Review: Galloway National Golf Club

Course Name: Galloway National Golf Club

Designer: Tom Fazio (1994)

Location: Galloway, New Jersey

History: Galloway National is the vision of Vernon Hill, a local multi-millionaire and founder of Commerce Bank. The official story is that Hill and his buddies were tired of slow rounds on the public Jersey Shore courses, but rumors have it Galloway was Hill’s solution for not getting into Pine Valley. With a blank check in hand, architect Tom Fazio fell in love with the waterfront property and exclaimed, “Galloway National will be one of my best courses.” soon after completing the design in 1994. Golf publications agree, and the Club holds the following accolades:

  • #127 Best Course in America – Golf Digest (2019)
  • #36 Best Modern Course in America – Golfweek (2020)
  • #6 Best Course in New Jersey – Golf Digest (2019)
  • #8 Best Course in New Jersey – Top100golfcourse.com (2018)
  • #4 Best Private Course in New Jersey – Golfweek (2020)

Conditions: 10/10, Like most Fazio courses, Galloway National is in trememdous shape with smooth Creeping Bentgrass greens and lush rough and fairways. The bunkers (of which there are many) are also fantastic.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Gold                         71           7111              75.4               146

Blue                         71           6645              72.9               143

White                      71           6049               68.2               134

Red                          71           5052               71.0                128

Hole Descriptions: Architect Tom Fazio is a rather divisive figure in the architecture community. On the surface, his success is impressive, and at one point he had the most Top 100 courses of any architect. Critics, however, argue that his courses are predictable and rely on aesthetic appeal and conditioning in lieu of actual substance. After playing 140+ courses (mainly in the Northeast where Fazio is not very active), Galloway National would finally be my first Fazio.

It’s hard to make a judgment after seeing just one course (especially one of his best), but I was extremely impressed by Galloway National. The course is in perfect condition and is extremely beautiful sitting directly on Reeds Bay with the Atlantic City skyline featured prominently on many holes. There are numerous sandy wastebunkers that give a Pine Valley feel and the pine tree-lined back 9 reminds me a lot of the Pinehurst area courses. I understand the criticism and doubt Fazio will ever create a course novel enough to crack the top 20, but his recipe is certainly good enough to produce many top 200 courses. I look forward to playing more of his courses in the near future.

The opening hole is one of my favorites of a very strong set of par fours. At 375 yards, this sleek dogleg right features an immediate forced carry of 150 yards over wasteland to a fairway that turns right at about 230 yards. A bunker lines the left at 240 yards, while those that attempt to cut the corner will have to carry a giant wastebunker that runs from 200 yards all the way to the green. This green is narrow, slopes back-to-front with two tiers, and is guarded by deep bunkers short on either side. I’ve been told this hole pays homage to another great 1st hole in New Jersey, but I haven’t had the pleasure of making that comparison firsthand…

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Options abound on the opening teeshot at Galloway National
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The approach at the 1st plays directly towards the water
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A memorable green complex caps off a fantastic starting hole

After just one dogleg, you’re already on the marshes and the 2nd hole takes full advantage as an 151 yard all-carry par 3. The carry is exhilarating but the most interesting aspect of this hole is the green, which is giant and plays as a Biarritz with a middle swoon and severely back-to-front sloped back portion. Missing this green in any direction is absolutely devastating with a bunker short, marshes right and long, and a steep embankment left that leaves a brutal up-and-down. This is just one of several world-class one-shotters at Galloway National.

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The memorable par 3 2nd
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Don’t let the spectacular views distract you from this dangerous green

If there’s a weakness of Galloway, it’s that there isn’t a great short par 4. At 345 yards, the 3rd hole is the shortest par 4 but is probably the most forgettable hole on the course. Playing straightaway and slightly uphill, this tree-lined par 4 isn’t truly reachable and a giant wastebunker down the left at 245 yards makes driver the wrong play. This large, undulating green slopes primarily back-to-front with a a bunker short.

