I recently had the pleasure of playing the Forest Course at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club with some of my golf buddies. Located in New Jersey’s Upper Raritan Watershed, just off Route 78, the property has an interesting history as a peach orchard in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and later as a dairy farm. Finally, in 1965, Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club opened with its first 27 holes of golf.
Fiddler’s Elbow now offers three 18-hole courses: the River Course, designed around the Lamington River; the Meadow Course, named for its former use as a pasture; and the Forest Course, designed by Rees Jones, nestled within white pines, beeches, oaks and other hardwoods.
We found our way to Fiddler’s Elbow by winning an auction at a charity golf outing. We arrived at the club early to enjoy lunch, and the beautiful day allowed us to take advantage of the great outdoor patio. Service was top shelf all around, from the pro shop to the locker room to the snack shop at the turn.The only critique is the lack of information on the scorecard or at the tee box regarding some of the holes. For instance, Hole 12 is a hard dogleg left; it would have been helpful to know the distance to the corner. Other than that, it was a great day.
Hole 1 | 362 yards, par 4
The course information describes the first hole as a “pleasant welcome to the round,” and indeed it is. It is relatively wide open; avoid the bunker on the right and you have a great shot at opening your round with a par. It’s interesting — and I believe intentional — that the opening hole does not set appropriate expectations for the balance of the course.
Hole 3 | 518 yards, par 5
After two relatively wide-open holes, we began to see why it’s called the Forest Course, as the trees narrow the fairways and we were introduced to Rees Jones’ love of sand. There are a dozen bunkers tee to green, certainly not a day at the beach if you miss the fairway.
Hole 5 | 431 yards, par 4
This hole presents quite the challenge. Your tee shot needs to find the middle of the fairway on this long, narrow par 4. In addition to the trees’ constricting effect, there are three fairway bunkers down the right side strategically placed in the landing zone for your drive. Even drives that appeared to have landed safely on the right side found their way into one of those bunkers.
Hole 9 | 516 yards, par 5
We finished the front side with the forest closing in even more and with a challenging green. At 516 yards, you’ll need three solid shots to get there in regulation. The good news is the green is welcoming, with just a bunker on the right. The bad news: The green is sloping, so any location above the hole presents a nerve-rattling downhill putt.
Hole 10 | 369 yards, par 4
This hole sets the tone for the back nine. Bunkers await errant shots down the right side of the narrow, tree-lined fairway. Those bunkers welcomed two of our group and sent our scores soaring; the other two found their way down the fairway to a wide-open, welcoming green and kept their scores low.
Hole 12 | 379 yards, par 4
Described as a dogleg left, it’s more like a left turn. While not long at 379 yards, this hole requires a well-placed drive into the corner of the dogleg. The second shot for most of our group was a long iron to carry the water hazard fronting an uphill green. This hole proved more challenging than it should have been without information about the dogleg.
Hole 17 | 174 yards, par 3
All that lies between you and the green on this par 3 is a shimmering pond. Then you’re greeted by a tiered green that slopes toward the pond. That slope is a challenge when the pin is cut in front of the green and you’re presented with the potential of an aggressively struck putt finding its way into the pond.
Hole 18 | 559 yards, par 5
No rest for the weary here; the longest hole on the course embodies all the elements we experienced on the prior 17 holes. The tee shot is a long carry over water, landing you on a flat ledge as the fairway narrows and dips down into a valley leading to the green. For your second shot, you’ll need to contend with a string of bunkers down the right, then a two-tiered green to navigate your final putt(s) of the day.
Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club
811 Rattlesnake Bridge Road
Bedminster Township, NJ 07921
tel 908 439 2230
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