[This flyover was updated on July 20, 2017.]
Observations: North Woodmere Park GC (7/3/2014)
For those picking up the game either as an eager junior or as an adult looking for a new recreational outlet, the golf course at North Woodmere Park is an ideal place to start. The relaxed vibe, open fairways and a mixed bag of short par-3s and driver-friendly par-4s let newbies test out all their clubs. Meanwhile, experienced players can work out some knots in their swing for just a few bucks more than a large bucket at the range.
Learning the game, for me, took place in the fairways and rough at North Woodmere, mostly with my grandfather and other times with friends, back in the late '90s when you called ahead for wait times that often went well beyond the two-hour mark, and when starters who knew you by face didn't reprimand you for forgetting your Leisure Pass. Twenty years later, the parking lot and tee sheet might not be as full, and the same fliers might hang in a clubhouse where time stands still, but between the tees and greens North Woodmere is an enjoyable par-31 where you can keep your game fresh.
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. Woodmere's opening hole is a dogleg left where you can cut off a nice chunk of yardage by aiming out over the bank of trees inside the turn. Getting stuck in the trees though is a recipe for bogey. The two par-4s that follow are wide and straight.
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. The par-3 seventh looks even shorter than the 143 yards marked on the scorecard, but the slope in its green is challenging enough to steal a stroke or two if you're not careful.
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.
For a nine-hole municipal course, the fairways and especially the greens are in surprisingly good shape. The players and staff at Woodmere do a better job fixing divots and repairing ball marks than those at other munis in the area. Putting surfaces are soft and smooth, and while some are flat or just slightly pitched, a few greens -- especially #7 and #8 -- feature breaks and ridges that are significant enough to keep the short game interesting.
While the course is wide and forgiving, the rough areas are dotted with lots of small trees and short shrubs, meaning wayward balls are easy to find, though obstructed shots from the rough are common.
Sitting within a series of bays and inlets in southwest Nassau, Woodmere is exposed to constant wind, and bugs can be a nuisance. Have bug spray at the ready. Keep in mind Woodmere is not for the easily distracted or the faint of heart -- with its position just east of JFK Airport, the course features a never-ceasing procession of landing airplanes, best viewed from the #4 tee.
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 pitch, 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.
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. Purchase tokens at the golf course before heading over.
WHERE TO GRAB A BITE AND A BEER:
The course and park are surrounded by homes and marshland, but a short drive will fill your stomach. To the south, Rockaway Turnpike has you covered in the fast-food/diner department. Back in the day, when morning waits at Woodmere were long enough to allow for an extended breakfast, we'd sign in and head east for coffee and egg sandwiches at what is now Bagel Boss in Hewlett. The same strip mall features a solid pizza place called Marinara and once housed the renowned Woodro Kosher Deli, which recently moved nearby to Broadway.
Branch Blvd. and Hungry Harbor Road, North Woodmere 11581
(516) 571-7814 / 7813 (wait time)
[This post was modified on July 20, 2017.]
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