Golf: Liberty for a Select Few

  • Larry Bean

A breeze is blowing off the water and against Bob Cupp’s back as he stands on the pile of dirt that will be Liberty National Golf Club’s 14th tee. Pointing to the stake marking the green’s location, Cupp, the course’s codesigner with Tom Kite, notes that the distance is only 147 yards, but that this will not make it an easy par-3, not when the wind is in play. “Downwind and short makes them crazy,” says Cupp.
 
To dwell on the hole’s distance and wind conditions, however, is to ignore the obvious: the 151-foot-tall green lady looming beyond the green. But because the Statue of Liberty, from which the club derives its name, stands to the right of the green, a golfer would be ill-advised to use her as a reference point when lining up his shot. Better to employ the Goldman Sachs Tower in downtown Jersey City, N.J., or the Empire State Building across the harbor for this purpose. “It’s a golf course that is going to be unlike anything else in the country,” says Cupp, who has been designing courses for three decades. “You will be able to stand on the 18th green and look at the Statue of Liberty—have a good look at the Statue of Liberty.” You will also be able to hit an iron shot from the fifth fairway onto the New Jersey Turnpike, but a 30-foot-tall berm will border the inland holes and block the view and the sound of the highway.
 
The 7,019-yard course, which is being built on a former industrial site on the New Jersey side of Upper New York Bay, is scheduled to open in the summer of 2006, appropriately enough on July 4. Nominations for memberships, which will be limited to fewer than 300, began in September. The price of membership will be more than $250,000.


Willowbend Development, the Boston-based golf club and resort development company, is building the course at a cost of $100 million. Willowbend, which was established in 1991 by Reebok founder and CEO Paul Fireman, became involved in the project four years ago. “My father went out and saw the site and said, ‘This is it,’ ” recalls Dan Fireman, the founder’s son and the principal of Willowbend. “He said he might not live long enough—nor his son—to see an opportunity like this again. My father decided that this would be a course and a location that appealed to the corporate titans of Wall Street.”

Those titans will have easy access to the club: A water launch service will transport members from the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan to the clubhouse, a 50,000-square-foot contemporary structure scheduled to open in 2007, in 12 minutes. “What I’ve heard people around here saying is that you can close the market at 4 and make a 4:30 tee time, and during the summer, that’s 18 holes,” notes Cupp. “It’s impossible to do that at any other club in the New York metropolitan area.”

Liberty National Golf Club
201.451.5769

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