This post is part of our Golf in the U.S.A. blog series. Golf in the U.S.A. rounds up the best public golf courses in music's biggest cities, so you can play some licks and swing the sticks on your next golf trip. Be sure to check out our previous installments: Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA.
GOLF IN LONG ISLAND, NY
Long Island: Not Just The World’s Best Private Clubs
Pound for pound, there is probably no better region in the world for golf than Long Island. You know the names: Shinnecock, the National Golf Links of America, Friar’s Head, Fishers Island, Maidstone - with any luck, you’ll be able to play one of these courses once in your life.
What many forget among the old money glamor of clubs like these is that there is a significant blue collar population on Long Island, which likes to play blue collar public golf courses...and make blue collar music as well, with rock ‘n’ roll veins that run from the classic jams your uncle blasts to the Pitchfork posterboys your cousin listens to. You’ll find it all.
So when you get sick of those big city nights, head out onto Long Island public golf courses with this playlist in tow, to tackle the surf and play off the turf.
BEST PUBLIC GOLF COURSES IN LONG ISLAND
The story of public golf courses in New York may not have begun at Bethpage, but it certainly ends at Bethpage Black. In case you didn’t hear the news during the past U.S. Open or PGA Championship coverage, Black is one of the best and baddest courses available to the general public. A.W. Tillinghast, near the end of a career full of scary courses, really poured it onto Black, featuring his biggest sand hazards yet. The adding of length and the thinning of fairways has only made it more brutal. There’s a sign essentially begging to think twice before playing. Our advice? Play anyway. Even if you’re from out of town, a greens fee of $130 for a major championship host is one of the best values in golf.
This T-Rex of a course deserves a dinosaur of a band backing it up, and KISS’s Brooklyn background makes them the soundtrack for Black. Their stage show has long been as over-the-top as Black’s hazards, but there’s an emotional angle as well: Just as Black had fallen on hard times during the ‘90s, many wondered about the future of KISS. A Rees Jones renovation and reunion tour, respectively, got both back in order. Now their “farewell tours” will presumably continue into infinity.
When the name on the marquee is as big as “Bethpage Black,” you need a pretty solid opener, and Bethpage Red has long flown under the radar. Another Tillinghast gem, Red often goes by the nickname “Baby Black” to describe its relative similarity to Black’s design, albeit with much less extreme bunkering. Many Long Islanders actually prefer Red as their weekend round, saving Black beatings for special occasions. It’s not totally ignored by the PGA either; there have been rumors Red No. 18 could replace Black’s closing hole at future events because of its superior design. The opener at Red could also fill in, as it’s 465 yards uphill...one of the toughest first holes in golf.
If Black is KISS, Long Island has plenty of notable ‘70s hard rockers to serve as an opening act. Mountain and Cactus come to mind, but they may be Bethpage Yellow and Blue. Blue Öyster Cult is more in line with Red, as they can hold down almost any stage by themselves. We’ve got a golf fever, and the only prescription is more Bethpage.
Sometimes you gotta go way, way out there (distance-wise or imagination-wise) to get what you want. That’s a maxim that applies to both Montauk Downs—one of Long Island’s most celebrated public tracks—and Twisted Sister, one of Long Island’s longest-running bands. The trip out to Robert Trent Jones’s public gem (the other New York state golf course property on Long Island - you know, not named Bethpage) is a long way from New York City. In fact, it’s the farthest golf course on Long Island proper, exceeded only by Fishers Island. The course’s signature hole, No. 12, often requires a full driver, playing 221 yards into a prevailing breeze off the sound, and some talon-like bunkers (not unlike Tillinghast’s style) grasp at the wide, thin green.
If you think drawing a line between Trent Jones and Twisted Sister is a stretch...you’re not totally wrong. But frontman Dee Snider is a golfer, and has teamed up with TopGolf for a video series. Like his band, Snider has made some big hits and nasty cuts.
