The Harbor Links executive nine is the kid brother of the 18-hole championship course, shorter by about 5,000 yards and a couple of $20 bills, but longer on "scrap." The nine may not look like much on the scorecard, but it makes up for its 1,600+ yardage from the tips with some serious bunkering and mounding around the greens, ridges and tiers on the greens, and visual appeal that can steer your concentration away from your tight iron shots from time to time.
While many use it as a practice course, it's no pushover for the experienced golfer to pummel. None of the holes are all that difficult, but there are legitimate hazards to be wary of. Thick rough and tall, wispy grasses can suck your ball in if you get careless. Large mounds complicate simple chip shots. And the water hole that closes the nine-hole round is no joke -- though it barely breaks 100 yards, you must carry a pond to reach the green, then navigate a pair of steep ridges to get to the hole.
The course is made up of five short par-3s and four par-4s that top out at 262 yards. Most of the holes have several teeboxes and often play much shorter.
Tall fescue-type grass and a couple of ponds sit in the center of the course, and this grass comes into play on the first few holes. The first two are 150-yard par-3s with large ridges that make their way across the greens. Hole #1 has tall mounds going up and down around the sides and back of the green, and #2 is protected by three large bunkers.
Your woods finally find daylight at the third tee, but the 241-yard fourth offers a more interesting shot. The green is tucked away to the left behind the tree-lined course perimeter, requiring a well-played draw to find the putting surface from the tee. The sixth hole is a 115-yarder that plays shorter from an elevated tee, followed by the two longest holes on the course. Three bunkers (right) stand guard in front of the seventh green to dissuade (try to, anyway) people from pulling driver from the bag.
The championship course at Harbor Links is the best course I've played on Long Island in terms of visual aesthetics and natural surroundings. None of that is lost on the executive course. Elevated tees provide great views of the course's deep green and soft brown. The entire course is in tremendous shape, though deep gouged divots on the tees and unrepaired ball marks on the greens seem to be more commonplace here than they are next door. Greens are medium-sized to very large, and none are flat. Some are two-tiered, others throw one or two severe ridges at you. Veer too far off the green and you'll battle thick rough atop or off the slope of a large mound.
Pace of play is fantastic, though I've only played late weekday afternoons. Nine holes can be done in one hour and 15 minutes. Weekends, so I'm told, get more crowded and obviously play slower, especially with so many par-3s and a lot of parents and kids.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
The fourth tee points you to the right and encourages a safe shot to the fairway. But the green is nestled behind the tree line to the left, and at only 241 yards (212 from the middle tees), who wants to lay up? Left-to-right players may find the setup problematic, but those who can draw the ball will love to attack the pin here -- and will love putting for eagle even more.
The ninth is the lone water hole on the course and measures 113 yards. Carrying the pond isn't a huge issue, but settling on the wrong side of a ridge on the green is. Though it could be worse -- you could have two ridges between your ball and the cup.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
The three round bunkers protecting the seventh green aren't all that big or terribly deep, but they are about 20-30 yards short of the putting surface, and a big blast is needed to get out and onto the green.
1 Fairway Drive, Port Washington 11050
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