[This flyover was updated on May 15, 2013.]
Hidden away between downtown Northport and the Long Island Sound sits one of the Island's top golf destinations, a fantastic blend of course quality, conditioning and value. The Crab Meadow Golf Course may not be the easiest track to reach, but it is certainly one of the most scenic, a steep challenge with a majestic view. Built atop rolling hills along the Sound, Crab Meadow protects its pins with elevation changes and strategic hazards that leave players debating risk versus reward throughout the 18.
Crab Meadow, a Town of Huntington course, is a par-72 measuring 6,600 yards from the back tees and just over 6,200 from the middle. Trees dot the rough on all holes but the course still maintains an open feel with wide, inviting fairways and reachable greens. The scoring, or lack thereof, is in the hills. Crab Meadow plays up and down, back up, and then down again. Scoring well hinges on how effectively you attack the generous downhill holes, because the uphill ones are unrelenting. A few of the flat ones aren't all that friendly either, especially the par-5 eighth, whose hazard-hugged fairway and green-guarding lake helped land the hole on Newsday's Long Island Dream 18.
Two of the flatter holes at Crab Meadow open the round. Both #1 and #2 are straight, mid-length par-4s, good holes on which to loosen the knots in a tight swing. Miss left on the 379-yard second (pictured) and your ball is likely to careen down a steep drop toward the 14th tee. The par-3 third is notable because of its length (223 from the blues, 198 from the whites).
The downhill scoring holes on the front are #4, a 531-yard par-5, and #6, a short par-4. Strong drivers, especially ones that can belt a lengthy draw, will lick their lips on the fourth tee. Catching the slope of a fairway that runs down and to the left can add 30 to 40 yards to an already healthy drive. From there, depending on the player's deftness with fairway woods or hybrids, a shot at a partially protected green is possible. A good tee shot on the 327-yard sixth (311 from the whites) can run down to within a short pitch of the stick, which is guarded by two imposing greenside bunkers.
Foul up those holes and you won't catch much of a break until the par-3 ninth. The 387-yard fifth is an uphill par-4 featuring a quartet of sand traps hidden from view and covering each corner of a narrow green. The short par-4 seventh features a sidehill left of the fairway that is better suited for a sled than a 7-iron. The farther left you drive it, the higher up on the slope you go, and the greater chance you have of being blocked out by trees. With the ball below your feet, you also run the risk of sending your shot toward a small pond at the right end of the fairway. Water is the main adversary on #8, a 481-yard par-5 with narrow target areas squeezed by marshland on the left and an out-of-bounds roadway on the right. Daring players who envision an eagle putt will have to beat a lake in front of the green, while avoiding the hazard left and another bunker foursome around the putting surface.
Start off the back nine from an elevated 10th tee to a wide fairway that curves right. This 351-yard par-4 is a nice breather before the up-and-down roller coaster begins again -- not only is it designed to be gentle on the scorecard, but it also provides one of the nicest views on the course. After another slim par-5, Crab Meadow throws out some of its toughest holes before easing you back to the clubhouse. The downhill 12th can be attacked with a straight drive that speeds down the steep fairway, but anything left or right will either be blocked or covered by dense rows of trees. The 14th is a par-5 that climbs straight uphill from the tee. Wave goodbye to any drive sent off to the right. The right rough falls off under a line of trees, with the poorest tee shots in that direction ticketed for a blocked recovery from below the fairway. Players who favor the left side can save themselves a lot of trouble -- and probably a stroke or two.
Crab Meadow turns for home with three par-4s hovering around 400 yards -- the flat 15th, an uphill 17th, and a closing hole with a wide landing area and downhill approach.
Crab Meadow and the nature that surrounds it are pleasures to look at. The driving range and tenth fairway face out over a vast marshland toward the Sound. A number of the elevated tees provide impressive views as well. The sights within the confines of the course include its immaculate fairways, mowed short and perfectly manicured.
When not taking in the view, put a few balls down in the heavy stuff, if possible, and get a feel for some soft chips. The rough is cut very close to the greens at Crab Meadow, and shots that run through the fringe will often come to rest within thick, club-snagging turf. You'll need some touch in these situations to avoid chopping shots well beyond the cup or chunking them far short.
Greens, small to medium in size, seem to roll a bit on the slow side. According to one GOLI reader and course veteran, the running joke is that balls would stop halfway down a Stimpmeter if they were used to measure some of Crab Meadow's greens.
Winds off the Sound can blow through the layout and stiffen the challenge on some of Crab Meadow's longer holes. Rough varies in length but is typically playable from just off the fairways.
One negative I did notice in past rounds was the rockiness of the sand in a fairway bunker on #11. This is likely an anomaly, however. About 50 yards ahead, in one of the greenside traps, sand was soft and pebble-free.
Finally, don't forget bug spray.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
Crab Meadow's par-5 eighth is part of Newsday's Long Island Dream 18, and with good reason. From tee to green, each shot carries a significant amount of risk. The ideal landing area off the tee is choked by marshland up the entire left side and thick rough on the right. The hazardous left will cost you a stroke; the rough, a shot at the green. Second shots, conservatively played, must stay straight -- an out-of-bounds roadway pinches into the right side and cuts away valuable hole real estate. The heroic play, a la "Tin Cup," requires carrying a 40-yard pond in front of the hole. Four bunkers surround the green, and a small extension of the pond runs around the green's right side to swallow up shots that had the distance but not the accuracy.
Another challenging par-5 is the 11th. Like #8, this hole doesn't quite stretch to 500 yards, but it might trigger sweats in those with a fear of tight spaces. Woods line the entire left boundary, and a patch of tall trees on the right shrinks the landing area. Rough extends far out from the tee and demands a carry of about 150 yards to reach the fairway. From there, most approaches (pictured in "Conditions") will have a wide-mouthed bunker perched between the ball and the pin.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
Uphill or sidehill recovery shots can become a common theme in your round if you aren't careful. The far left side of #2 and the entire right side of the par-5 14th fall off into trouble spots. Poor sidehill lies can compound frustration after misses to the left of the the fairway on #7 and right of the green on the par-3 13th.
Also, beware of a water hazard left of the green on #10. You may not notice it until you're at the bottom.
220 Waterside Road, Northport 11768
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