Twisted Dune. "It's one of the most unusual layouts in South Jersey," said Donohue of the 7,200-yard Egg Harbor Township course. "There is not a tree on the golf course, and it is hilly in places, so it is like a Scottish course."
What is wonderful about Twisted Dune, said Donohue, is that it won't frustrate someone who is coming to the Shore for a respite.
"Since there is not that much high grass and no obstructing trees, you can land a 747 on some fairways," he said. There is some saw grass and dune grass, he said, but the course is beautiful and just hard enough to challenge a golfer.
There are four par 5's of more than 500 yards, so a long drive can be essential for pars.
Twisted Dune Golf Club,
2101 Ocean Heights Ave.,
Information: 609-653-8019, www.twisteddune.com.
Rates from $65-105.
The Links at Brigantine Beach. "It is old, and it is quirky," said Abrams about Brigantine, which touts itself as the course closest to Atlantic City. "With the small greens and the winds, it is a challenge at times."
Abrams said the course, opened in 1927, often hosted pros practicing there before going off to the British Open, since it was the closest thing on the East Coast to the links courses where the Open is most often played.
"The wind is ever present there," Abrams said, "and that is what makes it attractive, and somewhat different from the other courses close to Atlantic City."
The Links at Brigantine Beach, 1075 N. Shore Dr., Brigantine. Information: 609-266-1388, www.brigantinegolf.com.
Rates from $37-85.
Greate Bay Country Club. Greate Bay was designed by Willie Park Jr., who won the British Open three times in the 1880s and then went on to be a top golf-course architect, creating, among others, the Olympia Fields Country Club in Chicago, a frequent pro golf tour stop.
"It is an understated course, a beautiful one," said Donohue, who mentioned that local celebrities such as Flyers executive Bob Clarke and announcer Steve Coates often play the 6,700-yard layout.
The club has a 50,000-square-foot racquet and fitness complex, which offers summer memberships for $395 that allows for reduced greens-fee play after 2 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays.
Greate Bay Country Club,
901 Mays Landing Rd., Somers Point. Information: 609-927-5071, www.greatebay.com. Summer memberships - Memorial Day through Labor Day - $395.
Seaview Golf Resort. Two courses here: the Bay and the Pines. The 2011 LPGA ShopRite Classic will be held May 30 to June 5 on the Bay Course.
"These are two excellent courses," said Abrams, "but I love the feel of playing along the bay.
"The Bay is a little sportier, and the Pines course is a little longer and tighter," he said, meaning that the fairways on the Pines course will be more challenging for those who tend not to hit the straightest of shots. "The grand old hotel on the grounds is beautiful as well."
Seaview Golf Resort,
401 S. New York Rd., Galloway.
Information: 609-748-7680, www.seaviewgolf.com.
Greens fees: $59-109.
Atlantic City Country Club. Atlantic City goes back more than a century, opening for play in 1897. It is famous for having been the place where the term birdie - one under par on a hole - was coined. Three fellows were said to have been playing the par 4 second hole in 1898, a year after the course opened, and one downed his ball in three. Another said, "That was a bird of a shot" - bird being the 1880s equivalent of cool - and the term stuck.
"The course is in great condition," Donohue said, adding that Harrah's, the casino company that took over the club a decade ago, has groomed the grounds immaculately. "When you get on the back nine and are looking over the bay and the marshes, all you want to do is put down your clubs and take a photo."
That said, it is probably the most expensive public course at the Shore. "But it is worth it, at least once," Donohue said, "for any golfer who wants to play the best places in the area."
Atlantic City Country Club,
One Leo Fraser Dr., Northfield. Information: 609-236-4401, www.harrahs.com/golf.
Greens fees: $175-250.
Cape May National Golf Club. While the golf is good, the big difference at Cape May National is the surroundings - its lakes and marshlands filled with wildlife.
"You are liable to see 100 egrets in the trees on some holes," Abrams said, adding that you can see bass in the lakes and that ospreys often come around to dive in for dinner. "It is not that it is filled with water hazards, but what water there is makes the place special."
Abrams praises the staff at Cape May National for being "extremely friendly," which is what a visitor really appreciates on vacation.
Cape May National Golf Club, Route 9 and Florence Avenue, Erma. Information: 609-884-1563, www.cmngc.com.
Greens fees: $50-85.
Sand Barrens Golf Club. What is unusual on this 15-year-old course just off Avalon and Sea Isle City is its three nines, a total of 27 holes, laid out on 100 acres that used to be just, appropriately, sand and barren.
"Opposite of Twisted Dune, this has tight landing areas and trees alongside the fairways," Donohue said. "Because there are 27 holes, they can stagger the tee times and accommodate people even in busy hours.
"The way it is laid out, the trees make every hole an entity in itself," he said, "so even though there are 27 holes, you are never bothered by people shooting down another close fairway."
Sand Barrens Golf Club,
1765 Route 9 North, Swainton. Information: 609-465-5555, www.sandbarrensgolf.com. Greens fees set daily.
Blue Heron Pines Golf Club. The Blue Heron Pines, which opened in 1993, started the upscale public course movement at the Jersey Shore, Abrams said. Before that, there were either inexpensive public courses, often not very good, or exclusive private courses that no summer visitor could just amble onto.
"Everything down there, as you would have it by the name, is pine trees," he said. "It is still an extremely solid course and a good place to play - both a challenge and good-looking.
"Even with all the newer courses," Abrams said, "you can't overlook it."
Blue Heron Pines Golf Club, 2010 Blue Heron Pines,
Information: 609-965-1800, www.blueheronpines.com. Greens fees: $59-88.
Shore Gate Golf Club. One of the better new courses, Donohue said, its back tees measure more than 7,200 yards, good for long drivers.
"There are some really challenging holes, so you had better pick the right tee boxes, or the course will definitely be too long and difficult," he said. "If you have a double-digit handicap, you had better play the front tees.
"There is a good undulation on the greens, and there is a par 5 dogleg around a lake, where if the wind gets you," Donohue said, "it is as good a hole as you are going to see anywhere."
Shore Gate Golf Club,
35 School House Lane, Ocean View. Information: 609-624-8337, www.shoregategolf.com.
Greens fees: $60-120.
Avalon Golf Club. Celebrating its 30th season this year, Avalon is one of the more popular courses at the Shore, Donohue said, "especially given its beauty and the reasonable greens fees. It is wise to set up a tee time at least a week in advance."
Donohue said that a recent townhouse development nearby diminished some of the luster of the course, but that it was still challenging and convenient to both Seven Mile Island, which has Avalon and Stone Harbor, and Sea Isle City.
"It may not be as challenging as some of the newer courses, like Twisted Dune," he said, "but certainly a worthwhile course for any golfer."
Avalon Golf Club, 1510 Route 9 North, Cape May Court House. Information: 800-643-4766, www.avalongolfclub.net.
Greens fees: $54-84.