The shaded cabin at the Dix Hills Golf Club, with its weathered, throwback signage and gravel driveway, is a pleasant place to start a round of golf. What hides behind it -- literally -- is far from pleasant, unless you consider hacking up and out of a 40-foot gully a highlight of a golf outing.
The Dix Hills Golf Club, not to be confused with its fellow nine-holer at Dix Hills Park, is a 2,600-yard par-35 that successfully uses its finest aesthetic assets to aggravate golfers on the ground and in the air. Players battle rough as if trying to loft irons out of an unkempt front lawn. Overhanging trees stand poised to deflect shots, almost always away from the target. And a deep ravine fronts the green on two holes.
From the fairway, the course is a light test for experienced players. There is no water, and bunkers are sparse and non-threatening. From the rough, Dix Hills has some teeth. Grass is thick everywhere but the fairways and greens. If you're in the first cut or just off the fringe, you might be out of luck.
Dix Hills begins and ends with its only two par-5s. The opening hole is a 475-yarder that climbs up from the tee and then angles down mid-fairway toward the green. In the late afternoon, shadows formed by the tree line behind and left of the green can hide the break in the front of the putting surface. A drivable, 256-yard par-4 follows, with a bunker at the left end of the fairway to disrupt tee shots kept short.
The third hole appears as hospitable from the tee as the first two holes, but it becomes clear as you approach your second shot that this will be a different type of challenge altogether. Between your ball and the flag is a pit that extends about 50 yards from a walkway at the end of the fairway to the front of the green. Making matters worse, the green has a false front, so playing with a little too much finesse might leave you rolling back downhill. This pit forces a similar carry on the 168-yard, par-3 fifth, where the fairway drops off completely from tee to green.
Luckily the goal on #4 is to play straight downhill. The green on this 116-yard par-3 is surrounded by trees and only a short pitch away. Just don't leave anything short -- there is nothing but thick rough all the way down the slope.
The sixth and seventh holes are short, straight par-4s. The green on #6 bends a bit left from the fairway, leaving a large patch of rough on its right side. A lengthy par-3 follows at #8, where overzealous shots missed long, left or right from 239 yards out will undoubtedly sink into heavy rough. Dix Hills ends with a 470-yard par-5 that turns right and slopes downhill from the middle of the fairway. The green is set slightly left along a thick line of trees -- drives and approaches kept too far to the left might lack a clear angle to the pin.
Assuming it is always kept as high and lush as I've encountered in the past, the rough certainly heightens the challenge at Dix Hills. Some might see it as a hassle they'd rather not deal with, which should inspire them to cut down their swings and keep the ball in the fairway. Or it might inspire them to pick up their balls and place them in the fairway that way. All in all, there isn't much margin for error unless you consistently play from the center. The rough pictured to the right, easily consuming the head of my 9-iron, is the first cut about two feet to the right of the seventh fairway.
On some holes trees and shrubbery play a bigger part. Twigs, branches and other forms of tree waste are common obstacles. Take time to clear your line before putting. The greens are a little tougher than they appear, and often very slow. Some are crowned, leaving uphill putts that need to be firmly struck. Others, like #2 and #3, drop off in the front. Rough is cut close to the putting surface on all holes.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
A good tee shot into the fairway on #3 will leave a short-iron approach to a small green. There are trees behind the green, so you don't want to go too far over. You try to take a few yards off the shot, but you don't catch it as clean as you'd like. Now you're begging for it to clear the tremendous pit, but to no avail -- you missed, and your reward is a pitch back uphill, out of thick rough or chewed-up dirt patches, to a green that you can't see.
If you go over the green, at least you're not down in the ravine -- yet. Some delicate touch is required to keep the chip from rolling past the flag and off the front of the green, but hacking out of rough is anything but delicate. And if you're too timid, there's no guarantee you get out of the rough at all. Unless you clear the thick stuff in the air, it'll get sucked right back in. The photo to the left showcases the situation quite clearly. This is a fun hole that can fly off the rails rather quickly.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
The best place to avoid is the bottom of the gully on #3 and #5. A bogey is usually the best-case scenario once you find yourself down there.
527 Half Hollow Road, Dix Hills 11746
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