golf club designed by the likes of A.W. Tillinghast, Seth Raynor or Donald Ross (all of whom are represented here), it might seem unnecessary to pay a visit to the Architects Club. Why bother to play a tribute course when you have access to the real thing?

But playing the Architects Club will only enhance your appreciation of the vintage features of your own course. Take the 355-yard 5th hole, in the style of Walter Travis. Dotted with strategically placed fairway bunkers and "chocolate drop" mounds, the hole forces you to consider teeing off with a long iron or fairway wood to avoid the trouble. The undulating green falls off in the back, encouraging an approach shot that rolls rather than carries to a rear flag. The tableau calls to mind such Travis works as Garden City Golf Club on Long Island and Westchester Country Club, annual site of the PGA Tour's Buick Classic.

There are many other highlights as well, including the William Flynn hole at No. 11, a 544-yard par 5 featuring a cluster of bunkers at the corner of a dogleg, their fringes lined with wispy fescue. Big hitters can take an aggressive line, setting up a reachable second shot to a docile green. It evokes images of Flynn's masterwork, Shinnecock Hills, host of last month's U.S. Open. The only hole at Architects that could be considered a knockoff is No. 13, a near carbon copy of Alister MacKenzie's famed par-5 13th at Augusta, complete with a creek running diagonally in front of an elevated green. For one hole, imagining yourself walking in the footsteps of history is a novelty. For 18 holes, it would be a bore.

The Architects Golf Club

Lopatcong, N.J.
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Title Annotation:Golf; Architects Golf Club
Author:Rogers, Paul
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Geographic Code:1U2NJ
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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