Eat, drink and play lots of golf at New Jersey's Crystal Springs Resort

This is the second and final part of our review of Crystal Springs in Hardyston, NJ.


        Everyone I met at or near Crystal Springs, whether it was the father and son I was paired with on the golf course or the bartender at a local restaurant, asked me the same question: “Have you seen the wine cellar?” Actually I had, the morning of my visit, and I can understand why it is on everyone’s mind. The cellar in the resort’s huge lodge holds more than 100,000 bottles, and these are no Chateau Ordinary. Crystal Springs founder Gene Mulvihill, who passed away late last year, had

The cellar at Crystal Springs has the largest number of perfect rated wines (100 Points) in the world, according to some wine experts.

collected bottles from all over the world, with an emphasis on France, and had a goal to have the finest and largest wine collection in the world.  I know just enough about wine to make me dangerous and was able to recognize such names as Chateau Lafitte Rothschild, Latour, and some of the other major chateaux of Bordeaux. The cellar at Crystal Springs features all the best vintages from Bordeaux and Burgundy since the 1950s, and a number of them that reach back to the 19th Century, and I recognized as well some Cabernets from California that I had seen valued in Wine Spectator for $1,000 and more per bottle.


If Wild Turkey has a "signature hole," it is #7, a par 3 over a water filled quarry with strong echos of the iconic par 3 9th hole at Yale Golf Club.


        Many of the bottles can be ordered by patrons of Latour, Crystal Springs’ intimate (40 seats) and expensive French restaurant that looks out from the back of the Lodge, over the adjacent gardens and toward the golf courses and mountains beyond. The resort has 14 other restaurants offering various types of food and different price points, but all are rarely open at the same time; during my visit, Latour, the Crystal Tavern and two other bistros were available.

        Between the wine, the setting, the gardens adjacent to the lodge and the grand ballrooms, it is not surprising that Crystal Springs hosts 150 weddings each year, sometimes two or three simultaneously.


Par 3 stares at you, stone faced

        Although that wine cellar provides the major wow factor at Crystal Springs, golf is no second fiddle. For my first round, I chose the Wild Turkey layout and played the blue tees at 6,555 yards. Roger Rulewich designed the golf course in 2001; it plays along the valley at the foot of the mountains that are in view from most of the community. That puts homeowners in prime position to look down on and across Wild Turkey’s sweeping layout on rolling farmland surrounded by mountains. I wonder if Rulewich was thinking about another iconic par 3 when he laid out the signature 7th hole; at 180 yards from our blue tees, the hole plays over a water-filled quarry, its stone face guarding the front of the green. It reminded me strongly of the famed Seth Raynor #9 at Yale Golf Club, the major difference being length –- Yale’s version plays 190 yards from comparable tees –- and the size and shape of the greens; Wild Turkey’s is wider than it is long while Yale’s is narrow and a good 50 yards deep, with a deep trench in the middle.


The par 3 10th shows off one of Wild Turkey's strongest features -- the surrounding mountains.


        The Wild Turkey layout has a little bit of everything –- a few forced carries, fairway bunkers within range of slightly offline tee shots, a few false fronts on the greens. Although it seems like a contradiction, the course is both challenging and forgiving; that is, the fairways are wide and fairly accommodating for those who spray the ball, but there are enough bunkers at the edges of the fairways to provide some punishment for those offline shots. The greens themselves are well bunkered, but virtually all of them had run-up potential for thinly hit but straight shots.

        The turf on Wild Turkey was in excellent shape, and my ball sat up for virtually every fairway lie. The rough, while no pushover, was springy enough that the ball did not sink to the bottom. The greens were receptive

Crystal Springs' golf managers should figure out a way to compel players to fix their ball marks on Wild Turkey's otherwise excellent greens.

to well struck irons and about as true as greens can get, with very few reads that took too much concentration; rarely did the ball move off the line I saw. But those nice greens were, for the most part, a canvas for abuse by transient golfers too lazy and uncaring to repair their ball marks. I fixed an average three or four per green and left dozens more. Unsolicited advice to Crystal Springs: Hire a few high school kids or retirees to sit at greenside with a sign that says, “Fix Your Ballmarks, Please.” (If the player refuses, at least the teen or retiree can go fix it before the next group comes through.)


Green complexes at Wild Turkey feature false fronts, moguls and large swales, putting a premium on pinpoint approach shots and mimicking the surrounging mountains.


        I have one other suggestion for Crystal Springs: Make one of your golf courses strictly private, the way Reynolds Plantation, for example, has done with its Creek Club layout. Reynolds, with a Ritz Carlton resort hotel on site, provides access to five other golf courses for hotel guests (but not for the public). By restricting access to members only on, say, the Wild Turkey course, Crystal Springs could charge a little more for membership, inspire members to take better care of the greens and rest of the course (sorry, most daily fee players don’t care) and probably increase the number of members. For a golf resort that is also a golf community, having one private golf course adds cache and will support the real estate sales efforts. Six good golf courses are still more than enough for the transient golfers who don’t intend to make Crystal Springs their home.

        For years I had been looking forward to playing Ballyowen, a Scottish links design regarded by golf raters as the best course at Crystal Springs and one of the finest public courses in the east. Sadly, when I arrived at the pro shop, the heavens opened up and the forecast was not good. But nothing the day before -- not the tour of the real estate, my comfortable room at the Lodge or the round at Wild Turkey -- would cause me to think twice about returning. I am looking forward to playing Ballyowen this fall, and to the bagpiper who serenades patrons there in the morning and late afternoon. Maybe I’ll save up as well for dinner in Latour and spring for a modest bottle of wine.


The golf villas at Crystal Springs, like these beside the 10th tee on the Wild Turkey layout, are sited to maximize views of both the golf course and the mountains.  They are among the most attractive we've encountered in any golf resort community.

Note: If you would like an introduction to a real estate agent at Crystal Springs Resort who can show you the many options in real estate there, please contact us. We can say with confidence you’ll get a tour of the wine cellar as well.

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