Let’s say you could wake up early on a blue-sky morning, grab your clubs, walk outside, step into a waiting helicopter, and fly to 18 of the most beautiful and most challenging holes on Long Island. Even better: None of the holes is on the same golf course, which is why you’d need the helicopter. Now that would be a dream round, wouldn’t it?
If you win the lottery you could probably do it. And if that opportunity ever comes, you’re in luck, because here are the holes you should play. But if that opportunity doesn’t come, that’s okay too—you can think about these holes as you lay in bed, and play this year’s Dream 18 in your sleep.
Great Rock GC
The length of this starting hole isn’t scary, but the hazards are: a lake in front of the tee box plus bunkers at the corner of this dogleg-right fairway. If you can’t fly it 240, then play left to set up a second shot towards bunkers set at the 100-yard marker. Fly those bunkers for a short pitch into the green, or lay up to a full wedge. The left side of the fairway leaves a tough approach—the green is narrow from that angle, and well bunkered. Play it deep into the green and you’ll face a hard slope back to front.
Pine Ridge GC
All you need here is a 270-yard tee ball between towering pines. If you can’t do that, you’ll have lots of work left. This dogleg-right hole will have to be an up-and-down par attempt unless you can stripe a long approach across the marshland creeping in on the right, just short of the front bunker. Even with a lay-up, the green is protected against your wedge: there’s water long and right, while bunkers sit short and left. The green is 50 paces deep, so three putts are definitely possible.
Meadow Brook Club
This hole doesn’t seem long, because you can see the pin from the tee. But with two bunkers on the left to guard against aggressive tee shots, plus a bunker at 225 yards on the right to catch conservative shots, straight trumps length. And the approach is no picnic; it’s a slightly downhill lie to an uphill green. The green has two bunkers right and one left, but a generous opening in front to run the ball up. The green is so large that a shot to the wrong side could leave a 50-foot putt, over a small ridge right in the center.
National GL of America
Even without the great water view behind the green, this hole is a classic: It’s the first “redan” hole built in America (1909). In that fashion, the green slopes right to left, and players can’t see most of the putting surface from the tee. The false front repels low running shots, so fly the ball to the green. But there’s often a one- to two-club headwind, plus severe bunkering guarding the left side and waste bunkers long. The only bailout is short right, leaving a delicate pitch.
The only good news here: a downhill drive. But to have any chance to reach the green in regulation, the tee ball must fly the right-side bunker at 245 yards. Otherwise, aim left but prepare to lay up from there—the trees and high fescue on the left side cut you off from the uphill green. And no matter where you are, you must fly the approach all the way to the green, or deal with carpet-thick rough plus a few bunkers. An overcooked approach leaves a speedy downhill chip. Even the pros walk away grumbling.
Harbor Links GC
A classic risk-reward hole with great views of the rest of the course, this one offers a split fairway. The right fork is narrower and slopes towards hilly rough separating the fairways, but hitting this top tier gives you a chance to get home in two. The lower tier is easier to hit, but the hole runs uphill from there and requires three shots. Any short approach shot is trouble; the hill fronting the green is deep rough, with a bunker left. The green slopes hard from back to front.
Site of the 1919 PGA Championship, Engineers tempts big hitters with this treeless hole. But with bunkers and fescue both left and right in the driving area, ripping it through that bottleneck is an iffy proposition. Bunkers ring the green, while the front is open but elevated; running the ball onto the green from the tee is a tall order. Players usually face a 60-yard shot into a green sloped hard back to front. If the approach is even a little short, the ball will come right back to your feet.
Deepdale Golf Club
An uphill dogleg left, this hole has bunkers and fescue on the left corner to prevent you from stealing too much distance. Besides, the fairway slopes left to right, so just play it about 240 yards and then launch a hybrid or long iron up the hill to the green. Hit it nearly pin high and you’re okay; hit it short and the false front runs the ball back 40 yards; hit it long and you’re chipping back down the slope; hit it left and you have a bunker shot that runs away from you.
Hamlet Willow Creek G&CC
Besides the length and the slightly uphill fairway, there’s also water right and bunkers left off the tee. The second shot also brings water into play down both sides. The hole is uphill most of the way, and even well-struck second shots risk catching the right-side bunker at 100 yards out. So lay up short of the bunker, then hit a wedge onto the correct tier of the green—there’s three of them—to have a chance at par.
Mill Pond GC
It’s neither a long nor crooked hole,
but the 35-foot drop from tee to
fairway shows you the lake covering
the entire left side; you have to
carry your drive at least 200 yards
if you hit it the slightest bit left. It’s
tempting to play the right side, but
mounds with high fescue make
sure there’s no easy out. If you play
a straight tee ball, it’s a short approach shot but with a bunker
front right, plus a creek all along the left boundary. The large
green has an elevated tier in the back third, so don’t be long.
The Bridge GC
It’s a long hole, but with a 30-foot
drop to the fairway and a great
view of Noyack Bay. The hole
moves right to left, with bunkers
right and a single bunker left to
keep tee shots honest at the dogleg.
Interestingly, a miss left that
doesn’t catch the sand will end up
on the grassy remains of the old Bridgehampton speedway.
