I Love New York... but not so much for public access golf
Downstate New York is a treasure trove of golfing riches. To name a few, Long Island boasts Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links and Garden City, Westchester has Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge, Sleepy Hollow and Century, The New Jersey suburbs have Mountain Ridge, Plainfield, Ridgewood and Baltusrol, and in nearby Connecticut you will find Stanwich, C.C. of Fairfield and Tamarack. The foregoing list barely scratches the surface of the good to great courses that can be found in the New York metropolitan area. The problem for a travelling golfer is that with a few exceptions all of the great courses in the area are strictly private. So, unless you have a connection to a private club you will not have access. For a visitor, the private club model typical in the U.K. and Ireland is much preferred over the U.S. model as almost every private club across the pond may be played by a visitor at specified times by the click of a mouse or a quick phone call. Every course listed on my Berkshire/Surrey page or the Ayrhire page is open to play to visitors.
For the visiting golfer, metro NY does not offer many great choices. The obvious exception is Bethpage State Park on Long Island. The famous Black Course at Bethpage, that has now recently hosted two U.S. Opens, is the pride of New York public golf. The Black is one of the greatest, if not greatest, public course in the U.S. and is also a good bang for the buck, even for non-residents. It is long, tough and beautiful, and the one "must play" public course when you visit New York City. It can be tough to get a tee time on the Black and rounds can be slow. Its sister, the Red Course at Bethpage is also excellent and a bit less brutal while maintaining the challenge and interest. The Red is also less expensive. While not in the same league as the Black or Red, the Blue, Green and Yellow at Bethpage courses are less expensive options for a nice day of golf. Another good choice on Long Island is the Red Course at Eisenhower Park. This Devereaux Emmet design dates back to the eraly 20th Century and was originally a private club that was taken over by Nassau County during the Great Depression. It is a solid layout that has hosted PGA Tour events and is preferred over the Robert Trent Jones designed White and Blue courses at Eisenhower Park.
New York City - The five Boroughs: The City is comprised of five Counties or Boroughs: Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, none of which is known for its golf. Manhattan has no course but does have a driving range on the Hudson River at Chelsea Piers. The City does own courses in each of the four Outer Boroughs. Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx is only a short ride from midtown by car or subway. VCP is the oldest muni in the Country (opened in 1885) and until a few years ago looked its age. Whatever you think of Rudy Giuliani, he must be given credit for sinking some money into VCP to put a little shine back on. In addition, he put the operation of the City owned courses out for public bid. American Golf now operates most of the City owned golf facilities (but not VCP). Split Rock is a favorite of many in the Bronx Clearview in Queens is convenient to Manhattan. It is usually in decent nick. Forest Park and Douglaston are a little further away but good choices in Queens, and also good places to hook up with a group of New Yorkers. If you are willing to venture a little further away from town, or if your visiting friends or relatives in Brooklyn or Staten Island, you might consider Dyker Beach or Marine Park in Brooklyn or LaTourette in S.I.
Non Resident Fees for 18 holes are around $50 to walk and $67 to ride. There are discounted twilight rates
Westchester: Westchester has dozens of terrific private courses. Unfortunately, it's only public options (with the exception of the recently opened Pound Ridge G.C.) are the six County owned courses. http://www.westchestergov.com/parks/golf.htm Green fees are around $40 without cart, except for Hudson Hills which is more expensive.
The cream of the Westchester muni crop is Hudson Hills in the Town of New Castle (Northeast of Ossining). Mohansic in Yorktown is pretty nice as well. These two are the furthest North and therefore not as convenient to the City. If you want to play closer to the City, I'd suggest Saxon Woods which can be reached by the Metro North Harlem Line train from Grand Central Station or is an easy drive by car. However, if you have a car, I'd go the extra 20 minutes to Hudson Hills or Mohansic.
