‘Galloway National has unique personality, character, strength and variety.’ Tom Fazio
Opening in 1995, Galloway National was developed by banker Vernon Hill, a regular golfer in the Atlantic City region who became so frustrated by slow play on the local courses that he decided to build his own private golf club. With an associate he purchased a magnificent 200-acre tract of pinehills around ten miles north of the city, and employed Tom Fazio to shape the property into a world-class golfing retreat.
Partly sited on the marshy banks of Reeds Bay, the course falls beautifully across the rolling terrain, enjoying stunning views of Atlantic City and out towards the New Jersey shoreline. The routing is a little complicated due to the fact that the layout had to incorporate three separate parcels of land and because parts of the coastline were protected. Pushing long, flowing holes against the bay was impossible, so Fazio instead arranged for two early par threes to play directly along the reeds, and for another at the end of the round to head straight out toward the shoreline. The rest of the course is carved through a dense pine forest, the holes enjoying a sense of isolation and blessed with vast expanses of sand and dramatic natural contours.
About the only thing Galloway National lacks is a really strategic short par four. The other two-shot holes are terrific, as are the par fives and the group of distinctive par threes, which get progressively longer throughout the round. The 2nd only requires a short iron but it crosses the bay and houses a small, crowned green that is pressed against the reeds on one side and collapses violently to a sunken chipping zone on the other. Heading back the opposite way, the mid-iron 5th also features a carry over the marsh, this time to a larger target protected by a steep false front. The downhill 17th, by contrast, is usually played with a rescue club or fairway wood and its big, sloping green is open and shaped to feed well-struck balls toward seemingly inaccessible pin locations.
The longer holes are also very interesting, particularly those on the front nine set amongst the sand and scrub. The opening hole, for instance, bends around a waste area and into a superb green perched atop a small, dangerous plateau. The drive and pitch 3rd hole and longer, left bending 4th both have really demanding approach shots into shallow greens, as does the 6th, a tremendous short par five dominated by a huge bunkered gully off the tee and a miniscule-looking target. Even more impressive, the 7th is a gently rolling par four that turns left across a sprawling waste area toward a slightly raised green resting beautifully within its sandy surrounds. The outward half ends with another great, gambling par five. Strong players who can drive accurately beyond a dune crest here are given the opportunity to attack a large and intricately shaped target that rewards really good shots with eagle opportunities but nudges the slight mishit into three-putt territory.
From the 10th the course changes character a little, as the back nine is longer, harder and a little more unforgiving on golfers striving too hard for pars and birdies. Water comes into play on several holes while the yawning bunkers and sloping putting surfaces seem to be even more punishing. The two standout holes are the 17th, which stares straight out across the Atlantic City skyline, and the uphill par four 15th, which features a spectacular second shot over an expansive bunker complex. This crater-like hazard was actually added by Fazio as an afterthought, and helps to complicate an already difficult approach by obscuring a large green site that was built with both a sharp front and a hump through its right side.
With a distinct Pine Valley feel to some of its holes, Galloway National has almost all of the elements required for great golf, the views, sandy carries, sloping lies and bold undulations all helping to give it a genuine sense of real quality. The turf conditioning is also first-rate. Although the internal ponds and occasional long walk between green and tee aren’t ideal, this is a very strong golf course and clearly among Fazio’s leading few designs.