An accurate tee shot will roll down the slope, setting up a midiron
approach to a slightly uphill green. But miss that approach
left and you’ll find bunkers, fescue, or a yawning ravine.
Mill River Club
The green is waaaay downhill
from the tee. But don’t club down
too much, because you’ll have to
fly it to the middle of this severe
back-to-front-sloping green. And
don’t go long either; the chip back
down this three-tiered green is
killer. The putting surface is large
but has bunkers on the left that guarantee bogey or worse if
you find them—the left-to-right slope on the green is as bad as
the back-to-front. And it’s very tough to run the ball up to the
green—the slope rolls the ball towards a front right bunker.
Middle Bay CC
This slight dogleg-left hole requires accuracy off the tee, or things get ugly. There’s water on the left, 215 yards from the tee, running right up to the green. But there’s nowhere to bail out on the right thanks to huge moguls creeping onto the fairway that could leave the ball way above or below your feet. Right-center is ideal, but left-center is okay too—provided you can fly your approach over the edge of the water with a mid- to long iron. The front of the green is open to a run-up shot, but a back pin on the two-tiered green might mean three putts. That’s still better than an overcooked approach--just beyond the green is OB.
The Seawane Club
This hole combines a Scottish landscape with a Donald Ross-style green to deliver double-bogey regularly. From an elevated perch, your downwind shot will probably clear the 150-yard stretch of fescue. But lurking a few yards beyond that are two deep, sod-walled bunkers set just off center, plus another one 15 yards short of the green. In other words, if you don’t flush a hybrid or long iron, you’ve got trouble. What’s more, bunkers flank the green, which is domed enough to push straight shots towards the edges. Long shots settle in a collection area 20 feet below the two-tiered green.
The host of a Champions Tour event, the course’s 15th hole always makes the home stretch interesting. There’s nothing daunting off the tee, but stress builds with the approach shot. Short hitters must contend with water that crosses the fairway 20 yards before the green. For bombers, the water’s not a factor, but they face a downhill lie to an elevated green. Bunkers wrap the whole right side of the green, plus part of the left side too. A ridge running diagonally through this big green makes three putts possible.
Lido Golf Course
This windy layout between the bay and ocean puts fear into every golfer on the 16th tee. First, you drive to a horseshoe-shaped landing area surrounded by water. Big hitters must stay right or risk running out of land. Unfortunately, the reward for a big tee shot is a second shot that’s at least 200 yards over water. Short hitters can stay left, but then must either lay up to 160 yards or fly the ball 50 yards past that spot to stay dry. A waste bunker behind the green keeps some long shots out of the water, but not all. The large green slopes hard from back left to front right.
Nissequogue Golf Club
With Stony Brook Harbor behind the green, players might get distracted by the view of the water, the mansions on the far shore in ritzy Head of the Harbor, and even the crystal-clear view of Stony Brook Hospital miles away. But once they hit their tee ball to this island green, players usually snap back to reality. The elevated tee and the wind sometimes make for a two-club difference—or not. There’s no bailout area, so this is a true all-or-nothing hole that many players say they begin thinking about as they are playing the front nine.
Sebonack Golf Club
Here’s a hole that’s worthy of capping a dream round. It runs down to a narrow fairway, with Peconic Bay on the entire left side and the flagpole of National Golf Links your aiming point behind the green. Bunkers line the right side of the landing area. Even after a good tee shot, the cross bunker and an encroaching tree at about 120 yards out can catch your second shot, especially into the wind. When downwind, the hole is reachable for good players, but most hit a hybrid over the cross bunker to a wedge approach. The two-tiered green is elevated on the right; if the pin is there, several bunkers protect it.
Shinnecock Hills GC
This 1892 Stanford White creation is the very first clubhouse in America, and its style has been copied at countless golf courses throughout the country over 117 years. Set on the highest point of the property, the clubhouse dominates its landscape and is prominently visible from many holes. The clubhouse view to the north includes Peconic Bay, while the southern view spies the Atlantic Ocean. There may be many copies, but there’s only one original.
The Creek Club
This recently renovated shop is staffed by folks who are well versed in Titleist clubs and balls, although the shop also offers a wide variety of other makes, including Callaway and TaylorMade. As for apparel, the top sellers in the shop include Fairway & Greene, Polo, and Adidas. The shop also has a large flat-screen TV showing all the pro golf events each week, plus several couches so that players can come in both before and after their rounds to relax and mingle. And did we mention the awesome views of Long Island Sound?
Indian Hills Country Club
When this Northport course opened in 1965, the 17th and 18th holes ran along the west side of the clubhouse, through a rolling meadow framed by tall maples and oaks. Years later, the club puchased land on its northwestern boundary and built two new finishing holes there, while the old holes merged to become one of the prettiest, most interesting driving ranges on the Island. From 13 hitting stalls set by the old 17th tee, players can visualize on-course shots as they practice.
Blackwell’s at Great Rock GC
With rich mahogany accents, subtle lighting, and sophisticated service, the dining room at Blackwell’s is as classy as they come, and is a perfect match for the chef’s fine steaks and seafood. If you’re just coming off the course and want a more relaxed atmosphere, there’s the adjacent tap room as well as a large outdoor patio with a stand-alone fireplace and great views of players coming up the 9th and 18th holes.