NJ County Commissioner Says Consolidation of Elite Golf Course ‘City’ With Neighbor Long Overdue

Christopher Green has never played an official game on one of the best golf courses in the world, which happens to be in his hometown.

He played a round or two about 30 years ago when he caddyed at Pine Valley Golf Club, a super-exclusive private haunt for the rich, famous and well-connected. But that was when no one was watching.

The club, in fact, was more than a club. It was, until the first of this year, its own municipality, with a borough council, a police force and a few employees, including security guards, to police the approximately 600 acres of densely wooded hills punctuated by l one of the most coveted sanctuaries. of golf in the world.

But Green, 60, still can’t set foot on the property, which is 100% owned by the club – even though he is now mayor of Pine Hill, the borough with which Pine Valley consolidated on January 1. .

Camden County officials are hailing the consolidation as a long overdue cost-cutting measure.

“Making Camden County a more affordable place to live depends on consolidating services and reducing the myriad layoffs in government services in small towns with populations under 100,” the commission’s director wrote. Camden County, Louis Cappelli, in an email to NJ Advance Media. “Basically, it’s beyond my mind that we had two municipalities that are basically just golf courses with a few houses on them.”

The other municipality Cappelli was referring to is Tavistock, which has three houses and less than 10 residents. It also has a private golf course, but has a public restaurant and a banquet hall. He celebrated his 100th birthday last year.

On Wednesday, the state filed a civil rights complaint against Pine Valley Golf Club, alleging that it violated New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law by barring women from membership and limiting their ability to play golf and access club facilities.

When Pine Valley was its own borough, it also limited ownership of the house to only men. The director of the state’s Office for Civil Rights in 2019 peppered Pine Valley Borough officials with questions about “limitations on home ownership,” according to 157 pages of documents obtained by NJ Advance Media in 2021.

The club decided to allow women to be members in 2021, before the merger with Pine Hill. State officials said Wednesday that those policies only changed after the state launched its investigation. Club officials did not respond to calls, texts or emails seeking comment.

As a result of the merger with Pine Valley, Pine Hill got a taxable $10 million that translated to $1 million in additional tax revenue this year, said Green, who spoke with NJ Advance Media before state officials announced the civil rights lawsuit was filed.

The borough already provided municipal services, such as police, fire and EMS, under a shared services agreement for residents of less than two dozen homes in the former Pine Valley community. Most of Pine Valley’s full-time employees, including the longtime police chief, have retired or been laid off.

Consolidation also gave Pine Hill two private golf courses. The 3.87 square mile Pine Hill Borough was already home to the former Pine Hill Golf Club, purchased by the Trump Organization in 2009 and renamed Trump National Golf Club Philadelphia.

“We used to be a blue-collar community and we had (Trump National Golf Club Philadelphia),” Green told NJ Advance Media. “Now we are still blue collar, but we have both.

“The main refusal from residents is: ‘Why can’t we play golf there? “”

The median home value in Pine Hill is $135,000, according to current census data. The average valuation at Pine Valley is nearly $600,000.

Green said most current members of the Pine Valley club don’t linger in town after a game, and the 10 residents who actually live there generally keep a low profile.

“Day after day, we don’t know who most of the residents are,” said Green, an IT manager for a beverage company. “We might see them at the local Wawa.”

Green said he knew Michael Kennedy, the former mayor of Pine Valley. They attend the same church, St. Simon Stock parish in the neighboring borough of Berlin. He said it was not unusual to see him at Mass. NJ Advance Media’s efforts to reach Kennedy were unsuccessful.

Pine Valley is considered one of the finest and most exclusive golf courses in the country.André Malok | NJ Advance Media f

Green said he believes Pine Valley residents voted last fall to consolidate, in part, because of the time required to serve on borough council and other councils.

Green said there are now 17 homes and three motel-like resident “dormitories” in Pine Valley. This is three residences less than the 23 cited in public documents from 2019.

Green said he believed the golf club was phasing out accommodation, but referred further questions to club president Charley Raudenbush, who did not respond to NJ Advance Media’s multiple requests for comment for this article. .

Green said he was confident there was no pending litigation against the borough of Pine Valley prior to the consolidation of the two boroughs, adding that he saw only benefit in adding a second club from private golf course in the borough.

Trump National Golf Club in Philadelphia, while private, is not as exclusive or highly rated as Pine Valley in golf publications. Pine Valley was ranked first among 100 courses in America by Golf Digest in 2021. Augusta National, home of the Masters, was ranked #2. No Trump golf courses were ranked in the top 100. Trump National Golf Club Philadelphia was ranked #20 out of 25 in New Jersey by the magazine, while Pine Valley was ranked #1.

Green said former President Donald Trump did not visit the property while in office. But former Vice President Dan Quayle frequently flew to Pine Valley by helicopter when he was in office, and Green was often there. He was a volunteer firefighter and they had to be on duty in an emergency.

Chris Green, Pine Hill

Pine Hill Mayor Chris Green talks about consolidating Pine Valley in his town.

“He would come in and land on the driving range,” Green said. “All of a sudden, the secret services were coming and were everywhere. It was something to see.”

Green said he once caddyed for “a guy who won the US Open” but couldn’t remember his name. He said he was also carrying the bag of former Flyers star Rick Tocchet.

He said he got the job there from his brother-in-law, who got his job from Green’s stepfather. He said they had swapped stories over the years about famous people they had seen or heard of.

“There was a Catholic church two blocks from the back entrance,” Green said. “People said it wasn’t that unusual to see Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra there on a Sunday before they left.”

There were also stories of mobster Al Capone playing the course in the 1930s. Rumored a hideaway he had, a 36-acre estate in Pine Hill overlooking the course, sold for $1.3 million in 2019.

“It was a great experience and ultimately worked out well for everyone,” Green said.

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Bill Duhart can be reached at [email protected].

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