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The par 4 3rd

The 4th hole is a stellar 437 yard dogleg left with a teeshot through a tight chute to a generous fairway. The dogleg doesn’t occur until about 240 yards here, so golfers will need some distance to avoid being blocked out on their second shot. From the teebox, it appears as if you should cut the corner over a giant wastebunker down the left, but this is actually not a smart play as the landing area is essentially nothing past this bunker. This approach plays over a valley of fairway to a large, reverse redan green complex guarded by a bunker right.

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The challenging par 4 4th
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The approach at 4 from behind the giant wastebunker

Apparently Fazio intended to make the 5th hole a short par 4 but wasn’t able to for environmental reasons. Instead, the 5th is another par 3 that plays over marshland the entire way. While not as special as the 2nd, the views are again spectacular and appreciated here. Bunkers guard left and short of a back-to-front sloped green with a swale on the left.

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The beautiful par 3 5th
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A closer look at the 5th green

At 531 yards, par 5 6th is the longest hole at Galloway National. This long, straightaway three-shotter is seemingly inspired by Pine Valley with a sandy wastebunker immediately in front of the teebox running 315 yards down the left. Another long crossbunker lines the left side of the lay-up area while a smaller one lines just short right of a large elevated green. If one can keep it straight, this becomes one of the easier holes on the course.

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The sandy par 5 6th

The par 4 7th hole is another that evokes feelings of Pine Valley at a strong 393 yards. With an immediate 170 yard forced carry over fescue, this hole features a tight fairway lined by thick forest down the right and a pond with fescue down the left. A tall tree down the left at about 275 yards forces the golfer to the right, where they’ll have to contend with a crossbunker at 275 yards. This approach is absolutely stunning to an elevated green guarded by a moat of jagged bunker short.

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The excellent par 4 7th
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I absolutely love the bunkering surrounding the 7th green

At 179 yards, the 8th hole is a classic par 3 over water to a wide green guarded by a bunker long right. This hole wouldn’t normally stand out on level terrain but Fazio did an excellent job and gave the green redan-like characteristics that make it memorable.

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The par 3 8th

The closing hole on the front 9 is my favorite par 5 on the course at a strong 515 yards. Like the 6th, this teeshot is semi-blind over a giant sandy wasteland. There’s more room to the right than it appears, but you must carry at least 200 yards to clear the bunker on this side. From the fairway, this hole bends slightly right with a patch of rough separating another portion of fairway for the final 160 yards. This slightly elevated green is reachable in theory but a small tree down the right forces the golfer to play a fade if he/she wants to reach from the right side of the fairway. Deep bunkers surround this green that slopes generously back left-to-front right.

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The semi-blind teeshot at 9
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The 2nd shot at 9 with the modern clubhouse in the background

Galloway National has a reputation as a very difficult course, but you don’t really feel it on the front 9. The back 9, however, is a real challenge, playing over 400 yards longer with tighter fairways and more water hazards. The 421 yard 10th is indeed a challenging hole as a tight, straightaway par 4 with an immediate 130 yard forced carry over water. Large bunkers guard the right at 240 yards and 330 yards with another large bunker short left of the green. The most interesting aspect of this hole is the green, which plays as a dual redan with most balls funneling towards the center.

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The long par 4 10th

At 508 yards, the 11th hole is the shortest par 5 at Galloway National and one that gives the golfer plenty of options. The teeshot, however, is rather straightforward to a straightaway fairway lined by thick forests on both sides and a long waste bunker down the left for the first 220 yards. At 310 yards, the fairway narrows to almost nothing with giant bunkers on both sides. On the second shot, the golfer has the option of going for the shallow green, which juts out over water on the left or hitting it right to a severely right-to-left sloping fairway with an interesting knob of rough in the middle. This back-to-front sloped green is surrounded by trouble with water and a false front short and bunkers surrounding the other three sides.

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The par 5 11th
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Do you go for glory on 11 or play it safely down the right?

