In Northern New Jersey, a cherished rite of spring is the opportunity to get back out on the links. For residents of Lantern Hill, an Erickson Senior Living community in New Providence, N.J., there are plenty of high-quality golf courses nearby to enjoy the fresh air, get some exercise, and--possibly best of all--make new friends.
"Playing golf gives me a chance to meet folks that I wouldn't usually see throughout the course of a routine day," notes Valerie Marr, who moved to Lantern Hill with her husband Dave.
Getting golfers together
The couple started playing golf in their early 40s. "We were looking for a new sport that we both could enjoy playing," she says.
Valerie, who serves on the resident-led golf committee at Lantern Hill, appreciates the variety of courses in the area. Pinch Brook in Morris County is her favorite, but she also loves playing at Summit Municipal, a nine-hole, par-three course.
Every Thursday morning, weather permitting, a group of Lantern Hill residents dubbed the Bogey Bunch get together to play at Summit Municipal.
"We chose that name for a reason," explains Valerie. "We wanted to get the message across that the group is very casual and not competitive--we just want to have fun! I've always been a social golfer. At Summit, you can walk the course with only a couple of clubs in your bag. It's a good workout."
Kiko Begasse, who moved to Lantern Hill just last year, took up golf after she retired.
"I had played golf a little bit before, but I was in my mid-50s when I started playing on a regular basis," she says. "I never took lessons; I just started playing! I play a lot of other sports, so it was fairly easy for me to pick up golf."
Soon enough, visiting the green became her favorite pastime. "During the season, I play three times a week. I have been in a competitive women's league for the past 25 years, and we play once a week. I also play in another league once a week, and then I play weekly with a group of longtime friends."
When asked what some of her go-to courses are, Kiko was quick to mention Ballyowen at Crystal Springs Resort.
"I have played at a lot of nice golf courses over the years, but I still like Ballyowen the best. I consider Byrne Golf Course in West Orange to be my home course. It's a difficult one, but I love playing there," Kiko notes.
Last year, she met fellow golf-loving neighbors by participating in the annual New Providence Lions Club golf tournament, for which Lantern Hill served as platinum sponsor.
"I really enjoyed the experience," she says. "I was new to Lantern Hill, having just moved in February, so when they asked me to play, I was very happy. I'm looking forward to participating again next year!"
Kiko, who is originally from Japan, was married for over 50 years before her husband's passing a few years ago. She says that playing golf has helped her build a support system of friends.
"The Bogey Bunch is such a nice group of people. I've enjoyed meeting and playing with them," notes Kiko. "In the off-season, some of us have started to play pickleball together, which I also really enjoy."
Bill Bradford, who moved to Lantern Hill in 2019 with his wife Casey and their two cats, started caddying and playing golf as a kid.
"I've belonged to many country clubs over the years," he says.
Bill also helped form the Bogey Bunch, which is not surprising, since he is known as the community's de facto sports commissioner.
"I'm on the green quite a lot, but that gives Casey plenty of time to stay active doing what she likes," he notes, with a laugh. "She started a popular book club and helps organize monthly social events."
Meeting new people
Bill especially likes playing with the Bogey Bunch at Summit Municipal, which was designed by renowned golf architect Hal Purdy.
"It's a pretty course, and because it's only nine holes, you can finish in about an hour and a half," he says. "Also, different people play each week, so you will always meet someone new. It's a very social group."
When he's not playing golf, Bill can often be found on the bocce court. "There's lots of friendly competition, and it's an important part of the social scene here! In addition to golf, of course."
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