The Beer Garden at Bowling Green Becoming Popular Venue for Locals

Editor’s note: This story was published exclusively in The Jefferson Chronicle DIGEST magazine prior to being made available online. To receive the DIGEST magazine when it is released digitally, subscribe free.

Don’t be misled by the name of the road: School House. Sure, there are schools on the thoroughfare, including one that educated a few generations of township residents in its solitary room. But just as that schoolhouse evolved over the years – it is now Jefferson’s Senior Center – so has its neighbor across the road, Bowling Green Golf Club (53 School House Road, Oak Ridge).

The club’s most recent evolution is of the 1980s-era pavilion that served golfers as a ninth hole “pit stop” of sorts for several decades. It was a place where players could grab a quick bite and a cool beverage. Once a venue for golf events throughout the season, the transformed pavilion is now the Beer Garden at Bowling Green.

Currently in its second year of operation, the Beer Garden is no longer one of Jefferson’s best-kept little secrets. In fact, it is fast becoming one of the township’s popular venues, judging by the flocks that gather on many evenings to enjoy the amenities of this outdoor setting surrounded by green rolling lawns and mature shade trees.

In transforming the pavilion, “we were hopeful that we were creating a place where folks from Jefferson would like to come and hang out with their families,” says Wil Riggs, general manager of Bowling Green. “We have been very pleased with the response from those who have come, and keep returning.” He represents the third generation of hands-on operators at Bowling Green Golf Club, which has been family-owned since opening in 1967. Albert Riggs, the original owner of the property, had been dairy farming but changed course – pun intended. He joined with his brother, Jerre, along with George and June Salmon, to develop the golf club.

While the Beer Garden officially opened on Memorial Day last year, this is the first summer the venue is boasting a full calendar of events through the Halloween Hayride, after which it will close for the winter. The events calendar is posted on the Bowling Green Golf Club website for reference.

Wednesday evenings are especially busy as local musicians take to the open mike while enthusiastic audiences enjoy the music. “The goal is atmosphere music to go along with our relaxed setting,” Riggs tells The Jefferson Chronicle. “We have hired three different open mike performers to provide entertainment for the Beer Garden,” he notes, adding that there is live music on Saturday evenings as well.

Music is played at the Beer Garden at Bowling Green. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

More Is More

But there is a lot more than music and the ambiance of nature that draws people to the Beer Garden. It is a welcoming venue for families with a variety of board games, notes director of golf Thom Bishop, who has been working at Bowling Green Golf Club since he was a teen. In addition to games like checkers and tic-tac-toe, the former pavilion boasts a bocce court. Patrons can also participate in a competitive game of cornhole or the more difficult Chippo, which is cornhole with wedges. Guests might even opt for tackling the giant Jenga game that sits in a prominent spot.

Thom Bishop, director of golf at Bowling Green Golf Club. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)
A game is played at the Beer Garden at Bowling Green. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

Music and games are not the only attractions at the Beer Garden, however. There is food, and plenty of it. The menu presents a variety of favorites like wings, burgers, salads, slow-roasted beer can chicken, sandwiches, and pizza.

A sampling of food at the Beer Garden at Bowling Green. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

And then there are the adult beverages, featuring a selection of New Jersey craft beers on tap. Although the Beer Garden offers a full bar that includes sodas, bottled beer, and a selection of wines, the taps are reserved for New Jersey brewed beer. The plan, says Riggs, is to always reserve the taps for Jersey brews.

The old pavilion might have gone through a complete 21st-century renewal, but the tradition of hosting reserved special events continues. “We host all kinds of parties and events from bridal showers to graduations, birthdays to weddings,” Riggs tells The Chronicle. “It’s perfect for those seeking a relaxed setting, outstanding food, and service at a fair price,” he boasts.

There’s another tradition that hasn’t changed as the old pavilion evolved into the Beer Garden at Bowling Green Golf Club. The spot is still a ninth-hole breather for golfers as they putt, birdie, and bogie their way through 18 holes around the course. It’s also a welcome respite following four hours on the links with friends.

Some customs just never change.

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Maria Weiskott is a Jefferson Township resident and a forty year veteran of the publishing profession. An award-winning journalist and editor, she served in top managerial positions at numerous business-to- business newspapers and magazines including Reed Elsevier and Fairchild Publications. Early in her career she operated a local newspaper in the Passaic Valley towns of Little Falls, Totowa and the former West Paterson. Following retirement, she launched a “ghostblogging” service that provides social networking update and blogging services for small and medium sized businesses. Maria travels widely with her husband and is a passionate photographer. She can be reached at