McAFEE, N.J. -- Great Gorge Country Club won't win anyone over with first impressions. The drive into the 27-hole course winds by the former 650-room Great Gorge Playboy Club. The building, parking lot and tennis courts show obvious signs of neglect.
The golf club, however, has rallied since coming under the management of Crystal Springs Golf Resort in 2004. The club has embraced its heritage with a retro-themed clubhouse, decorated by psychedelic wallpaper, shag carpet, a disco ball and pinball machine. The staff wears loud 1970s-style plaid pants to greet golfers.
This throwback theme continues to be well received, especially for outing business. It's groovy, man, even if course conditions can be spotty. However, there's no questioning the routing by George Fazio through a peaceful natural setting.
During my visit, I saw plenty of wildlife -- a bear, deer, fox and a muskrat (sorry, the Playboy bunnies are long gone). The grand elevated tee shots on the first and fifth holes of the Railside nine and the first tee of the Lakeside nine make the round memorable. Concrete pillars reminiscent of an old railroad line -- they look like a mini-Stonehenge -- sit next to the third green on Great Gorge Country Club's Railside nine. The Quarryside nine is arguably the toughest, playing through rock outcroppings.