The New York State Parks system operates six golf facilities on Long Island, with Bethpage its most notable and Montauk Downs not too far behind. In between, up on the Long Island Sound in Kings Park, are the nine-hole Red, Blue and Green courses of Sunken Meadow State Park.
The Red course, at 3,133 yards from the back tees, is the middle course in terms of length. It features Sunken Meadow's two shortest par-4s as well as the park's only two 500-yard par-5s. It is a forgiving course with no water hazards and some light bunkering. Slope ratings when played in combination with the Blue or Green courses are in the low 110s, meaning bogey golfers have the opportunity to post impressive scores, while advanced players can pick their targets without fear of hazards and feast on the Red's large greens.
The Red's opening two holes are the shortest par-4s in the entire complex. From the white tees they both play under 300 yards, and from the back, they measure 309 and 328 yards, respectively. The first hole sports a hilly fairway that dips down from the tee, rises back up, and then drops down again before it makes a steep climb up to the spacious green. Three bunkers loosely guard the putting surface on the much flatter #2.
An elevated teebox on the par-3 third hides the front end of the large green that sits below. The hole plays much shorter than the listed yardage -- 128 from the middle tees, 150 from the back. In contrast, the 157-yard par-3 eighth demands a longer club and more precise accuracy to an elevated green with a bit of trouble off the right side.
Long drivers can use the hills to their advantage on #7 and #9, the two longest holes at Sunken Meadow. The fairways on these par-5s stay level with the tee for about 200 yards until they each begin a long, steady descent toward massive greens. Blasted tee shots can spin an extra 20 to 30 yards along the slope and set up an aggressive play on the approach. Of course, dense woods serve as deterrents along the right sides of both fairways. Players who struggle to control their driver might opt to stay conservative off the tee and use the downhill fairway for extra yardage on the second shot.
Despite the park's location on the Long Island Sound, there is no water in play at Sunken Meadow, and thanks to the trees framing each hole on the course, you won't even know the Sound is there at all. The trees join forces with thick rough to frustrate players who fail to keep shots in the fairway. Rough can be quite choppy and uneven in some places, turning bad lies worse with an unlucky bounce. Dirt cart paths and their rocks and pebbles can be a nuisance in play around some greens, and lies in other unkempt areas are left in the hands of the golf gods.
Putting surfaces on the Red course are spacious and slow. The first and last holes are examples of the Red's flatter greens, while the par-5 seventh is one surface that features a significant tilt.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
The Red's opener is a fun hole thanks to a pair of downslopes. This 297-yard par-4 drops off from the tee, rises again midway to the hole, then falls down a deeper slope before climbing sharply to the green. Ideally, the tee shot will be placed in the elevated portion of the fairway and set up a short-iron approach. Greedy players risk overshooting this area for the sake of driving distance and wind up with an uphill pitch. The green (pictured right) is flat and inviting but cannot be missed short, otherwise it will settle into the sloped rough.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
#8 is an uphill par-3 that requires a well-struck middle or long iron and offers little room to miss on the right. A push to that side will likely trickle down the slope and either nestle into the heavy rough or come to rest on a dirt path littered with rocks and branches. Worse, a shot can go beyond the path and farther downhill. What's left is most likely an uphill recovery shot from an awful lie.
Sunken Meadow - Blue/Green (on site)
Crab Meadow (6 miles)
Smithtown Landing (6 miles)
Sunken Meadow State Park, Kings Park 11754
(631) 544-0036 (pro shop); (631) 269-0707 (reservations)
Have thoughts and opinions on Sunken Meadow Red? Share them with other Golf On Long Island readers by posting in the comments section below.