Hawk Pointe worth playing before it's private

By Darryl Berger, Contributor

WASHINGTON, N.J. -- Hawk Pointe Golf Club is a course that sprawls across the countryside on a tract of land in rural Warren County, N.J. But if you're interested in playing one of the top public access venues in that part of the Garden State, you'd better hurry; the intention is to take the course private when membership reaches adequate levels. Hawk Pointe opened in 2000 and the opportunity for non-members to play appears limited.

"The course was built with the idea that someday it would go private," said Director of Golf Bob Ross. "We're at about 150 members now and we'd like to get to about 325 before we make the switch (to private). We're building a pool and tennis courts and plan to expand the clubhouse. All those projects move us closer to going private."

So unless you've got a membership, or know someone who does, you've got to act quick. Hawk Pointe is one of those courses worth going out of your way to play. "It's on a great piece of land," explains architect Kelly Blake Moran, "I tried to give golfers different ways to play the same hole and you can be bold or conservative depending on your ability or desire to gamble."

Hawk Pointe constantly presents the golfer with decisions about trying to clear a bunker or how much of a forced carry can be challenged. "It's definitely a course you have to think your way around," said Randy Wenhold of Trexlerstown, Pa., who was playing his first round at Hawk Pointe. "I like courses that force you to consider more than one option and that's certainly the case here."

Another distinctive feature of Hawk Pointe is the size and architecture of the greens. They are big and many have shelves that leave you with brutal uphill or downhill putts. "I had never done greens that were quite that dramatic," according to Moran. "They demand an approach shot to a specific part of the green or else you can be in for a long day on those greens." Good putters will see their share of three-putts if their iron play is off.

A controversial element of Hawk Pointe's design is on the home hole. The long par 4 plays around a pond on the right with a large fairway that has a high tree right smack dab in the middle. It's a feature you may love or hate depending on if your drive ends up behind it. The course designer knows it has tongues wagging at the 19th hole. "It probably would still be a good hole without it, but it's such an impressive tree, it would have been ashamed to cut it down. I guess if enough people complain, it's the kind of thing you can change in the future." So far no one has fired up the chain saw.

Hawk Pointe has already been the site of qualifiers for the U.S. Open and the New Jersey State Open and State Amateur. "We can make this a demanding course for the best golfers," says Ross. "But depending on your tee selection, the course is very playable for less accomplished players as well."

Course operators are also planning the environmentally friendly step of recycling wastewater. A waste water treatment plant, built for the adjoining age restricted housing development, will allow Hawk Pointe to use recycled water to keep the course green.

The housing, which is a component of the development, is very unobtrusive. "It almost didn't factor into the design at all," said Moran. "Housing is a reality of almost all new course construction, but this is about a best case scenario from an architect's standpoint because I didn't have to build the course in and around houses."

Ultimately the true test of any course is its fairness. "The course is very fair," says Edwin Echevarria of Neshanic Station, N.J. "The course rewards good shots and it can be brutal if you're not hitting the ball well."

The verdict

Hawk Pointe Golf Club is an interesting and challenging play. The greens might be a bit much for some, but others will find their wild undulations wildly entertaining. It's a course worth going out of your way to play before it goes private. Although other courses have spent years trying to reach membership goals to do the same thing, time is probably running short for the public to get a shot at Hawk Pointe.

Places to eat

The Roaring Rock Restaurant (roaringrockrest.com) just outside of nearby Washington is a full-blown fine dining experience on a historic estate. The Lodge at Mountain Lake (thelodgenj.com) in Belvidere is more casual and in a lovely setting right on the lake.

Places to stay

The Mansfield Motel (908-689-5335) and the Broadway Motel (908-689-3366) are both close by in Washington and offer economy accommodations. The region around the course in Warren County is dotted by charming bed and breakfast inns. The Inn at Millrace Pond (innatmillracepond.com) in Hope, The Everitt House (everitthouse.com) in Hackettstown and the Inn at Panther Valley (panthervalleyinn.com) in Allamuchy are among the accommodations offering a bed and breakfast experience.

Off the course

Warren County's rolling hills are worth exploring via the winding country roads that connect quaint small towns and villages. Belvidere, Hope, Oxford and Hackettstown are all examples of peaceful communities with antique shops and local historical sites or museums. Colonial and Victorian architecture is abundant in those small hamlets.

Fast fact

Hawk Pointe Director of Golf Bob Ross is the former head pro at one of New Jersey's and the country's great golf courses: Baltusrol Country Club in Springfield, site of seven U.S. Opens and venue for the 2005 PGA Championship.

Darryl Berger, Contributor


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