Golf courses are certainly not difficult to find across Long Island. No matter where you're sitting, it's likely that a flagstick is dug into a golf hole somewhere within a 15-minute drive of your computer screen. Par-3 courses are a different story. Sometimes during the ongoing love-hate relationship between golfer and driver, you just want to leave home with only a few irons and a putter, but not with the range as the destination. The par-3 course satisfies competitive instincts while allowing for some much-needed short-game practice and time away from the woods and long irons.
Unfortunately, if you live in western Nassau, the closest one is a half-hour away in Babylon. Sumpwams Creek is one of only six public par-3s on the Island (an unofficial count), all of which are found in Suffolk. Its nine holes range from distances of 90 to 180 yards, totaling 1,156 yards from the "back" tees. Most of the holes are short and simple. It is an attractive spot for short iron and wedge practice, as well as a Masters Wednesday-type par-3 competition between friends, albeit without the azaleas.
Sumpwams Creek opens with a 90-yarder, a lone bunker offering protection from very short pitches to the left side. The 124-yard second hole features gentle mounding on the right side of the green and out-of-bounds within reach of bad pulls on the left.
A pond sits in the back end of the property, with holes #3 through #5 playing around its perimeter. Only one shot on the course finds water infringing upon its line to the flag, that being the tee shot on the 100-yard third. Bunkers guard against shots well short or left of the green, and the pond only threatens balls that are topped or chunked off the tee. The green on the 104-yard fourth slopes gently toward the back in the direction of two bunkers. Hole #5 might be the most uncomfortable hole for beginners -- a dirt path runs up the right rough next to a fence and OB, and the pond splashes along the left side.
The seventh and ninth holes stand out because of their distance and their degree of difficulty in comparison with the rest of the course. Both are a bit more hazardous and require execution of skillful shots.
The 167-yard seventh has a slightly raised green that is shielded by three deep bunkers. Players that let carelessness creep into their swings after six short, non-threatening holes can easily find themselves looking up and out of any of the three traps. High front faces demand some proficiency with the sand wedge if there are any thoughts of getting up and down for par. The ninth is the course's longest hole, a 180-yarder with a large bunker on the right of the green's front half. A front pin placement should take the bunker out of play, but a pin that's farther back is better protected from an aggressive long iron.
Considering its location, wedged into a corner between Route 231 and the Long Island Railroad, Sumpwams Creek still manages to keep a pretty tranquil setting. The sounds of train whistles, the rumble of railroad tracks and the whoosh of cars at highway speed all melt into the background -- assuming, of course, that a train horn doesn't blast as you stand over a birdie putt. They are all in plain sight, but the course still has an attractive look. The pond adds to the atmosphere.
Greens are medium-sized and typically flat. A few greens are gently sloped -- the fourth from center to back, the sixth from center to front, and the ninth from right to left.
The course doesn't seem to drain particularly well. Even a few days removed from any significant rain, it can be overly moist in some spots.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
On a standard 18-hole course, the 180-yard ninth probably wouldn't inspire too many second thoughts. At Sumpwams Creek, however, it's much more unique. Chances are you'll be pulling a long iron from your bag for the first and last time all day, and for most golfers who struggle to smack a 4-iron straight under normal circumstances, this is not a preferred situation. A weak push to the right will either stay short of or find the bunker and set up a blast or pitch where the green slopes away from you. Pulled shots will run into small trees left of the green. Kudos to the player that can grab a cold long iron or hybrid and find the green with its only swing of the day.
The third hole may stand out to the beginner and the young player due to the water element. A corner of the pond sticks into the target line, but far enough from the green to only intercept balls that either don't get off the ground or are popped straight into the air.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
If the goal at Sumpwams Creek is to practice a variety of short-game shots, the bunkers on #7 are a great place to drop a few balls. If the goal is to score or compete in a friendly match, it would be in your best interests to steer clear of these traps. Falling short of the green on this 167-yard hole leaves you with a delicate bunker shot over high grass faces -- probably the diciest shot on this otherwise harmless course.
75 Cedar St., Babylon 11702
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