The demands have been heard, and The Post has responded!
After such terrific feedback from our flawless list of “The Best 18 Holes in the metro area” from this past Sunday, quite a few readers eloquently described their frustration with so many of those holes being on private courses.
Hey, yo, they said, how ’bout 18 holes we can play!
Ah, we are a paper of the people. So intrepid golf scribes Brett Cyrgalis and Mark Cannizzaro have again tapped their limitless knowledge of golf in the area to bring you “The Best 18 Holes on Public Courses in the metro area.”
Much like our first list, this is completely objective. The opinions are without reproach, and the list is comprehensive, with only one hole per course allowed. Not one hole in the entire area was overlooked, and there were no disagreements on what should be included and what should not. Access to these golf courses should be cherished, and these holes are the best of the bunch.
It should also be reiterated that we have such high-quality golf in this area, both public and private. The rest of the country — if not the rest of the world — weeps at our embarrassment of riches. (Besides, you know, all of the British Isles, where even the stuffiest clubs allow outside play.)
Here are our courses available to all with a few shillings in their pockets. They are tracks that have played host to major championships, like Bethpage Black, and historical timepieces like Timber Point on the south shore of Long Island, and neighboring Lido Golf Club, the echo of C.B. Macdonald’s early-20th century masterpiece (now defunct) on the Atlantic Ocean.
Up in Danbury, Conn., resides Richter Park, an absolute gem of a track playing along the West Lake Reservoir and Boggs Pond. Across the Hudson River in Rockland County is the turbulent Patriot Hills Golf Club, with elevation changes that make you dizzy. Traveling south, the oldest public golf course in the country is in The Bronx at stately Van Cortlandt Park, then coming over the Whitestone Bridge is the newest course in the five boroughs, the funky Trump Ferry Point, with its man-made mounds and unnatural fescue.
The golf abounds with accessibly and quality out into New Jersey, with the Crystal Springs Resort in Sussex County having more than one great course, while going south keeps it rolling, from Knoll West near Parsippany to Neshanic Valley in Somerset County, which held the 2012 U.S. Women’s Public Links Championship.
During this time of a global health crisis, it’s unclear which courses are still open and which are closed in the name of social distancing. But it’s worth a phone call to see if a friendly walk is still available. And now you know exactly where to go — without question.
Best 18 holes on Public Courses in metro area
1. Bethpage Black No. 4: Par 5, 517 yards
Cyrgalis: This is the best hole on the best public course east of Pebble Beach. Enough said.
Cannizzaro: This is such a good hole it made our top 18 overall holes in the metro area, which included some of the most exclusive private clubs in the country. A classic three-shot par-5 with deep cross-bunkering that makes it one of the most visually pleasing holes you’ll see anywhere.
2. Timber Point (Blue) No. 5: Par 3, 207 yards
Cyrgalis: A remnant from the great golf course built by Colt & Alison in the 1920s — since smushed by land constraints and an additional nine holes — it’s still one of the best par-3’s in the area.
Cannizzaro: The hole called “Gibraltar” plays to an elevated green that overlooks the Great South Bay. With no tree protection, beware of the wind that can play havoc with tee shots here.
3. Trump Ferry Point No. 18: Par 5, 576 yards
Cyrgalis: Modernity in full flight, with a faux-links course still coming to a wildly entertaining close at the base of the Whitestone Bridge.
Cannizzaro: Sweeping, downhill finishing hole is a classic closer in that it’s challenging, requires proper positioning off the tee, and delivers one of the most spectacular views on area courses with the Whitestone as the backdrop.
4. Richter Park No. 12: Par 5, 527 yards
Cyrgalis: What a sight, to come out of the trees and a sloping fairway to the best green site on the course, tucked into Boggs Pond.
Cannizzaro: The best hole on one of the best public courses in the area. Tough approach shot to a peninsula green protected by water on the right and behind.
5. Lido Golf Club, 16: Par 5, 487 yards
Cyrgalis: The challenge is an island fairway shaped like the letter “Y,” playing to a green perched above a reedy marsh. The delight is the summer breeze coming from behind off Reynolds Channel.
Cannizzaro: This risk-reward reachable par-5 is a tribute to C.B. Macdonald’s “Channel Hole” at the original Lido.
6. Patriot Hills No. 3: Par 5, 476 yards
Cyrgalis: The super-elevated tee shot is an adrenaline rush, and navigating the way back up toward the green is a brain twister.
Cannizzaro: If you like elevated tees and dramatic views, you’ll love this hole. It’s called “Shatemuc,’’ which is the Native American name for the Hudson River, which you can see from the back tees.
7. Montauk Downs No. 12: Par 3, 226 yards
Cyrgalis: The challenge of this Robert Trent Jones course is never more apparent than on this brutal par-3, a downhill shot with a long iron and a prayer over two deep bunkers.
