If Southampton’s golf constellation of Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America, and Sebonack is the Big Dipper of Long Island’s star-studded golf galaxy, the complementary Little Dipper would certainly be Wading River, a town that is as golf-centric as any in New York.
Featuring three superb courses that anyone can play, Wading River is rarely regarded with the same reverence as some of its more exclusive neighbors, but by eschewing exorbitant membership fees in favor of enjoyable, accessible golf, the town’s triumvirate of Pine Hills, Great Rock, and Swan Lake shines just as brightly as the more recognizable courses down the road.
The newest star in the Wading River cluster is Great Rock Golf Club. Opened for public play in 2001, Great Rock has quickly become one of the Island’s fi nest courses, a shooting star across an already golf-rich sky. Great Rock is a semi-private course, offering limited memberships to individuals, corporations, and families. Although the course is open for public play, membership does have its benefi ts. Members enjoy preferred tee times, unlimited driving range use, exclusive member tournaments, locker and bag storage, the ability to schedule tee times up to
14 days in advance, and a 10% discount on all pro shop apparel and Blackwell’s restaurant bills.
Great Rock is an 18-hole course that introduces golfers to a wide range of shots. Featuring enough elevation changes to pound your feet into submission, Great Rock is best played alongside the comfort of a golf cart. These elevation changes are the foundation of some of the prettiest shots to be found on Long Island—Great Rock is as great to look at as it is to play.
Six of Great Rock’s holes incorporate water in nearly every way imaginable. The par-5 1st is home to an enormous lake that runs up the right side of the fairway. Golfers will want to hit driver for a chance to reach the green in two, but they had better hit it straight, or the round will be off to a saturated start. The par-3 9th is the next hole to feature water. An innocuous-looking stream serves as a partition between tee and green. Although it is rare that golfers will find a way to top it into the drink, the psychological factor of placing any kind of hazard before the green will have golfers hitting extra club to avoid it—and landing in the friendly embrace of the bunker directly behind the green. It’s this kind of subtle dastardliness that makes Great Rock so much fun to play.
If you think you don’t have to be accurate at Great Rock, you may as well save yourself a trip on the LIE and stay home instead.
In addition to the aforementioned water hazards, Great Rock is bunker-rific—every single hole features at least two bunkers, and the greens are as well-guarded by sand as any course in recent memory.
A perfect example of this is the par-3 12th. Although it only plays 123 yards from the blue tees, don’t think that grandma is going to be able to run her 5-wood up close to the pin. Five bunkers surround the postage stamp green, penalizing shots that go long, short, left, and right. Put it this way: hit it high and straight or suffer
Long drives at Great Rock won’t do much to improve your score. Already a manageable 6,254 yards from the tips, the tree-lined, bunker-fi lled course will chew heavy hitters up—but don’t count on being spit back out. Great Rock is best played with an extra sleeve or three of balls tucked safely into an easily-accessible pocket on your golf bag.
By this time you have to be wondering, “Why is it called Great Rock? Is there actually a tremendously excellent rock somewhere on the course, or is this just the bestsounding name they could come up with?” I can happily report to you that Great Rock’s name is not just the result of careful marketing consideration, but was borne out of the fact that a behemoth-sized rock really does rest behind the 10th green. In fact, calling it a rock is not even fair. A
geological formation that would give Sisyphus nightmares, it really is a Great Rock.
Great Rock takes care of its guests before, during, and after their rounds. A magnifi cent clubhouse overlooks the 1st tee and 18th green, and within its regal walls guests can fi nd a top-notch locker room, replete with showers, a steam room, and a shoe-shine service. The course is also home to a complete set of practice facilities, including a full distance driving range and a putting green.
Every golfer will find what they’re looking for at Great Rock. The part-time golfer can drive up and play, while the more serious golfer can become a member for a fraction of the cost of a private club membership. Social golfers will love to attend the numerous golf outings that Great Rock regularly hosts.
The nearby cluster of the choicest courses on Long Island does nothing to diminish Great Rock’s brilliance. Located just off Exit 70 on the LIE, the course isn’t light years away, either. Golfers who want a celestial golfing experience should take a ride to Wading River to experience the radiance of Great Rock.