Riverhead’s Cherry Creek is known by area golfers for its two defining features: two completely separate courses split by the lightly traveled Reeves Ave., and being home to Long Island’s only par-6 hole.
While the former is certainly noteworthy, it’s the latter that really draws widespread attention. Par-6 holes are rare even beyond Long Island’s borders; recreational golfers can go their entire lives without ever encountering such courses.
Cherry Creek officials said it was never anyone’s intent to create a par-6 hole when designing the course. However, the desire to have the green of the 18th hole back up to the clubhouse presented some problems when designing the course. To make it work – while not straying to far from the end of the 17th hole – the designers had to place the tee boxes more than 600 yards away. The hole spans an impressive 644 yards from the blue tee to the end (612 yards from the white tee).
“It does have a little bit of notoriety,” said Eileen McCaffrey, an LPGA member who serves as Cherry Creek’s general manager and head golf professional. “I’ll hear golfers coming in saying, ‘This is the one with the par-6.’”
Just how rare are golf courses featuring par-6 holes? Consider this, the state of North Carolina, one of the East Coast’s most popular states for golf due to its temperate year-round climate, has only two such holes out of its more than 400 golf courses. And one could even argue that one of those courses, Farmstead Golf Links, shouldn’t count, as its 767-yard 18th hole technically tees off in South Carolina – the hole is located in North Carolina.
Compared to other par-6 holes, Cherry Creek’s offering is actually fairly tame. Most par-6 holes are in the 700- to 800-yard range. The longest par-6, Chocolay Downs Golf Course in Marquette, Mich., stretches an intimidating 1,007 yards, completely dwarfing Cherry Creek’s 18th hole.
“A bartender in our clubhouse did a survey several years ago of golfers coming in off the course; most were saying it plays more like a five-and-a-half,” McCaffrey said. “But then again, when he checked the scores of people coming in, seven strokes was the average for it. Even the better golfers were only parring it. If it’s a five-and-a-half, they should be birdying it.”
Many golfers do birdy the hole, while some are even able to score the elusive eagle on Cherry Creek’s 18th hole, McCaffrey said. The hole itself is pretty straight forward – a straight shot from the tee box with trees on one side and a water-collecting ditch on the other. Getting to the green becomes a little trickier, however, as its uphill and guarded nicely by bunkers. Still, it’s nothing experienced golfers can’t handle.
“Hit three good shots down the fairway and you’ll be in eagle position,” McCaffrey said. “It’s doable for the better golfers.”
In fact, the biggest challenge Cherry Creek’s par-6 often presents is the mental exhaustion it inflicts on golfers, who can be easily intimidated by such a long hole after playing the rest of the Links.
“Some golfers can get tired by the end of the round,” McCaffrey said, “but if they par or even bogey the 18th, they’ll usually walk away feeling pretty happy.”