As a continuing service to readers (and googlers) we review various resorts and vacation destinations we happen to stumble into.
This weekend we trekked over to southern New Jersey for a three-night stay at the Marriott Seaview Resort, just across Absecon Bay from Atlantic City. The Seaview, a classic old-style hotel built at the turn of the century, has two golf courses, tennis, hiking, a spa and a number of other activities.
The Fairway Villas--Nice Place to Stay
We stayed in one of the villas located on the Seaview grounds. The villa was fine--two bedrooms, capable of sleeping eight. Nothing special, but no major problems either. The villas are a pretty recent addition, built in the last few years, so they have all the modern amenities. They are called Fairway Villas, but unlike at many golf resorts, these villas really aren't on any fairway.
Across the street from the villas is the Faldo Golf Institute, with a driving range and various putting and chipping greens. We didn't try out any of these. However, a good two thirds of the range was dirt/sand. Not really a pretty sight to tell you the truth.
Next to the Faldo Institute is the Elizabeth Arden spa, along with a large outdoor pool, an indoor pool, an exercise room and other amenities. The women in our group reported favorably and enthusiastically on the spa, including the mineral pool reserved for adults only. The spa and related facilities--all new--were quite attractive. It was a bit chilly for the outdoor pool, but it looked like a great place for a hot day. The indoor pool was quite nice--the kids spent a good deal of time there.
Disappointing Golf Courses
We're sad to report that the golf courses--the centerpiece of the resort--were disappointing. The Pines Course--the more recent of the two--is not much better than your average muni, but a good deal more expensive. The 6700 yard layout is pretty pedestrian, although wayward shots will have to contend with (what else?) pine trees along most fairways.
What shocked us about the Pines course was the miserable conditions of fairways, tees, bunkers and areas around the greens. The greens themselves were ok, but slow and occasionally scruffy. Our recommendation: if you go to the Seaview, don't waste your time on the Pines course.
The premier layout is the Bay Course, home of the LPGA's annual Shop-Rite Classic. A Donald Ross design dating to the 1920's, this course has seen better times, but still has its charms. A short par 71, at only 6250 yards, the course combines longer par 4's and 3's with some short par 5's and a couple very short par 4's to make an interesting layout.
The best part of the Bay Course is the greens, which are in great shape and reasonably fast. The fairways are decent; areas around the greens and fairways suffer from inadequate maintenance. We had trouble finding rakes around many of the numerous bunkers, which of course meant a lot of them hadn't been rakes by the last unlucky chap to plop into them.
The front nine plays out at a par of 37, with two par 5's and only one par 3. The much shorter back nine plays out at a par of 34, with three par 3's and one par 5. (Which makes our back nine round on day one of 7 strokes worse than the front nine very aggravating.)
The staff at the small golf shop were reasonably friendly and efficient, the marshals were helpful and the gals in the snack cart and snack shop were great. (And we do know that friendly, helpful staff can make up for a lot of other problems, and vice verse.)
Good Grill; Not So Good Atlantic City; Really Ugly Delaware Gridlock
We did enjoy the small Grill Room in the Marriott. Located adjacent to a "family play room"--a game room kids will certainly enjoy--the grill is a perfect place for the adults to enjoy their dessert, coffee, aperitifs, etc. while the kids cavort next door.
We ventured into "AC"--Atlantic City--one night for dinner and a bit of gaming. We went to what allegedly is the "best" buffet in town, at the Showboat Casino. Hmm. We're not a fan of dinner buffets in general, and this one proved why. Lots of mediocre food. Of course, the buffet mentality is to try to get more than your money's worth by eating LOTS of food. Judging by the bellies at the bar, quite a few patrons were doing just that.
As for the casino itself, best we could tell it was quite a rip-off. The odds were much worse than in Vegas. Here's an example: on roulette, if you placed a bet on one of the 36 numbers, you'd get a payout of 34. In Vegas, the payout is 36 (the house comes out well ahead since there are 38 slots on the roulette wheel). It appeared that every other game had been engineered to reduce the odds of winning. Maybe that's just the Showboat--we didn't go anywhere else.
A final word: one of the advantages we saw of going to southern Jersey was its proximity to DC--a short drive for a weekend. But leave it to Delaware to ruin that! With two lanes of I-95 closed for construction--in BOTH directions--the Delaware bottleneck is worse than ever. It took us 5 hours to get to our destination on Friday, much of it crawling along through northern Maryland and Delaware in a massive backup.
Bottom line: if you live in Jersey, the Seaview might be worth it. But we don't recommend making a major trip there.