Cannizzaro: Intimidating long par-3 that might require a driver for some shorter hitters when the wind is up, which it usually is at the tip of Long Island. Elevated green protected by bunkers complicates matters.
8. Bethpage Red No. 15: Par 4, 482 yards
Cyrgalis: If this weren’t in the same park as The Black, it would be highly ranked for holes like this long, dogleg-right that plays up to a plateau green.
Cannizzaro: This A.W. Tillinghast gem — which is a long, brutal dog-leg right with tree trouble lurking — has similar sharp teeth to a number of the crusher holes on the Black Course.
9. Crystal Springs No. 11: Par 3, 186 yards
Cyrgalis: Ever seen a green shaped like a dog bone, backed by a rock outcropping, playing from a tee atop a cliff and over a beautiful pond? No? Well, here you go.
Cannizzaro: One of the most visually spectacular tee shots you will see anywhere, with an 80-foot drop from a limestone quarry to a green protected by a pond hugging the left side of the hole.
10. Harbor Links No. 6: Par 5, 521 yards
Cyrgalis: The second straight split-fairway hole, this one plays along the sloping wall of what used to be a sand mine, with the more aggressive play challenging out-of-bounds making for a better chance to get home in two.
Cannizzaro: One of several holes on the course that has a split fairway, giving you a choice off the tee. If you’re feeling good about your driver, take the aggressive route taking on the out-of-bounds … if you dare.
11. Pound Ridge Golf Club: No. 13, Par 5, 480 yards
Cyrgalis: Nothing describes this diabolical Pete Dye design more than this extremely narrow par-5 with a tee shot over a giant rock, with rock walls all down the right.
Cannizzaro: The only Dye course in our area, and this hole is classic Dye in that it is visually intimidating with a giant boulder in the middle of the fairway.
12. Ballyowen No. 6: Par 3, 203 yards
Cyrgalis: It’s the best public golf course in New Jersey, and this par-3 over water to a tricky green shows exactly why (as does the bagpiper playing around sunset).
Cannizzaro: All carry over water to a large, complex green that runs from back to front and left to right, which screams “stay below the hole.’’ It’s a three-putt in waiting.
13. Neshanic Valley No. 7: Par-4, 336 yards.
Cyrgalis: Playing from the correct tee, and slinging one up there near the green might be enticing, while a layup to the fat part of the fairway is probably the right play.
Cannizzaro: Course architect Michael Hurdzan once said, “The magic of short par-4s is that they allow average golfers to feel like they’re pros.” This is a beauty of a risk-reward short par-4 with the smallest green on the course.
14. Smithtown Landing No. 18: Par 4, 390 yards
Cyrgalis: Years ago, when this was private, the sloping fairway down to the green was used as a ski slope. In the summer, the approach remains gorgeous, with the Nissequogue River in the background.
Cannizzaro: One of the best closing holes on Long Island, a dogleg left down a hill to a tiered green that’s guarded by bunkering and a nearby pond to the right.
15. Wild Turkey No. 7: Par 3, 208 yards
Cyrgalis: A gorgeous par-3 over a pond and a stone quarry, with the woods rising into the subtle mountains in the background.
Cannizzaro: There’s no room to miss on this, with a forced carry over a quarry lake. If you’re short off the tee, you’re wet. If you’re long, you’re in the woods.
16. Knoll West No. 18: Par 4, 439 yards
Cyrgalis: Not hard to figure out why course architect Charles Banks was nicknamed “Steam Shovel.” These deep and punishing bunkers were his calling card.
Cannizzaro: One of the best public closing holes in New Jersey, with Banks’ signature daunting deep bunkers. This hole almost always leaves you a long approach shot that can be swallowed up by the deep bunker that fronts the green.
17. Van Cortlandt Park No. 2: Par 5, 619 yards
Cyrgalis: You hit it, you hit it again, you hit it again, and eventually you get there on this epic journey through the Bronx trees.
Cannizzaro: This hole is known as “The Babe,’’ named after the iconic Yankees great Babe Ruth, who used to play the course. Unless you’re Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson, this is a three-shot hole.
18. Hominy Hill No. 14: Par 5, 535 yards.
Cyrgalis: A classic par-5, with water in front of the green forcing a decision for either heroism or prudence.
Cannizzaro: Course architect Robert Trent Jones gives you a lot to think about on this dogleg-right hole, with a pond fronting the green. Tough third shot, which can often be from a downhill lie.
The “emergency nine” honorable mention: Island’s End No. 16, Bethpage Green No. 17, Fairchild Wheeler (Black) No. 10, Royce Brook No. 5, Eisenhower Park Red No. 12, Indian Island No. 5, Bowling Green No. 4, Howell Park No. 17, Bethpage Yellow No. 13.