Sunset Valley beats decline


Sean Dudley

At a time when many golfers are taking a hiatus from private club membership and families are trimming back vacation plans, Morris County’s Sunset Valley Golf Course in New Jersey, USA, is working to look better than ever.

Sunset Valley, originally opened in 1974, has seen a decline in recent years with trees squeezing the corridors giving rise to turf quality and growth issues and compromising the overall course design. Hole seven, a par five, in particular had registered many complaints for its lack of strategic value. Once beyond the initial landing area off the tee it narrowed to a point slightly wider than a bowling alley. The resolution has been to create two new holes – hole two was a par four that has been extended into a par five and the downhill 217 yard third hole now plays into a large meandering green flowing away from the player into deep grass pockets along the right side of the putting surface.

Principal architect at the Northeast Golf Company Robert McNeil feels that despite the current economic situation, it’s worth putting the effort into keeping golf courses at their best. “Golfers may be leaving their home clubs in these trying economic times but they are not leaving the game of golf,” he said. “They will still be playing 30 or more rounds somewhere. The municipal and daily fee clubs that can keep themselves viable and in a condition that is acceptable to this group of players should see an increase in business.”

McNeil’s involvement with renovation work at Sunset Valley started back in 2006 when he began working with the Morris County Park Commission and looks set to continue into 2009. “Overtime features wear, strategies change, technology advances, competition gains, history is lost and all these have an effect on the overall golf facility,” said McNeil.

Phase three of the renovation project will commence this spring, tackling the build of a new hole seven and improvements on the sixth and eighth.