Golf Courses Morris County: Birdies, Eagles and Doglegs
Searching for Golf Courses in Morris County? There are lots to choose from. Out of the 300 courses in New Jersey, 27 of them are in Morris County, and three of them have very interesting histories. There are some public and semi-private courses in Morris County that welcome residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoors with a round of golf.
Berkshire Valley Golf Course
Berkshire Valley Golf Course, consisting of 600 acres, is an 18-hole, par 71, 6,800-yard, public golf course atop the ridge of Green Pond Mountain in the Oak Ridge section of Jefferson Township. Owned and operated by the Morris County Park Commission, the club was built on land that was once the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus. Alfred T. Ringling built a 28-room home here on 1,000 acres in 1916. Other estate buildings functioned as part of the circus business and included a theater, carriage house, houses for the big cats and elephants, and a unique arrangement where monkeys were housed in a portion of the stone silo-like water tower. To provide a reliable water supply for his animals, Ringling constructed two dams along a natural pond fed by a branch of the Rockaway River. The original natural ponds became today’s Lake Swannanoa.
Some of the shelters that housed monkeys, elephants, and “birdies, eagles and dog’s legs” still dot the landscape of the Berkshire Valley golf course. This is truly one of the most unique golf courses in Morris County, and an excellent example of re-purposing historic properties.
Spring Brook Country Club
Spring Brook is a private golf club located in Morris Township off Mount Kemble Road. Like Berkshire Valley, vestiges remain of its history as a former brickyard. The Prudden and Armstrong families were brickmakers beginning in the early 1800s. By 1898 they made nearly 3 million bricks per year and provided the material for a local mid-19th century building boom. Looking to expand his estate around 1900, Robert Dumont Foote, a local Gilded Age millionaire and gentleman farmer, purchased the brickyard for his own use. In 1922, he leased 180 acres of his land to build Springbrook Country Club. The brickyard’s clay pits became ponds and water hazards which can still be seen today.
Morris County Golf Club
Golf came to America from Britain and Scotland in the 1870s. The Essex Country Club in West Orange was the first course in New Jersey, opening in 1887, appealing to men and women of the “privileged” classes. In 1894, a group of female golfers formed the Morris County Golf Club in Convent Station-the first all-women golf club in America. The opening was covered by the New York Times on April 23, 1894:
“Morristown, the home of many of New York’s best-known businessmen, is to have a Country Club, thus following the lead of those places which aim to be much gayer but do not succeed in being as pleasant a place of residence as this old-fashioned town in the hills of New Jersey. The clubhouse, soon to be erected, will be situated on a very pretty piece of property, adjoining a curious and famous depression in the land which from time immemorial has been called the “Punch Bowl.” Besides the golf course, there will be tennis courts and a croquet ground.”
As you drive along Punch Bowl Road today, you can clearly see the “punch bowl” feature. It was the Punch Bowl, with steep hollows and long, grassy swales, that inspired the start of Morris County golf and a rush to build more Morris County golf courses.
Morris County Park Commission
Morris County golf course options are abundant, with some of the finest public courses in the state. The Morris County Park Commission, in addition to operating Berkshire Valley Golf Course, also runs Pinch Brook in Florham Park, Sunset Valley in Pompton Plains and Flanders Valley in Flanders.
The lowest rates for a round of golf can be found when you book through the Park Commission. Their reservation booking engine requires you create an account when booking for the first time. This reservation booking engine is for both public and resident members. Morris County golf tee times are released at 8 pm, 7 days in advance for public and 10 days in advance for resident members.
Golf courses in Morris County for the upcoming 2021 season will have Covid restrictions so that the game can be played safely. For the Morris County Park Commission’s public golf courses, reservations are best booked online. Two-person golf carts will return to normal, but single carts may be an available option. Golf Shop, Snack Bar and Restroom access will be limited, and guests must wear masks indoors and in common areas. Sanitizing of high-touch surfaces will continue.
Knoll East and West
Two other popular Morris County golf courses are Knoll East and Knoll West in Boonton Township. The Knoll Country Club West, established in 1929, is a champion course designed by Charles H. Banks. It is a par 70 course playing 6,752 yards from the blue tees and 6,479 from the white tees. This course is semi-private. Tee times are requested by the membership, but some open playing time is available. Outings are held during the week. The facility has a practice chipping area and putting green. There is a beautiful 22-stall driving range.
The Knoll Country Club East, established in 1961, was designed by Hal Purdy. It is a par 70 course playing 5,884 yards from the white tees. This course is a public facility and tee times are on a first-come-first-serve basis. Small groups are also welcome. Senior rates begin at age 62 and are offered to residents and non-residents of Boonton Township. Walking is permitted at all times and motorized carts are available. Food and beverages can be purchased at the end of the ninth hole.
With a long history of golf in the State of New Jersey, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the golf term “birdie” originated at the Atlantic City Country Club in 1903. Abner Smith described a great approach as a “bird of a shot.” His foursome agreed that they would call any hole completed under par a “birdie.” The term stuck, and soon after, a hole completed in two under par became an “eagle.”
Wishing you a great 2021 Morris County golf season!