The non-muni public option is the recently opened Pound Ridge Country Club, a semi-private, "Country Club for a day" Pete Dye layout about an hour North of the City. I recently played it for the first time. The high green fees (normally $195 booked in advance on-line, but ranging from $100 for a twilight round to $235) made me stay away for awhile. I enjoyed it more than the Westchester muni courses, but not enough to justify the full green fee. If you can play here for $150 or less I'd say go for it. It is tight and many reviewers think it is too difficult for the average golfer. However, if you play from the middle tees it makes for a fun day. http://www.poundridgegolf.com/
Rockland (15-45 minutes North of the GW Bridge): Rockland is on the opposite side of the Hudson from Westchester and is easily reached by car via the George Washington Bridge or Tappan Zee. Rockland has nine courses open to the public, a few of which are pretty good. Each is less than an hour drive from Manhattan. The most convenient is Blue Hill (27 holes) located just a 15 minute drive up the Palisades Parkway from the GW Bridge. If you have the time Rockland has three better options about 15 minutes further away. Spook Rock, in Suffern is generally recognized as the best Muni course in the area and used to be rated in the national magazine rankings of top public courses in the U.S. Rockland Lake State Park is a fun layout and if the State invested as much money in Rockland Lake as they have at Bethpage, R.L. would be a great option. Rounds here can be slow and conditions are hit or miss, but I still like Rockland Lake. They also have an executive course which is a lot of fun... 18 par 3 holes ranging from 110 yards to 210 yards. Patriot Hills in Stony Point opened less than ten years ago. It is a "love it or hate it" type of course. It is very hilly with at least seven tee shots from elevated tees down into valleys below. You can't walk this course, and altough I wouldn't play it every day, I think it is beautiful and a lot of fun. Worth taking a business asociate for a round and a step above most muni's (and a little more expensive). http://www.patriothillsgolfclub.com/Philp Rotella G.C is located about two minutes down the road from Patriot Hills. Rotella is hilly, but not as much as Patriot. Rotella's greens are usually in great shape for a muni. They are fast and true and have deceptive breaks.Their proximity makes these two an option if you want to play 36 holes.
Long Island: After Bethgpage, the public pickins' on L.I. are a little slim. Eisenhower Park has 3 courses. The Red is a Devereaux Emmet (of Garden City fame) layout. The Blue and White are Robt. Trent Jones Sr layouts. Harbor Links in Port Washington and Oyster Bay Town Course are other viable choices.
Northern NJ (North of Route 80): The West Course at the Knoll Country Club in Parsippany is a semi private club operated by the town of Parsippany. It is a classic Charles Banks layout originally opened as a private club in the late 1920's. This is a top choice and well worth the drive from the City. The Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, NJ has 5 courses. Balleyowen, a faux links is the most popular. The other choices there , Crystal Springs, Black Bear, Great Gorge and Wild Turkey are pretty good.
Central NJ (South of Route 80 and North of I195): These are convenient to Newark airport. Architects and Royce Brook are nice upscale daily fee courses West of Newark off of Route 78. Architects has holes designed in the styles of the greatest classic era golf course architects... MacDonald, Tillinghast, Banks, Raynor, Ross etc. Neshanic Valley, Flanders Valley, Hominy Hills and Howell Park are among the better muni's in the State. Neshanic opened recently and is an open course on what was farm land with a steady wind. Flanders and Hominy are Trent Jones layouts from the 1960's. One caveat is that, like Rockland Lake, conditions at Hominy and Howell can be hit or miss.
Orange County (about an hour North of NYC): Mansion Ridge is probably the most popular public course in Orance County. It is an up-scale semi-private Country Club for a day type of course. It is the only Jack Nicklaus designed course in NY. It has some fun holes, but be forewarned... there are many long forced carries that make the course quite tough on high handicappers. Make sure to play from the correct tees or be prepared to lose a bunch of balls. The West Point golf course (Yes, that West Point, the U.S. Military Academy) is a nice option. While not very fancy it is well kept and a fun layout that is not too expensive. Plan to ride here as there is a long distance between the front and back. Stony Ford in Campbell Hall (near Goshen) is a decnt muni. Another 30 minutes North, just before the Catskill region is the Town of Walikill muni which is a favorite in the area.
Putnam and Dutchess(60-90 minutes North of the City): On the East bank of the Hudson, just across the river from West Point is Garrison Golf Club. Garrison is not long and pretty tight and winds through the woods. If that suits your style, West Point and Garrison make a nice 36 hole day. Further North are a number of nice options: Centennial has 27 holes and The Links at Unionvale is a faux links, are the top choices in this area. Casperkill and Putnam National are other okay (and less expensive) choices. Link to Photo Albums of New York Golf Courses: http://www.flickr.com/photos/golfcoursepix/collections/72157631870377809/ _ Fairfield CT: