Rutgers University Golf Course – Piscataway, New Jersey Guru's Rating: 8.1
Non-Resident Weekend Rate (with cart): $73
As a Syracuse graduate, my dislike for Rutgers’ sports teams has never fully reached the same levels as it has for historic Big East rivals like UConn and Georgetown. The Scarlet Knights have only recently produced a football program to be taken seriously (coinciding with the Orange heading in the opposite direction), and while “The RAC” is always a scary place for visiting hoops squads, it’s been twenty-one years (and counting) since the Rutgers Men’s team has reached the NCAA Tournament. Still, a Big East foe is a Big East foe, and I’m guessing the denizens of Piscataway aren’t the biggest ‘Cuse fans. Moral of the story: we kept our Orange attire at home when visiting Rutgers University Golf Course last week. And as much as it pains me to say this, the Scarlet and Black adorned track is a truly impressive hidden gem.
From start to finish, Rutgers GC delivers a hassle free round; from its easy on-line booking system, to its convenient driving range, solid course maintenance, electric carts, and perhaps most notably, its swift pace of play, even on the weekends. Rutgers students staff the course, and make it known immediately that a four-hour round is the objective. They’re so beholden to that window that golfers are only permitted to stop briefly at the halfway house at the turn. If you haven’t ordered a sandwich in advance from the “Call Box” on the ninth tee, you will be politely informed that your choices are grill items only. Some may find this annoying and inflexible, but it keeps groups from dawdling, and I respect the policy.
While not overly challenging or imaginative in layout, the course is in terrific shape from tee boxes, to fairways, greens, and even bunkers. Some elevation changes do come into play, and most holes are tree-lined and scenic. Reminders abound that you’re on a college campus; a clock tower’s chimes echo across the fields (hopefully not in your back swing) and on holes four and five, High Point Solution Stadium, RU’s newly expanded 52, 454 seat football temple, creeps into view. Fortunately, no “Pandemonium in Piscataway” will occur over these 6337 yards, which are unusually tranquil, relaxing, and stress free for a public course on the weekends.
Most Memorable Hole: A 539-yard par 5 (from the “Scarlet” tees), the 12th hole is Rutgers’ most creative and picturesque. Your tee shot is downhill into the foot of a creek, about 240 yards away (carrying the creek would require an absolute bomb of a drive). The hole then tilts upwards, and is lined with both fairway and greenside bunkers – the latter protecting an elevated, sloping putting area. This isn’t a tough hole to par if you play it smart, but the surrounding woods, creek, and ups-and-downs create a lasting imprint.
Most Challenging Hole: #9 is the course’s number one handicap and rightly so; a 448 yard par 4, which plays more like 460-470. Strategically placed fairway bunkers on either side gobble up both hooks and slices. Very difficult hole to par in four- feels like more of a par-5 to the average golfer.
The Bottom Line: Rutgers won’t be the toughest or most gorgeous course you’ll ever play, but it pays attention to the details that allow for an enjoyable round of golf. Just forty minutes from Manhattan and reasonably priced ($73 for non-NJ residents), Rutgers GC is a winner.
Guru’s Tip: As I mentioned above, make sure you order food at the “Call Box” on nine – pretty decent menu and prices ($3.50 for a grilled chicken sandwich). We didn’t see a beverage cart all day (perhaps an aberration?), but did encounter multiple water fountains, so be certain to plan ahead.