ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S OLDEST AND MOST RESPECTED GOLF COURSES OFFERS MORE THAN JUST CHALLENGING LINKS
BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN
When Colonia Country Club was founded in the late 1890s, golf was still in its infancy in America. There were only a handful of courses scattered across the United States—all fairly rudimentary, typically laid out in a pasture or open field—and the game itself was still decades away from its prime. So, when the founders of this fledgling club hired a well-respected Scotsman to design a golf course for them, it was big news, for both the sport and the state of New Jersey.
“Thomas Bendelow was commissioned to design this course, which was originally laid out as only nine holes,” said Bill Kelly, Colonia’s general manager, who noted that Bendelow, with more than 1,000 courses to his credit, is responsible for designing more fairways than any other architect in history.
“For more than a century, this course has been well regarded for its overall quality and condition, and for that Old-World golf experience that Bendelow designed,” Kelly continued.
The 6,380-yard course was expanded to 18 holes by Robert White in 1923, then renovated by Hal Purdy and Frank Duane, both significant names in course architecture, in 1969 and 1970, respectively. Additions included a driving range, chipping green with bunkers, a separate putting green, and a halfway house.
The course itself is a golf purist’s dream: Referred to by many local golfers as a rare walk back through time.
“It plays tougher than a lot of 7,000-yard courses,” said Colonia’s longtime superintendent, Lance Rogers. “Here, a golfer needs to put the reins on their tee shots and come at the greens from a comfortable distance.”
And while golf is still a focal point at the private Middlesex club, which has been in continuous operation since 1898, Colonia has expanded in recent years to offer a number of other amenities for members and their guests.
“[This is] the 13th-oldest golf club in New Jersey,” Kelly said. “We are a private club with 200 members, and the 105-acre property boasts a 20,000-square-foot clubhouse, which is home to a formal dining room that seats up to 250 guests for receptions and functions. We also feature an outdoor patio, men’s and women’s locker rooms, and a fitness facility. There’s also a resort-quality pool complex, which opened in 2013; it features indoor/outdoor dining and a bar as well as luxurious cabanas.”
Located just 10 minutes from the Goethals Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing, Colonia is easily accessible to New York City residents (particularly Staten Islanders), and offers nine kinds of memberships. Active members have full golf privileges, which means they never have to wait for a tee time. Associate members’ privileges are slightly more limited, but social functions are open to all.
Colonia is privately owned, not a private equity club—a critical distinction, as it means members never face assessments or financial responsibility beyond their annual dues. Improvements, such as the recently renovated pool area, are handled by the owners and completed for the benefit of each member family.
“Our membership is such a wonderful, family-oriented group of people who enjoy each other’s company. This is a very welcoming group,” Kelly said. “Whether you’re interested in being a tournament golfer or an occasional golfer, or if swimming is the main focus of your daily activities, there really is something for everyone.”
The pool manager and lifeguard staff offer activities like aqua aerobics and swim lessons, both group and private; the club also hosts several events at the pool each year for its members. Barbecues are scheduled every Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day, and one of Colonia’s premier annual events, The Summer Social, is hosted annually at the pool.
The club also offers a full-service golf operation headed by PGA-certified professional Casey O’Reilly. “Casey runs all of the club’s tournaments, offers private lessons, and equips his pro shop with all of the latest, state-of-the-art equipment, as well as seasonal apparel for both men and women,” Kelly said. “We carry all of the latest equipment, from TaylorMade, Ping, and Callaway, and we even offer services such as re-gripping and re-shafting.”
And while the club is private and golf privileges are limited to club members and their invited guests, the public is welcome to rent the facility for catered events.
“We have a ballroom that seats 250 people, where we regularly host wedding receptions, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversary parties, sweet 16s, and corporate events,” Kelly said. “The atmosphere at Colonia is truly unique and welcoming. It really is one of New Jersey’s most pristine and wellkept golf courses.”
Colonia Country Club
300 Colonia Boulevard, Colonia, NJ
732.381.9500 / coloniacc.net