Review: Orchard Hills Golf Course

Course Name: Orchard Hills Golf Course

Designer: A.W. Tillinghast (1925, 18 Holes), Unknown (1965, Redesign, 9 holes), Robert McNeil (2011, Renovation, Holes 4-5)

Location: Paramus, New Jersey

History: Orchard Hills Golf Course was originally known as Orchard Hills Country Club, an 18-hole private course at least partially designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1925. In the 1960s, Bergen County Community College bought the property and removed 9 holes, leaving 9 remaining. Robert McNeil and his team renovated the course in 2011, removing trees and building new 4th and 5th holes. The course is now fully public and operated by Bergen County.

Conditions: 7/10, Orchard Hills is in generally good shape with thick rough, well-maintained fairways and teeboxes, and greens that roll true. The greens, however, are on the slower side.

Value: 4/10, Orchard Hills is a relatively nice 9-holer but paying $35 to walk a sub-3000 yard municipal course is not the best value.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

White                        35           2823              33.3             115

Gold                         35           2623             32.6             113

Red                          35           2327              33.5            114

Hole Descriptions: When I moved to the area, I yearned to find a 9-hole public course I could play after work. The choices in Northern New Jersey are surprisingly limited in this regard and I looked at Orchard Hills as one of the only options. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play the course for some time due to the severe difficulty of getting a teetime online and no evening teetimes. I finally played the course one morning and came away with mixed feelings. The layout is a decent one with a central ridge through which the course traverses. It is a short, tight, and well-bunkered course with beautiful bunkers and nice elevation changes. The conditions are pretty solid as well. With that being said, I didn’t feel the value was amazing and the pace of play made for a frustrating round at times.

The opening hole is sort of a warm-up and easily the weakest on the course as a 286 yard par 4. A severe dogleg right, this green is actually reachable for those who hit a high fade but for most will require a lay-up between 170 and 200 yards to stay short of large bunkers on either side of the fairway. From here, the hole plays straightaway to a circular, back-to-front sloped green.

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The dogleg right 1st provides the golfer options
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The approach at 1

The 2nd hole is another short par 4 playing straightaway at 327 yards. Treelined with an ugly net jutting down the right, this hole plays slightly uphill on the teeshot and then at least one club extra to an elevated, perched green. Going long here is dangerous as this green slopes back-to-front and is guarded by a bunker short right.

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The par 4 2nd plays longer than the scorecard

At 470 yards, the 3rd hole is the only par 5 at Orchard Hills and by far its longest hole. Still a short par 5, however, this hole is reachable for decently long golfers. Playing downhill and somewhat tight, this hole features OB right the entire way and a large bunker down the left at 270 yards. On your lay-up, the fairway narrows further with several undulations and bunkers alternating on either side. This green also slopes back-to-front and is guarded by a large bunker right.

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The striking par 5 3rd is one of Orchard Hill’s best holes

The 4th hole is the first par 3 on the course at 188 yards. One of the newer holes added by Robert McNeil, this is a challenging one-shotter with an immediate forced carry over marshland to a rather shallow green guarded by three deep bunkers short and one to the left. There are not many good misses here, as this undulating green makes up-and-down an impressive feat.

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The par 3 4th

At 279 yards, the 5th hole is another new hole and the shortest par 4 on the course. This is an interesting reachable par 4 that’s a bit deceiving off the tee. A large bunker and OB line the left beginning at 200 yards but from the tee appear very close to the green. This back-to-front sloped green is somewhat tucked on the left with bunkers lining it long, short, and left. The best angle and safest play is a teeshot out to the right which avoids the numerous hazards surrounding the green.

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The reachable par 4 5th

In terms of sheer beauty, the most memorable hole for me at Orchard Hills is the 6th, a stunning short par 4 with some stellar bunkering. This 321 yard straightaway hole runs uphill the entire way and rises like a volcano out of the flat ground. Trees and fescue run down the left side the entire way while another ugly net and OB line the right. The golfer really needs to strategize on this teeshot with penal crossbunkers down the right at 200 and 240 yards and another down the left at 260 yards. Another bunker defends just short of the most severely back-to-front sloped green on the course. A two putt here is a job well done.

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The classic par 4 6th

The 7th hole is another aesthetically pleasing par 4 playing from a severely elevated teebox at 352 yards. A mild dogleg right, the preferred ballflight here is a fade to avoid trees and a bunker down the left beginning at 180 yards. This slightly elevated green is defended by two large bunkers down the left.

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The mountains are beautiful in the backdrop of 7

Orchard Hills closes with some surprisingly difficult holes beginning with the 199 yard par 3 8th my partner that day called “the hardest par 3 in the county.” Playing level to a large, left-to-right sloped green, this hole requires a strong long iron or wood to avoid three giant bunkers short.

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The par 3 8th

The closing hole at Orchard Hills is the number 1 handicap and deserves to be at a long 401 yards. I am not a huge fan of this hole and find it unfair as a sharp dogleg right. OB lines the right side the entire way and a bunker guards the inside corner of the dogleg at 220 yards. Those short or left of the bunker really have no angle into this green as tall trees on either side about 80 yards short of the green obscure a direct path. The tree down the left in particular has no business growing in the middle of the fairway and should be removed. If you’re somehow able to manage these trees, you’ll find a large, relatively flat green defended by bunkers on either side.

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The par 4 9th requires a long, straight teeshot
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The approach at 9 features all sorts of danger

General Comments: With a very tight property as is, amenities at Orchard Hills are lacking with no range, a small practice green, and a very small clubhouse. Pace of play was very poor and this course is often packed.

Verdict: In an area relatively devoid of good public options, Orchards Hills is a solid yet short 9 hole course in good condition but often too busy and expensive for repeat visits.


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