By Ron Patey
The Big Apple and surrounding area offers players a massive variety of tracks on which to go birdie hunting. The next time you’re itching to hit the links, get your swing on at one of these must-play New York City area public golf courses.
The first public course to host the U.S. Open in 2002 (Tiger Woods) and again in 2009 (Lucas Glover) is the most famous of the five 18-hole regulation tracks (Red, Green, Blue and Yellow) at the Bethpage State Park property. Located on Long Island in Farmingdale, New York, architect A.W. Tillinghast created a 7,468-yard from the tips, par 71 layout that demands accuracy and patience. The fairways are skinny, the rough is gnarly, bunkers are situated in scary spots and the greens are postage stamp size. There’s a two-tier green fee system at Bethpage Black; the regular price for peak times on weekdays for 18 holes is $65 for New York State residents and on weekends the cost is $75. For non-New Yorkers, the numbers are $130 and $150.
Legendary course designer Pete Dye and his team put together the totally bentgrass parkland layout in Westchester County with creating visual memories for players in mind. Pound Ridge covers some of the highest areas in the region and the par 72 track plays 7,165-yards from the back tee markers. Notable characteristics are a mammoth boulder that defends the centre of the fairway on the par 5, 13th hole and golfers hit into a massive 9,000 sq. ft. green on the par 3, 15th hole. Peak time rates run from $120 to $210.
Situated in the eastern portion of Long Island, Montauk Downs was re-jigged by respected designer Robert Trent Jones Sr. and his son Rees in the late 1960s. The layout runs out to nearly 6,800 yards from the tips and plays to par 72. The swirling wind currents coming off the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Montauk create club selection challenges for players of all skill levels. The prime time green fees range from $43 to $48 for New York State residents and $86 to $96 for non-residents.
Players can get an up-close-and-personal feel for Scottish-style golf on the bluegrass layout in Shoreham on Long Island. Designer Gilbert Hanse’s masterpiece comes with all the bells and whistles of links golf, including tricky false green fronts, dastardly pot and waste bunkers and tall fescue grasses that inspired the naming of the property. The wide-open track plays more than 6,500 yards from the back tee markers and is a par 71. Starting times for walkers kick in at noon on weekends and 1 p.m. weekdays. Regular times apply to players taking cart rides and peak green fees cost from $60 to $85.
Architect Roger Rulewich took his talents to new heights on a plateau that is within the Crystal Springs Resort in New Jersey’s Sussex County. Ballyowen is one of six courses in the area and presents players with an Irish-like golf adventure. The par 72, 7,094 yarder is easy on the eyes if not on the scorecard due to its rugged, treeless terrain, fabulous 360-degree views of the area and white sand bunkers blending seamlessly with the stunning fairways and putting surfaces. Several time-related green fee rates for Ballowen and its five sister courses can checked out here.
Dunwoodie can be described as a shorty, but a goodie. Situated on the summit of Dunwoodie Heights in Yonkers, the par-70, 5,778-yard parkland layout mixes and matches dynamic slopes, some tight fairways and huge landing areas to give golfers a solid test of their game. Prime time weekday green fees are $32 with a Westchester County Park Pass and $42 for golfers not owning a park pass. The numbers on weekends and holidays are $36 with a pass and $46 without the paperwork.
The oldest public course in the U.S. debuted in 1895 and is located in a park-like area in the North Bronx, a pitch shot away from Yonkers. “Vanny,” as the area residents refer to it, is a 6,102-yard, par 70 layout. Van Cortlandt Golf Course recently received a refreshing makeover when about $1.5 million went into putting a new face on the historic track. The lineup of famous figures that have played Van Cortlandt includes Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Joe Lewis and Sidney Poitier. Prime time green fees for renovation architect Stephen Kay’s upgraded property are $39 on weekdays and $49 on weekends and holidays.
Ron Patey covered the golf industry for 21 years as a special sections editor with Sun Media. During the past five years, Patey has been a golf writer for Examiner.com.