Eisenhower Park (Red)
Bethpage isn’t the only great collection of public-access golf within a train ride from Queens. Eisenhower Park’s three courses often get overshadowed by the state park a few stations down the line. And, at this facility, the Red course reigns supreme. Eisenhower was more recently a host to the Senior Tour, but it also has major heritage: Walter Hagen won the 1926 PGA Championship at what was then known as the Salisbury Golf Club. This Devereaux Emmett design still tips out at more than 7,000 yards.
And if you’re going to take the train, might as well take a soul train. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings may have had a sound reminiscent of the Apollo Theatre (not on Long Island)—but frontwoman Jones cultivated her soul revival in Brooklyn. And her Grammy-winning album’s title echoes the sentiment of Eisnehower’s three options: Give The People What They Want.
Willow Creek Golf Club
There’s an obvious aesthetic at courses like the Bethpage complex...rough and rugged...that’s how heavy metal icons KISS landed that gig within this blog post. But this is Long Island, and sometimes you want to at least imagine you’re at one of the region’s highfalutin private clubs...something smooth, visually clean and refined. If you can’t afford the (rumored) $850,000 initiation fee at The Bridge Golf Club, you can plop down $60 and hit up Stephen Kay’s Willow Creek Golf Club in Mt. Sinai, where the well-groomed grass, sand, and even meandering creeks at this ClubCorp property will please your high-class wants.
Plug in the golf cart speaker and tune into Billy Joel, a Hicksville-native who’s been soundtracking the Hamptons since before Manhattanites Vampire Weekend were even born. Grab a Long Island Iced Tea after the round, and get someone else to drive your Yacht Rock home.
Harbor Links Golf Course
People like choices, and that’s something both C.B. Macdonald and Michael Hurdzan can agree on, regardless of their difference in course-design styles. Hurdzan was in an awfully democratic mood when he came to Long Island for Harbor Links: three different holes feature multiple fairways to choose from for strategic purposes. No. 6 is notable; although Trent Jones made a short rendition of Macdonald’s “Channel” hole on the site of Long Island’s legendary Lido Club, Hurdzan’s version better accomplishes the goal of offering both a short ‘n’ risky or long ‘n’ safe route to the Par 5’s green for matchplay purposes.
Hurdzan may not be a traditional Long Island designer, and neither Public Enemy nor The Beastie Boys seem like good rock ‘n’ roll touchpoints. But both of these Long Island hip-hop groups released, ahem, “bangers” by bringing noted thrash metallers into the studio. Public Enemy struck gold with Anthrax riffing through “Bring The Noise,” while the timeless “No Sleep till Brooklyn” relies on Slayer’s Kerry King to provide the simple riff and shredding solo. Hip-hop or heavy metal? Like Harbor Links, you’ve got choices!
We would be remiss to discuss rock on Long Island if we didn’t discuss the notable indie scene coming out of Brooklyn. For good and for bad, the borough (and the West border of Long Island) is the hippest place in the universe. It leads to a bit of a paradox...a demographic that has no problem paying deluxe rates for rent and brunch, but tends to pursue more affordable options for other essential life services, like golf. The iconic Flushing Meadows Pitch and Putt is technically within Long Island, but the best bang-for-your-buck might lie at Crab Meadow in Huntington. This affordable 18 sweeps close to the coastal marsh on several holes, including along the left of the short Par 5 at No. 8.
Sure, it’s not right next to Brooklyn, but you can make like Vampire Weekend and sweep out to the Hamptons, so why not Crab Meadow? OK, Vampire Weekend is a Manhattan bunch, but bands like TV on The Radio, LCD Soundsystem and Grizzly Bear are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Brooklyn’s indie depths.
So what'd we miss, courses or bands? Are these the best Long Island public golf courses that you know of? Got an opinion on what city we should travel to next for Golf in the U.S.A.? Either way, let us know in the comments!