On the morning of the second day of the Sunday Morning Group’s fourth annual autumn golf trip to Atlantic City, in 2003, Hacker (real name) gave everyone printed driving directions to Blue Heron Pines East, the course we were scheduled to play that day, but then drove himself and Harry, his navigator, to a course called Harbor Pines, which we weren’t playing until the next day and which was twenty-five minutes from Blue Heron. We had to shuffle the tee times while we waited for them to realize they’d screwed up. Then, after the round, we held a trial in the clubhouse—there were several lawyers on the trip—and sentenced the two of them to buy everybody’s lunch. Harry never fully understood why he was being forced to pay for so many bacon cheeseburgers, but everyone else, including Hacker, thought the whole thing was pretty funny.
Blue Heron Pines East, which was designed by Steve Smyers, was one of our favorite golf courses, but in 2007 a real-estate developer bought it, and announced a plan to build an enormous condominium complex right on top of most of the holes. A year later, the global economic implosion helped to kill the condominium project, but the golf course remained closed and was allowed to revert to New Jersey. Earlier this month, during this year’s S.M.G. trip, Hacker and I drove over to have a look at the ruins, after playing a round at what used to be called Blue Heron Pines West. (It was designed by our close personal friend Stephen Kay and is still doing business, as Ron Jaworski’s Blue Heron Pines). Here’s what used to be the sign at the entrance of the East course:
And here’s the ramp leading down into what used to be the cart barn:
And here, through the opening in the trees, is what was once the fairway of the first hole, a really nice short, uphill par 4. The green was on the rise in front of that bank of trees in the distance:
And here’s the patio outside the clubhouse. We held the trial on the other side of those double doors, in what was then the grillroom:
And here’s another view of the clubhouse, and of what used to be the entrance of the golf shop:
We learned during this year’s trip that the property has a new owner, who just received approval for a new condominium plan. That means, I guess, that people aren’t suddenly going to come to their senses and give us back our golf course. We like the surviving course a lot, but it would be nice to have both. And if the condominiums really do get built we won’t even be able to explore the remains.
A few years ago, for The New Yorker, I wrote about another ghost course, on an island in the Outer Hebrides, in northwestern Scotland. You can read about that lost golf course here.