Sunday, June 10, 2018

From West Sayville and Timber Point to Bethpage Black and Shinnecock Hills: My Weekend Playing Long Island Golf Courses

Last month I was in New York to play Shinnecock Hills Golf Course for a media event before the 118th U.S. Open, and decided to take advantage of my first time here and get in as much local golf as possible. 


I played West Sayville Golf Course on Friday, Timber Point Country Club on Saturday, Bethpage State Park Black on Sunday, and then Shinnecock Hills on Monday.  And I learned that Long Island is a golfer's paradise - home to some of the oldest and most challenging courses in the country. 

West Sayville is a parkland course with tree-lined fairways that are tight in some spots, but roomy and open in others.  Marshland and choppy rough can punish aggressive instincts - particularly off the tee, but the course is generally flat and there's not much to complicate approach shots.  My favorite holes were Nos. 9 and 18, with an honorable mention to the 502-yard, par-5, No. 11 (which features a daunting tee shot over water). 


The 426-yard, par-4, 9th hole plays directly into the wind, but because it's pretty wide open you can really pull out the heavy artillery off the tee.  The greenside bunkers aren't really in play unless you hit a horrible approach, but you still need to be dialed in as the green features some sneaky right-to-left slope. 

I learned this weekend on all the courses I played that the Cobra F8 driver is truly fantastic in the wind, and the Wilson C300 irons probably have the most penetrating flight of any game-improvement iron I've ever played.  More on both of those in my equipment reviews, but I was genuinely pleased to know I can make confident swings with these clubs even in the most challenging conditions. 

The 18th hole is a short 376-yard, par-4 that also plays into the wind, and is a definite birdie opportunity if you find the fairway.  The tee shot requires a bit of accuracy as getting lost in the trees on  either side makes it tough to navigate a successful approach to the slightly elevated green. 


Timber Point is a 27-hole public course known for its links style play and scenic views along the Great South Bay of Long Isand. The Blue Course is one of Long Island's most popular public tracks, designed in 1926 by Harry Colt and Charles Alison - which means you're contending with narrow fairways, well-placed sand traps, and elevated greens with sneaky undulations. 


Featuring some really tough par-3s, a great variety of par-4s and par-5s, and several water holes where the wind can wreak absolute havoc, Timber Point is a stern test of golf with some incredible scenery. 

One of my favorite holes was the par-5, 484-yard, No. 1.  It plays uphill, wind blowing into your face, with water crashing behind the green and docked yachts in the horizon.  The fairway is pretty narrow, and depending how the winds are swirling on any particular day - a pond on the right is definitely in play. 


The jewel hole on the Blue Course is Gibraltar - the par-3, 207, yard, No. 5.  It's also one of the coolest par-3s I've ever played.  The green is perched high above the Great South Bay, and screaming winds make hitting the severely pitched green one of the most challenging shots you'll ever attempt. 


Timber Point is classic American golf with breathtaking views that will thrill fans of the golden age of golf course design.  Finding the right spots off the tee is a necessity, the margin or error on pitch and bunker shots is razor thin, and putting surfaces are soft and slow but definitely not easy.  I can't wait to come back and play it again. 

As you might have expected, Bethpage Black and Shinnecock Hills will each have their own separate articles devoted to a thorough course review.  In my Shinnecock review I'll show you every drive, every approach, every hazard, and multiple views of the green on every hole. 


It was my first time playing both tracks, and while I had my moments, hit a few spectacular shots, and even carded a few birdies - for the most part these courses not so politely reminded me I will never be a professional golfer.  Bethpage Black and Shinnecock more than live up to their reputations of being brutally tough courses.  In the same breath I'd play them every single day for the rest of my life if I could.