Suburban Golf Club – Union, New Jersey Guru's Rating: 8.9
Non-Resident Weekend Rate (with cart): N/A/Available via Tour GCX (www.tourgcx.com)
Suburban might be the best kept secret in the Tri-State area. In fact, it’s so hush-hush that you’ll probably drive right by the entrance on busy Morris Avenue in Union, New Jersey, confused by the strip malls and gas stations – hardly the type of area you’d expect an A.W. Tillinghast work of art to live. But once you’ve made the requisite U-turn and ambled your way up Suburban’s private driveway, you’re in for a treat.
Tillinghast managed to produce an excellent layout here, despite a limited amount of land to work with. There’s almost no space in-between holes in some spots (particularly on the back), but instead of feeling cramped, you marvel at Tillinghast’s genius in utilizing every parcel of land available to him. As a result, Suburban isn’t long (6471 from the tips), but it is interesting and challenging. No two holes are alike and you’ll use nearly every club in your bag.
Suburban is located just twenty miles from Manhattan, and given its convenient placement and famous designer, it’s a bit peculiar that it doesn’t receive more attention (most golfers who I’ve mentioned it to respond with quizzical looks). With fewer than 200 members, Suburban doesn’t get as much play as other area clubs. And that makes it special: the course is almost always in outstanding shape. In other words, it’s best that some secrets remain that way.
On the amenity side, I’m a sucker for any golf course with a driving range placed strategically next to the first tee. With no official tee-times, you can take some swings and begin at hole #1 whenever you’d like. That’s my version of “you had me at hello.” While the clubhouse and locker room could use a renovation, there’s a nice porch and deck chairs overlooking the ninth green, the perfect spot for a post-round beverage.
Most Memorable Hole: Tie between #13 and #14, both Par 4’s (405 and 393 respectively), both of which are set amidst beautiful trees, each onewith a dogleg requiring an accurate tee-shot. 14 in particular has a very difficult green with a false front, protected by bunkers.
Most Challenging Hole: #2, a 385 yard par 4. About as narrow an area from tee-box to fairway as it gets, trees challenging your ball flight. But what really makes this hole difficult is the approach. First, you’ve got to land your tee shot in the absolute perfect spot (straight at the turn of the dogleg right), otherwise you won’t even have an approach to begin with. If you hit your drive too far (around 230), you’re in a large fairway bunker. Too short, and you’ve got a mile uphill to a green that has no room on the left and slopes off on the right. The entire fairway, in fact, slopes off in that direction. Make sure you bring one of Suburban’s caddies along with you because the rough is thick (on all holes), and you may lose your ball without some assistance.
The Bottom Line: Suburban is legit, but shhh…don’t tell anyone.
Guru’s Tip: I wasn’t kidding about driving past the entrance. Suburban is going to come up before you know it. Go slow on Morris Avenue and put your right blinker on. You’ll thank me later.