[This flyover was last updated on April 29, 2012.]
When time allows, most players prepare for a round by grooving their swing at the range and finding their touch around the practice green. At the Swan Lake Golf Club, home of what are likely the most tremendous greens on Long Island, the pre-round routine should never skimp on putting. Players and their putters will be in close company throughout a round at Swan Lake, and if the relationship is rocky, if lag putts sputter out halfway to the hole, stroke after stroke will be lost atop the course's gigantic surfaces. There's no excuse for ignoring the practice green either -- Swan Lake has no driving range.
The Swan Lake Golf Club in Manorville is a 7,035-yard par-72 (6,375 from the middle) with huge greens, spacious fairways and water hazards on seven holes. Fairway bunkers are prevalent on the back nine. It is a well-maintained course that allows scores to go low as long as players can limit their confrontations with 75-foot putts. Beginners will enjoy the open fairways and big targets. Skilled golfers can set a figure to mind and get after it on a course that is forgiving by nature, but only to a point. Some holes are not kind to carelessness.
No time is wasted before players are introduced to Swan Lake's oversized greens. The deepest green on the course -- 55 yards from front to back edge -- sits at the end of the 391-yard opener. Water used to be an obstacle on the right side until the hole was re-routed in 2008. (The old fairway is now a stretch of rough alongside the hazard.) Out-of-bounds closely borders the left sides of #2 and #3, but both fairways are open on the right and bunker-free. A pond hides from view behind the green on the 481-yard third, so don't overclub trying to reach the par-5 in two.
The 307-yard fourth is defended by a quartet of large bunkers -- two guard the neck of the green, the other two protect the offset fairway. Getting caught in any of them spoils a prime scoring hole. Deep bunkers also complicate the approach to the wide green on #6, a 507-yard par-5 with three traps that force players to angle shots toward safe lay-up areas. Two huge bunkers inside the turn on the left-dogleg eighth are the green's gatekeepers -- a close encounter is a necessity in order to score on this 354-yard par-4. Stay short of the trap and an angle to the green is non-existent. The 343-yard ninth pits players against water to the right and out-of-bounds left. A finger of the pond extends into the hole and cuts off the far end of the fairway, making long hitters think twice about gripping the driver.
The back nine is drier and more sand-heavy. Six of the seven par-4s and par-5s feature at least two fairway bunkers, some as hefty as the Swan Lake greens. The tenth is a straight par-4 with two traps in the fairway's left. Water and sand squeeze the front half of another enormous surface. From the narrow front tongue to the back edge, the green, like #1, stretches 55 yards deep -- a three-club variation. Longer than #10 but with a similar setup, #12 is a 431-yard par-4 where par can only be had by landing a long approach on an extremely slim green.
Both par-5s on the back -- #11 and #15 -- are murder on slicers (OB lines the right sides). Second shots must stay left to avoid traps, especially on the 15th, where even careful plays can still get sucked into the two behemoths at the far end of the fairway. The par-4 14th and 17th are right doglegs with bunkers at the turn -- large, of course -- that can be carried off the tee. Landing safely away from the two traps in the 18th fairway will set up an inviting downhill approach to a wide-open green -- target practice to end a round. Don't go long -- water surrounds the green's back half.
Finding the greens on Swan Lake's par-3s shouldn't be a problem as long as you get your irons up in the air, and neither should scoring on them -- provided you are having a good putting day. The 177-yard fifth (247 from the blues) is Swan Lake's longest par-3. The green is partially hidden from view by trees encroaching on the left side. A pond and a big-mouthed bunker affect only short pulls on #7. Club selection can vary by two or three irons on the 13th, which sports a deep green with a ridge on its left side. The 124-yard 16th is a pushover, just don't get suckered into either of two deep traps while attacking a front pin.
Swan Lake's greens may be on steroids, but once you reach the massive surfaces, how hard is it to find the cup? Well, if your lag putting skills are up to snuff, you're in the clear. There is some undulation in the greens but, with few exceptions, the middle of the greens are easy to read. Stray too far toward the rear, however, and you'll start to face more downhill putts. At last check, the greens were very soft and rolled on the slow side, but that was on a damp and drizzly afternoon.
Most importantly, be sure to check pin placement before reaching the greens. Careful club selection is vital, especially on the par-3s, where yardage varies widely depending on tee location.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
The 307-yard fourth is a fun scoring hole, light on challenge and full of options. Big bombers' eyes light up at the thought of driving the green -- the front edge is less than 300 yards away -- and they will likely ignore a few deep traps if it means a potential eagle putt. Safer players can opt to leave a fairway wood or hybrid short of those bunkers, but two more traps in the fairway wait to pick off shots misfired to the left. Accurate iron players may be more comfortable sacrificing yardage for a safe spot far from the sand. Either way, the second shot will be short, into a large green that slopes toward the center.
In contrast, the par-4 12th is a 431-yard brute with a green that's much harder to track down. Par demands a strong drive and a great second shot into an ultra-thin green. There is no arguing that #12 is one of Swan Lake's most difficult holes. Whether or not it is one of Long Island's toughest -- a boast made in the course yardage book -- is up for spirited debate.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
Swan Lake is a forgiving course where smart play and strong execution are rewarded with low scores. One way to miss the scoring boat though is by carelessly losing balls in the sand on some of Swan Lake's easier holes. Finding one of the two fairway traps on #4 (discussed above) is a mistake, especially with the greenside traps one more mishit away. There's no excuse for flirting with the trap inside the turn of the doglegged 14th. Worst of all, perhaps, is straying into the sand on the 124-yard 16th (pictured). The two bunkers here are deep with high faces. Leaving a blast far from the cup -- or inside the bunker -- makes bogey or worse a cold reality on a simple par-3.
388 River Road, Manorville 11949
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