HAMBURG — If you are watching the Masters tournament this weekend and feel inspired to dig out your clubs, they don't have to be for miniature golf. And you don't have to be a member of a selective — and pricey — country club. New Jersey's rich golf scene includes some acclaimed public courses where anyone can sign up to play a round.

"Many New Jersey golfers don't realize that the biggest and most highly acclaimed golf resort in the Northeast is in New Jersey," said Chris Mulvihill, chief marketing officer of Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, at which Ballyowen Golf Club is the flagship feature.

Ballyowen was ranked the No. 1 public golf course in the Garden State by New Jersey Monthly in 2013 and by Golf Advisor in 2017, and is consistently mentioned in the top 10, if not top 5, publics on several other lists. It is a mostly treeless, links-style course on a 200-acre plateau overlooking northwest New Jersey.

Mulvihill said that because of the relative lack of trees, the wind patterns at Ballyowen have a role in gameplay, and players who come on three different days can experience three very different outcomes.

Crystal Springs does offer memberships of its own, covering six golf courses including Ballyowen, but Mulvihill said the allure of Ballyowen is enticing enough to often draw members of New Jersey's most exclusive clubs, plus curious golfers from out of state.

"We have many, many members of private clubs, who come from both near and far, who come to Ballyowen as somewhat of a treat," Mulvihill said.

Ballyowen features a Celtic theme, with staff in traditional garb including a starter wearing a kilt, and a bagpiper playing at sunset. Mulvihill said the clubhouse has an elaborate Scotch collection, and the course offers caddies, which is not common at public clubs.

Crystal Springs also provides corporate memberships, which extend to more than just golf, and through this Sunday the resort will play host to the 11th annual New Jersey Wine & Food Festival.

"Discovering New Jersey" is a new, bimonthly series on New Jersey 101.5 that takes a look at some things about the Garden State residents might find surprising. If you have an idea for a future installment, contact Patrick Lavery, Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming, on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

More from New Jersey 101.5:

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM