Galloway, N.J. – Owner and founder Vernon Hill had two goals in mind when he hired renowned architect Tom Fazio to design Galloway National Golf Club: deliver a world-class facility for its membership and a golf course challenging enough to host championships.
Since its opening in 1994, Galloway has succeeded in its mission. Golf Digest named Galloway one of the nation’s best new courses and the course has appeared on “Best Modern Courses” lists.
On the competitions front, several local and regional events have been conducted at the South Jersey venue, including USGA sectional qualifiers for the U.S. Mid-Amateur and USGA Senior Amateur, and local qualifying for the U.S. Open. An NCAA men’s regional, four Ivy League championships and several New Jersey State Golf Association competitions have also been staged at Galloway.
In mid-September, Galloway gets the chance to live up to its ‘National’ name when the USGA Men’s State Team Championship is contested at the venue. It will be the first USGA national championship for the club and the first USGA competition conducted in South Jersey since the 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links at nearby Blue Heron Pines.
“When I took the [director of golf] job in 2000, Vernon Hill asked me, ‘Do you think we can host a USGA championship,’ ” said Mike Killian, a member of the victorious 1973 USA Walker Cup Team, at media day for the State Team Championship on Aug. 28. “Well, here we are.”
Members and staff like to say Galloway National is Atlantic City’s version of Pine Valley, the classic South Jersey facility near Philadelphia that is often ranked among the top-five courses in the world. The routing and views offer a combination of the North Carolina sandhills and the Low Country of southeastern South Carolina. From the tee at the 247-yard, par-3 17th, the green complex is juxtaposed with the stunning Atlantic City skyline and nearby town of Brigantine. That picturesque backdrop also comes into view on two par-3s on the first nine (146-yard second and 169-yard fifth).
The remaining holes are framed by tall trees with large sand bunkers. And the sandy soil creates ideal drainage and allows for the firm and fast conditions preferred for USGA championships.
“The course is going to present a very hard, yet fair test, requiring each player to use every club in their bag,” said Matt Sawicki, the director of the Men’s State Team Championship. “The golf course is just tremendous. It’s one of the few places I consider a hidden gem, not just in New Jersey but nationally as well.”
Galloway National will be set up at slightly more than 6,900 yards, depending on where Sawicki decides to place tee markers. Green speeds are set to be 11 to 11.5 on the Stimpmeter, with the primary rough cut to 3 inches. Using varying teeing grounds, Sawicki plans to give the 156 competitors (50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia) in the 54-hole competition a different look every round. At its full distance, the course will measure 6,963 yards and play to a par 71.
“They can’t just be robots,” said Sawicki when referring to the players having a specific plan of attack for each hole. “On a few holes, they are going to be presented with a different challenge on different days.”
Kansas enters the biennial competition as the defending champion, but none of the three players representing the state in this year’s championship – Kit Grove, Jack Courington and Zac Burton – were members of the 2010 team.
Each state/regional golf association is responsible for selecting its three-man teams. The top two scores from each round are counted asthe team’s total score for each round.
Only four golfers in the 2012 field have played on a winning team since the competition started 17 years ago – Nathan Smith and Sean Knapp of Pennsylvania (2009); Keith Decker of Virginia (1995) and Tim Jackson of Tennessee (2003).
But the New Jersey team of Niall Handley, Brian Komline and Michael Stamberger has enjoyed success at Galloway National. Earlier this year, Komline defeated Stamberger to win the NJSGA Mid-Amateur, while Handley was a semifinalist.
“It’s a distance-control golf course,” said Killian, who competed in six USGA championships, including the 1975 U.S. Open. “It’s not a gouge and wedge type course. You’ve got to control your distances and there’s a lot of angles. It’s a really, really demanding golf course.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.