Sitting along a quiet stretch of Middle Country Road in Middle Island, Spring Lake Golf Club is fairly unassuming at first blush.
The 27-hole public course on 180 acres, featuring a small driving range, restaurant and scenic vistas, forms the northernmost point on a triangle of public golf courses in the area – Spring Lake, Middle Island Country Club and Mill Pond Golf Course – none of which is more than two miles from the next.
But play Spring Lake, and the differences become very clear – this is a course for a more experienced golfer looking to be challenged.
Need some convincing? Just check out the first hole on the nine-hole, par-36 “Sandpiper” course. The par-5 spans 522 yards from the farthest tee to the hole and requires golfers to lift the ball over two lakes to find the green. Don’t send it too far past the green or you’ll wind up in a third water hazard. And if all that’s not tough enough, bunkers surround the green on two sides.
Make it past the first hole and golfers are rewarded with more straightforward, albeit uphill, second and third holes. A word of warning: Shanking the ball to the right on the par-3 third hole will either force golfers to drop a new ball or go searching for it among the 18th century gravestones of Middle Island’s Union Cemetery.
Remember that right hook that would land you in the cemetery on the third hole? It’s a saving grace on the fifth hole, which has water down its entire left side. Getting to the green isn’t as terrible as it sounds on this 358-yard, par-4 hole, but staying on it can be trouble. It’s elevated and surrounded on three sides by bunkers, meaning if you miss the hole while putting, you have to really loft it out of the sand to get back on the green. It’s easy to rack up a lot of strokes this way. Don’t loft it too much though, or you could wind up in the windshield of a car in the parking lot adjacent to this green.
The sixth hole is a nice change of pace – a par-3 that’s 118 yards from the farthest tee. While course officials recommend a “short iron,” a pitching wedge works just as well, if not better, giving more control on this extremely short course. Putting is a challenge. The two-tiered green plays more like a miniature golf hole – sans windmill – than most standard greens.
A three-wood is supposedly recommended for the 329-yard, par-4 seventh hole, but go with a driver to make sure you get past the bunker in the middle of this hole. Chip onto the green, and the rest isn’t too difficult.
There’s no water on the 358-yard, par-4 eighth hole, but there may as well be, considering just how narrow this hole is. There’s no give on the right, as a fence separates the short tree line of the course from a neighborhood on the other side.
Speaking of trees, beware of the pines on the right side of the ninth hole, which curves to the right. Those trees happen to be home to some large birds that don’t appreciate golf balls intruding on their property. Make it past the birds, and the hole, and golfers wind up back at the clubhouse. All told, the “Sandpiper” course takes anywhere from two to two-and-a-half hours to complete.Playing the nine-hole course recently, I was forced to abandon all hopes of having a good round on the very first hole. My drives rarely, if ever, stay straight – a necessity on a hole that’s more water than land. After my first shot tailed off into the water, I took a drop on the fairway with only one more lake to clear. Four shots later, I finally cleared it successfully. It may be a par-5, but I was barely able to keep my strokes in the single digits.
Considering how I fared on the shorter course, I think it will be some time before I take on the 18-hole “Thunderbird” course, which I’m told is equally as difficult.
Spring Lake is a challenging, but enjoyable course, especially good for testing all aspects of your game. Prices are fair, ranging from $21 to $68 depending on what day and course you play. Just make sure you call ahead to check on the course conditions: The large amounts of water tend to flood the nine-hole course after heavy rains, making them unusable. In addition, the local high school’s golf teams play here often, which can create some backup if trying to get a quick round in on a weekday afternoon in the spring or fall.
My recommendation: It’s certainly nowhere near as difficult as Bethpage’s legendary Black course, but beginners might still want to take a pass on this one until they’ve gained a little more experience.
Otherwise, they should be sure to bring a lot of spare golf balls.