Here’s a the first in a two part series (update: part two is live)… Golfing Magazine has put together the Long Island Dream 18. Without further ado, here’s the front nine…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.