It's only fitting to begin at North Woodmere, the nine-hole muni that hosted my first-ever round back in the Spring of 1996. Learning the game -- or at least trying to learn it -- took place here, mostly with my grandfather, but sometimes as a member of the Valley Stream South golf "team" back in high school, which was really just a lot of free golf after school for those of us not strong enough to play in the real matches.
The course is wide open -- mostly. It's a great course for beginners and those looking to tune up their irons in preparation for a round elsewhere. Still, your driver and woods can get somewhat of a workout, not often the case on Nassau's nine-hole tracks. After staying away for a season or two, I find myself coming back here more often to work out some bad habits on a course I know like the back of my 12-year-old MacGregor 3-wood.
Woodmere is the longest of the four County-run nine-hole courses in Nassau. Unlike the other three -- Bay Park, Christopher Morley, and Cantiague -- Woodmere has four par-4s, all more than 300 yards. The rest are medium-length par-3s, with the exception of the 200-yard sixth.
Sitting next to an inlet that leads out into Jamaica Bay, Woodmere can get rather windy. The first three holes are par-4s of 390, 395 and 310 yards. Holes 4 and 5 are nearly identical par-3s of 177 and 167 yards. If there's a wait ahead, the marshland next to the tee at the 200-yard sixth offers the chance to practice landing short irons on the "island green" sitting out across Hook Creek Channel.
After four consecutive par-3s the 360-yard eighth hole is a relief for those itching to let loose with the driver. Even more of a relief is its generous fairway and the forgiving rough off to the right. The closing hole is a 140-yard par-3 that can only hurt you if you find your way into the mix of hardened dirt and tree roots behind the green.
I think the conditions at Woodmere have improved since the time I began playing more than a decade ago. Some areas on the course flood a bit, and its popularity with the local geese make for a bit of a mess, but overall the course is kept up nicely. Fairways and greens are well maintained. The fairways especially seem to be in better shape than they used to be.
Greens are large and slow, but not entirely flat. Some can offer a challenge depending on pin placement, especially the par-3 seventh. Wayward shots can usually be found and played from deep in the short rough or from opposite fairways.
It's not quite the 17th at Sawgrass, but the marshland "green" in the middle of the channel next to the sixth tee is one of the popular spots to aim practice shots when there's a wait (or when there's not).
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
The 1st, 2nd and 8th are the three longest holes on the four nine-hole County courses. You can let loose with your driver on all three, but there are some trouble spots on #1.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
There are usually trees and bushes around the back and sides of the greens, so missing long is usually the only way you can possibly leave yourself with an obstructed shot, or with no shot altogether. There is nothing guarding the front of the greens, so err short.
If you don't stay straight off the first tee, you'll either battle tall trees on the left or a series of shorter trees and shrubs on the right. Also, beware of the electric tower on #3 and its mysterious magnetic grip on balls pushed to the right.
- County residents need to remember to being their leisure passes. Since Nassau upgraded their equipment a few years back and now scans all passes electronically, the courses are much less lenient when it comes to forgotten or expired passes. A friend of mine who also learned the game on this course presented his expired pass earlier this Summer on a weekend and was forced to pay double the $15 county rate.
- There is a driving range a short walk from the clubhouse, on the opposite side of the bay. You can get there from either the course entrance or the main park entrance.
Branch Blvd. and Hungry Harbor Road, North Woodmere 11581
(516) 571-7814 / 7813 (wait time)
This post was modified on July 4, 2009.
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