GALLOWAY, N.J. -- When it was founded in 1914 by Clarence H. Geist, a wealthy Philadelphia utilities magnate and golfer, Seaview resort was an exclusive retreat. In time it would host notables such as Bing Crosby, Ben Hogan and Presidents Eisenhower, Harding, Nixon and Hoover.
Geist was a personal friend of Harding, a frequent visitor to Seaview. It is said the president loved a good wager and could place a bet on every swing.
Geist spent $1.5 million to build his club including two courses: the Bay Course designed by Hugh Wilson and completed by Donald Ross, and the Pines Course designed by Toomey and Flynn. In 1942, "Slammin' Sammy" Snead, holed a 60-foot chip to win his first major, the PGA Championship at Seaview.
Eight miles from Atlantic City and about two hours from New York City, Seaview was built on 670 acres of a former farm along Reeds Bay. The stone-block mosaic floor in the Grill Room was part of the original farmhouse.
Seaview was strictly a gentleman's club. A framed, typewritten sign hangs in the manager's office outlining the club's original policy requiring unmarried women to occupy a different floor from their companions. In its private club heyday, servants and butlers walked the wide corridors, delivering food, drink and cigars to elite guests.
Over the years, Seaview has continued to welcome celebs including the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. This year, LPGA players came here to compete in the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Seaview's Bay Course, a tournament won by Brittany Lincicome.
Today, Seaview attracts leisure guests from all over the world as well as hosting events such as weddings and corporate meetings. Still, the handsome, white hotel entrance with its hotel wings stretching out from the center in a crescent around sweeping lawns and gardens, has changed little since those days when Grace Kelly -- later Princess Grace of Monaco -- celebrated her 16th birthday in the Oval Room, dancing with her father, a club member.
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey owns the Seaview resort now along with its two golf courses, pools, fitness center, volleyball and tennis courts and restaurants. The resort is managed by Dolce Hotels and Resorts while the golf operations are managed by Troon Golf.
It's an arrangement that runs so seamlessly, guests are unaware of the two entities. You buy a sandwich at the golf snack shop, and you can bill it to your room -- you book a tee time through the hotel reception desk, and it takes about 10 seconds.
The resort recently completed a major renovation upgrading its 217 rooms and suites and the golf courses, pro shop, locker rooms, lobby, lounge areas, Oval Room and other public areas. The overall look is fresh and in keeping with Seaview's historical character.
Massive chairs upholstered in bold patterns in black and tans fit the grand scale of the lounges, while the original, enormous chandeliers are sparkling lights topped by new shades.
One of the more interesting aspects is the collection of historic photos which line the walls in the public areas. Among the photos are images of Donald Ross, former governors of New Jersey, Eisenhower, women playing golf in long skirts, Grace Kelly and the original hotel and grounds hang along corridors and in lounges.
Guest rooms have modern amenities such as wifi and flat-screen swivel TVs, and in some of the rooms, the large marble bathrooms feature jetted showers.
"At the time they were installed, these (showers) had to be the bees knees," said Robin Bushell, a visiting golfer from England.
The furnishings are traditional right down to the butler's tables and desks along with built-in wood cabinets in some of the larger baths. Beds are super comfortable, while the linens and duvets are soft, high-thread count. You have plenty of pillows, too, with various degrees of softness.
With more than 27,000 square feet of meeting space including the Presidential Ballroom, which can be divided for smaller groups and the free-standing Bayview "Baby" Ballroom, Seaview can handle small-to-large events and meetings. Having two golf courses means members and golfing guests can play on one course while golf outings are held on the other.
Currently only breakfasts are served in the elegant main dining room where tables are covered with gold linens and large, curved windows reveal views of the front lawn and gardens.
Lunch and dinner are available in the casual lodge-style Grill Room where you can get huge sandwiches and burgers with fries for about $10-$12 as well as a few entree selections. The crab cakes and turkey burgers are big enough for two.
The dining room offers a Friday night seafood buffet, an extravaganza of fish, lobster, salads, soups, sushi and even a carving station for landlubbers along with a "Chocolate Insanity" display. Cost is $65. An extensive champagne brunch is served on Sundays.
"There are plans to open our lobby bar for light meals," Mike Tidwell, director of sales and marketing said. "This will give our guests another choice for a quick bite."
From the receptionist to the wait servers to the on-course cart girls, Seaview's staff attitude is upbeat, helpful -- the waiter in grill room hustled like a chicken on fire when told about an eminent tee time.
A shuttle ferries you to the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa located in its own building. The spa is extensive with several treatment rooms, a food bar serving light fare and a lovely garden pool.
An insider tip: If you book any service -- from a manicure to the Signature Massage -- you get to use the spa facilities for the day including a lovely and quiet garden pool, steam rooms and whirlpools.
July 1, 2011