With gambling profits in free fall, Atlantic City is counting on its golf courses to help draw visitors. It’s all part of a $30-million campaign to showcase the family friendly attractions beyond the casinos.
Atlantic City is doubling down on golf.
Back when casinos along the famous Boardwalk were booming, the 20 public courses on this stretch of the south New Jersey coast went almost unnoticed. But the recession and stiff competition from dozens of new casinos throughout the U.S. northeast have slashed revenues and dramatically changed the city’s tourism focus.
Golf and other non-gaming attractions such as shopping, dining, concerts and amusement parks are being heavily promoted as part of a $30-million ‘DO AC’ marketing campaign.
The game’s local roots date to the 1887 opening of the Atlantic City Country Club, which still ranks as the area’s marquee course. Native grasses and tidal marshes define a classic layout originally designed by Willie Park Jr., the British Open champion in 1887 and 1889.
Six USGA championships have been played here, but the club’s real claim to fame is as the birthplace of the golf term “birdie” in 1903. Frequent celebrity visitors have included Bob Hope, boxing champion Joe Louis and Arnold Palmer, who made it his home course while serving nearby in the Coast Guard in the 1950s.
Other top layouts within an easy drive of Atlantic City include Twisted Dune Golf Club, Shore Gate Golf Club, McCullough’s Emerald Golf Links, Harbor Pines Golf Club, Sand Barrens Golf Club, Running Deer Golf Club and Blue Heron Pines Golf Club.
And the fairways of Seaview Golf Resort’s venerable Bay Course—the host of the LPGA Tour’s ShopRite Classic and where Sam Snead famously won the 1942 PGA Championship—offer views across Reeds Bay of the casino towers of a city in transition.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made revitalizing Atlantic City a key priority of his administration. New parks, art installations and landscaping have been added throughout the downtown area, and the Boardwalk has been cleaned-up and opened-up by the casinos, some of which once tried to restrict access to the waterfront in an effort to keep customers inside.
But perhaps the best news—apart from the new focus on golf, of course—was the return in 2013 of the Miss America pageant after six years in archrival Las Vegas. The pageant, a local institution since 1920, is regarded as an important showcase for the recent civic improvements.
The odds on Atlantic City’s recovery are looking better all the time.
Do Atlantic City With the Family
Family friendly options range from mini golf and paintball to the Atlantic City Aquarium and the Splash Zone Water Park. But a longtime local favourite is Steel Pier, an amusement park that juts into the ocean from the boardwalk and features more than 25 extreme rides. Opened in 1898, the park is undergoing a $100-million makeover.