Crystal Springs Resort is located in the mountains of northern New Jersey, a couple of hours drive from New York City.
It has 6 golf courses ranging from the very testing to the friendly resort style.
Some of the world’s best architects (Trent Jones, Fazio, von Hagge and Rulewich) were engaged to build upmarket public access courses.
The striking architecture of the AAA 4-Diamond Grand Cascades Lodge can be seen for miles across the valley.
It sits amongst three excellent golf courses with the Kittatinny Mountain Range providing an immaculate backdrop.
The rooms, suites and apartments are well appointed and there are some excellent restaurants on-site.
The number one rated public access course in New Jersey is the Ballyowen Course.
It was designed by Roger Rulewich, the longtime lead design associate for Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Rulewich created a modern day classic with links-style features that are spread out over 250 acres on top of a plateau.
It has 360-degree views overlooking the mountain range which are snowfields in winter.
Ballyowen’s fescue lined golf holes meander through open meadows and rolling farmland creating a feel of an inland heathland style course of Ireland.
The Celtic atmosphere transitions over to the clubhouse where the staff are dressed in costume and often serenade by bagpipe in the evening.
From an elevated tee, the opening hole at Ballyowen is a sweeping right to left par four.
With plenty of fairway to the right, there is no need to risk being too close to the fairway bunker on the left.
Take one less club for your downhill approach, although the putting surface is 45 paces in length with several ridges and humps throughout.
Checking the exact distance to the flag is a great idea so you don’t leave yourself with a lengthy first putt.
The long par 5 third hole snakes its way around several fairway bunkers on either side on its way to the green.
A generous landing area off the tee awaits, but beware of the right fairway bunkers.
Your layup will be played down into a valley of sorts, as the putting surface is elevated some 30 feet from the fairway.
The fifth hole is another par 5 where you must avoid the lake that is in range off the tee.
Although the water runs through the second shot, the landing area is quite generous, despite the bunkers left and right.
Your approach will be with a short iron or wedge to a slightly elevated putting surface that runs from back to front.
The sixth hole tee box is situated in the center of a lake and the tee shot is all carry over the water to the putting surface.
The putting surface runs from back to front and left to right, so try to stay below the hole.
The seventh is the most difficult hole on the course.
It’s a long par 4 that has water covering the entire right side from tee to green.
Despite the absence of sand off the tee, you'll be hard-pressed to find the fairway and even when successful, you'll have a long shot to the green.
A greenside bunker, short and right, might save your off-line approach but that will leave a difficult play to a safe par.
All shots run toward the water, so be careful.
The closing hole on the front nine is a longer par 4 that has great views of much of the course from the elevated tee.
Although the fairway is charitable, bunkers on the left receive plenty of action, as the fairway angles to that side.
A solid shot is required to reach the elevated green that features three distinct sections divided by ridges.
With sand left, it's easy to bail out right but be careful - there is a severe drop off and you'll be hard-pressed to get up and down.
Another one of the stellar holes at Ballyowen is the par 3 11th.
The hole is played over water to the green which is quite wide, especially on the right side.
It’s narrow on the left side making this the most difficult pin to get at.
Toss in a back pot bunker and the enormous ridge that runs through the center and you'll be guessing as to where to hit your tee shot.
Apparently, it’s the easiest hole on the course!
The remaining holes on the course are similarly attractive and challenging.
The course plays 7,094 yards off the black tees, 6,508 off the blue, 6,066 off the white and 4,903 yards off the red tees.
For men, we recommend the blue tees with a slope rating of 122.
Ballyowen is not a long course but straying off the fairways into the long fescue can be penal.
Crystal Springs Resort is a fabulous place to visit for a single night or several.
The accommodation and facilities are very good and with six golf courses to choose from, the Resort is a great place for a golfer to visit outside of the ski season.
All the courses at the Resort are within a five mile radius and there is no doubt that Ballyowen Golf Club is on the top of the list.
Being only two hours from New York City, it’s an easy drive in a hire car on the Interstate Highway.
Report by IG, June 2016
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