The 12th hole is by far the shortest par 4 on the back 9 at 363 yards, but doesn’t necessarily play easy with a tight fairway and sharp dogleg left at 250 yards. Longer hitters who can hook the ball can theoretically cut the corner, but trees down the left the entire way and a bunker at the inside corner of the dogleg make this a risky endeavor. This approach plays slightly uphill to a redan green guarded by bunkers short and left.

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The dogleg left 12th
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The approach at 12

At 453 yards, the 13th hole is the longest par 4 on the course and a deserving number 1 handicap. This uphill, straightaway hole is intimidating off the tee with a chute of thick forests to traverse and a tight fairway lined by a giant and beautiful bunker right. This approach plays at least one club extra to a large, severely back-to-front sloped green guarded by bunkers on either side. A par here gains a shot on the field.

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The beastly par 4 13th

The 14th hole is the first of two excellent long par threes on the back at 203 yards. This gorgeous hole plays slightly downhill over a giant wastebunker that runs through the right side of the green. The green here is very large and slopes hard left-to-right with multiple plateaus.

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The par 3 14th

The 15th hole is one of my favorite holes at Galloway and marks the beginning of a fantastic final stretch. At 409 yards, this strong par 4 features an immediate 135 yard carry over water and fescue to a tight tree-lined fairway. This hole is most notable for its Hell’s half acre-inspired bunker at 285 yards that occludes much of the fairway. From here, the hole turns slightly left to a redan green lined by a deep left bunker.

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The strong par 4 15th
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Fazio’s bunkering at 15 is absolute golf porn

The par fives at Galloway National are generally scoreable, but the 525 yard 16th hole is the most difficult of the group. This hole has been described as gimmicky by many due to its fairway shaped like New Jersey, but thankfully New Jersey has a somewhat indistinct shape and you wouldn’t necessarily know unless told. The teeshot here is quite intimidating with a long forced carry over a wastebunker, water down the left starting at 215 yards, and thick forest lining the right the entire way. This lay-up is fairly challenging as well as the fairway snakes left with trees jutting into the right and a snake-like bunker down the left. After what seems like a marathon, an undulating, elevated green awaits guarded by deep bunkers short and left.

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If the water hazard is “Pennsylvania” and the right trees are the “Atlantic Ocean,” then my poor drive landed somewhere near Atlantic City

The 17th hole is somewhat of a signature hole for Galloway National and is probably the most visually appealing hole on a course full of beauty. At 231 yards, this is a beast of a par 3 that plays slightly easier due to the fact that it plays downhill with ample bailout room short. This teeshot must traverse numerous wastebunkers to reach a large back-to-front sloped green. The Atlantic City skyline is seen prominently through a window of trees behind this green.

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The signature par 3 17th

With Atlantic City and the Bay at your back, the closing hole is fittingly epic as a 428 dogleg right. This teeshot demands an immediate 160 yard carry over marshland to reach a wide fairway that slides hard right at 250 yards. Giant bunkers line both sides of the fairway for much of the landing zone and the approach must also carry a giant wastebunker. This large, undulating green is partially hidden behind the wastebunker and is lined by another bunker right.

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The closing teeshot
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The approach at 18

General Comments: Galloway’s practice facilities are extremely strong with a giant grass range and short game area near the 1st tee. The clubhouse is large and spacious, but is a bit too modern for my liking. There were only a few groups on the course the day I played and I got the impression the course is never too busy. Like nearby Seaview, Galloway has a real problem with green-headed flies so make sure to wear longer clothes.

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Galloway’s gorgeous driving range

Verdict: Beautiful, difficult, and in immaculate condition, the underrated Galloway National is an example of Tom Fazio at his absolute best. Fazio marries sandy wastebunkers, tall pines, and the Atlantic City skyline to create numerous fantastic holes and the look and feel of places like Pine Valley and Pinehurst. This is the best course in the loaded Atlantic City area and one of the best in the golf-rich state of New Jersey.


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