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Top 10 New Courses You Can Play
By Joe Passov
January 2007


Course Critic 

Hawk Pointe Golf Club, Washington, N.J.
October 2002

The 1st (right) and 8th holes at Hawk Pointe.
Photo: Ron Whitten

By Ron Whitten
GolfDigest.com exclusive

Texas-born and Texas-bred, golf architect Kelly Blake Moran (whose graduate degree in landscape architecture, I should note, is from Texas A&M) spent over a decade designing courses for and with Robert von Hagge before establishing his own practice in eastern Pennsylvania. But if his two-year-old design at Hawk Pointe Golf Club in Washington, N.J. is any indication, Moran's philosophy and style are more akin to Seth Raynor and Pete Dye than to his old partner von Hagge. 

Hawk Pointe is all about lines and angles. The fairways, bunkers and greens all have geometric shapes to them. These aren't exaggerated shapes attributable to a computer-generated design run amuck, but rather oblong shapes with occasional square edges that seem to mesh with the striped mowing patterns created by present-day lightweight equipment. (Every tee box at Hawk Pointe is square or rectangular, but that's a feature of many courses have these days.)

Lines and angles also describe directions of play at Hawk Pointe. The wide fairways give us lots of room to hit, but like the best designs of Raynor and Dye, Hawk Pointe makes us challenge hazards or play safe. Moran has positioned many fairway bunkers on diagonals, so that they pose carry options. Carry as much of the long, flat fairway bunker as you dare on the 411-yard fifth and 397-yard eighth. (It's not nearly as strenuous a carry as it looks on the latter hole.) The more you carry, the easier the second shot.

Fire over a pair of squarish cross bunkers on the 462-yard second, 334-yard sixth and 585-yard 15th. Moran has thoughtfully provided slopes of bent-grass fairway beyond each of those clusters of bunkers to reward successful gambles. (Too often, architects stick deep rough beyond carry bunkers, which makes no sense to me. A shorter approach from deep rough is not really a reward for risking fairway bunkers. The shorter approach ought to be from fairway, and it is, every time, at Hawk Pointe.)

The second, by the way, is a brute of a par-4 with two distinct fairways separated by a strip of rough and a large tree. The left-hand route, over those cross bunkers, leaves an unobstructed approach. Play down the wider right-hand fairway, and you must clear a bunker in front of the green. Another tree sits in the middle of the 18th fairway, but it's not as effective. On that hole, most everyone will play down the left side, away from the lake on the right. 

Most of the greens are also placed on diagonals, so that straight approach shots must carry bunkers but shots shaped right-to-left or left-to-right can avoid them. That's a classic ploy of Pete Dye, who often turns straightaway par 4s into S-shaped holes that require a draw off the tee and a fade into the green, or vice versa. Moran does the same sort of thing at Hawk Pointe's third and 10th, but the 394-yard 11th favors a fade on both the drive and second shot and the 387-yard 17th favors a draw both from the tee and into the green.

The lines and angles also extend to the greens, a marvelous set of putting surfaces made up of different levels separated by steep planes. My favorite green on the course is the wide, shallow one on the par-4 sixth. It has a main section on the same level as the fairway and smaller left and right sections six feet above, each fronted by a pair of tandem bunkers. From a distance, its profile bears resemblance to an old Mercedes with gull-wing doors opened left and right. It's a great green on a great short par 4. 

There's also the green on the par-3 13th, a surface nearly 50 yards wide that's really two targets in one: a high right-hand shelf behind two enormous bunkers and a lower, deeper section to the left, separated by a 45-degree slope of bent grass.

Created from an old dairy farm (with some of the barns and silos now serving as the maintenance complex behind the 15th green), Hawk Pointe is a core golf course with only a tiny bit of residential development to its south flank. The landscape is open and flowing, and Moran's big, long fairway bunkers fit the sweeping scale of the place.  A few areas of wetlands are skirted effectively, existing trees frame a third of the holes, and cart paths are kept to a minimum. 

There's talk that this daily-fee course may go private in a year of two. If you're a fan of golf architecture, it's worth your time to investigate Hawk Pointe before then. 

The Verdict

I'm always enthused when I find a course architect trying something different. Hawk Pointe isn't quite Seth Raynor and it isn't quite Pete Dye, but at times it seems like an homage to each. Moran shows a lot of imagination and daring in this design. Using Golf Digest's 10 point scale (1 being Unacceptable, 5 being Good, 10 being Absolutely Perfect), I give Hawk Pointe a rating of 8.2. 

The Details

Hawk Pointe Golf Club 294 Rte. 31 S.
Washington, New Jersey 07882
For tee times: 908-689-1445. Toll-free: 977-322-4295.
Green fees: $85 (weekdays), $105 (weekends).
After 12 noon: $60 (weekdays) $80 (weekends).
Walking allowed anytime.

Golf Digest's Ron Whitten, the preeminent golf course architecture critic, will review a course each week for GolfDigest.com.

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