Course Name: Skyway Golf Course at Lincoln Park West
Designer: Jeff Grossman/Roy Case (2015)
Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
History: In an effort to create something meaningful from a toxic city landfill, Hudson County officials enlisted architects Jeff Grossman and Roy Case and funded $20 million to build a 9-hole public golf course. The resultant Skyway Golf Course opened in 2015 to rave reviews and is currently the only public golf option in Hudson County. Kevin Na holds the course record with a sterling 32.
Conditions: 8/10, Skyway uses its small property to its advantage by keeping the course in terrific shape. These are some of the fastest, firmest greens I’ve ever seen on a public course and the teeboxes and fairways are also in strong shape.
Value: 6/10, Considering the course’s proximity to New York, Skyway provides fairly strong value at $37 to walk 9 holes on weekdays and $69 to walk 18 on weekends. Those living in Hudson Country receive huge discounts, making the deal even sweeter.
Tee Par Yardage Rating Slope
Black 36 3247 35.7 142
Gold 36 3020 34.7 135
White 36 2839 34.1 118
Green 36 2643 34.1 112
Blue 36 2468 34.9 122
Hole Descriptions: Building golf courses on old landfills is definitely in vogue, especially around New York City, where space is limited and demand for good golf is always high. Within 15 miles of Skyway, there are three other landfill courses (Ferry Point, Bayonne, and Liberty National) that have opened to great acclaim over the last few decades. What makes Skyway unique amongst the courses listed above is that it’s only 9 holes, but also that it’s accessible and affordable to the public. This alone is commendable and I sincerely hope this model succeeds and serves as a precedent for other cities looking to promote urban golfing.
While the conditioning is generally excellent and the cost affordable, I do think Skyway runs into problems architecturally due to its limited amount of space. I don’t know for certain, but I imagine the layout is only about 40, maybe 50 acres, which is an awfully small property, even for 9 holes. When architects are given such land, there are several ways to ameliorate the issue, including incorporating doglegs, reducing par, shortening green-to-teebox walks, or simply making the course shorter. Old school designers Walter Travis and Donald Ross did this flawlessly at places like Cape Arundel and Wannamoisett, but Grossman and Case did none of the above and conserved space by creating holes that are tight and blind. This is problematic and the resultant par 36 feels very cramped and unnecessarily difficult at a ridiculous slope of 142 from the 3247 yard Black Tees.
The opening hole is a bit of a warm-up hole as the shortest par 4 on the course at just 346 yards. Playing as a slight dogleg left, this hole features a straightaway teeshot to a wide fairway lined by mounds of fescue on either side. A bunkerless green is hidden behind the left mound until you’re about 100 yards out. The greens at Skyway offer tremendous variety and memorability and the 1st is no different, running back-to-front with tight slopes surrounding the front and a drop-off on the left.
Skyway has an interesting layout with an equal number of par threes, fours, and fives and the par threes are by far the strongest collection. The par 3 2nd is the longest one-shotter at a stout 200 yards uphill. This is arguably the signature hole at Skyway with the Pulaski Skyway beautifully framing this teeshot. Three bunkers guard down the right side but this green is more notable for its tightly mown surroundings and false front. A par here is an excellent score.
It’s unbelievable that Grossman and Case fit three par fives on such a small property, and truthfully they shouldn’t have because there simply wasn’t enough space. The par 5 3rd is a great example of this. Although the shortest three-shotter at 517 yards, this is the number 1 handicap hole due its tight nature. The teeshot here is semi-blind and tight, with mounds of fescue on either side and a bunker on the right at 260 yards. This lay-up area is extremely narrow and slopes hard left-to-right towards a waste area. For those hoping to reach the green in two, this elevated green juts out behind the waste area with two bunkers to the left. A ridge running down the middle of the green brings three-putt into play from the wrong side.
At just 130 yards, the 4th is the shortest hole at Skyway and offers a brief reprieve from some tough holes. This par 3 demands precision with a shallow, left-to-right sloping green guarded by bunkers left, long, and short. There’s an additional waste bunker and fescue short, but these are more visual hazards than actual ones.
The par 4 5th hole is an excellent and very difficult hole at a strong 459 yards. The wind was in my face off the water here, so it was basically a three-shot hole the day I played. This fairway is the most generous on the course so feel free to grip it and rip it with the only danger being bunkers on both sides at 285 yards. From here, the fairway turns uphill to the right and constricts with fescue on both sides. This narrow green is the largest on the course and slopes back-to-front.
As the longest hole at 532 yards, the 6th is another exceedingly tight par 5 that I am not a fan of. This hole occupies the edge of the property and a large net guards a busy road down the left. I understand the purpose of the net, but it’s gawdy and makes the course feel extremely manufactured. The right side of the hole is filled with danger including mounds of thick fescue and a deep bunker at 230 yards. This lay-up remains quite tight with a narrow opening to a small, front-to-back sloped green guarded by water long and bunkers left and short.
The 7th hole is the final par 4 at Skyway at 365 yards. This is an interesting hole with an immediate 160 yard forced carry over water and another eyesore of a net running down the entire left side. The landing area here is quite generous, but you have no visual from the teebox, rendering the drive more intimidating than it should be. At about 290 yards, the fairway narrows to basically nothing with a small pond on the left. This elevated, kidney-shaped green is well-protected with water and bunkers short left and another bunker long.
At 523 yards, the demanding 8th hole is the final par 5 and probably the most difficult hole on the course. This hole is also probably my least favorite, as I found it contrived and pure, unadulterated target golf. The teeshot here is extremely intimidating, requiring a massive 230 yard carry into the wind over marshland just to reach the fairway. The first slab of fairway is only about 20 yards wide and 80 yards long so it plays as a literal target. At about 300 yards, there’s another pond you must carry on your second shot to another slab of fairway that bends to the right. This green is very narrow with a back-to-front slope and two tiers.
Skyway’s closing hole is a memorable, medium-length 175 yard par 3 that’s usually one of the windiest on the course playing directly on the Hackensack River with the Pulaski Skyway in the background. A long, skinny bunker guards the left side of a very interesting green complex with a swale on the left and two elevated portions to the right and long.
General Comments: Given space constraints, there was only room for a small makeshift clubhouse and no driving range. There is, however, a small practice green that is consistent with how the course plays. I had to wait on a few shots but overall pace of play was solid and the course was rather empty when I played on a weekday afternoon.
Verdict: The urban Skyway Golf Course offers excellent conditioning, strong value, and beautiful views in a very unique setting just outside New York City. While the architects were somewhat hindered by a lack of space, this is still a memorable 9-hole course that serves as a nice alternative to Ferry Point at a fraction of the price.