[This flyover was updated on March 12, 2012.]
The Bergen Point Golf Course in West Babylon is one of four 18-hole courses -- all on or near the major water bodies of eastern Long Island -- operated by Suffolk County. Bergen Point does not share the same majestic water views as its Great South Bay neighbor farther east at Timber Point, but it does provide golfers with a similar wind-blown, pond-hopping style of play.
Creeks and inlets weave through the Bergen Point layout and join forces with relentless bay winds to form the strongest line of defense against low scores at this 6,722-yard par-71 (6,354 from the middle blues, 6,096 from the golds). Beginners will enjoy the generous amounts of space; skilled players can test their mettle on challenging par-4s into the wind. Small trees are scattered around the property and have limited effect on play. Most holes feature a fairway bunker and one or two small traps around the green. It is a basic layout suitable for all types of players, as long as aesthetic expectations are kept on the low side.
A round at Bergen Point begins with a 342-yard (blue) par-4 with a pond in the driver's reach on the left and a messy patch of trees and brush on the right. The green is unprotected but small ledges within the surface make work with the putter a little trickier than expected. A crosswind threatens to carry tee shots away from the flag on the 190-yard second. There is plenty of room to miss on the right side of the back-to-front green, but a blast over the surface will flirt with a pond sitting behind.
The 493-yard fourth makes an abrupt right turn on the far side of a fairway bunker in position to gobble up short drives. The wind will help carry your approach on this par-5 and set up a putt for birdie or better. Playing back into the wind, the 405-yard fifth softly bends to the left between two fairway traps. Aggressive approaches may have trouble sticking on a green that funnels balls through its center and downhill off the back.
Stay below the hole on #6, a 187-yard par-3 with a deceptively wide green that is pitched from right to left. Clearing the front bunker will get you to the hidden half of the diagonal surface, but it nets a downhill putt to a center or left-side pin. The sand trap guarding the entrance to the fairway on the 389-yard seventh is too close to the tee to be a major nuisance. More problematic is a sloppy mound of sand, mud and vegetation that amounts to an unkempt waste area in the right rough. The front nine ends with a prime scoring opportunity -- a 328-yard par-4 with two small water hazards partially hidden from view. Its fairway narrows around a small trap, but as long as the tee shot stays dry and away from the sand, a short approach will set up a possible birdie putt.
Catch a few glimpses of the bay early in the back nine before the course leads you back inland. The best views are from the elevated tenth green and #12 tee. A treatment plant blocks any further visual access to the water. To reach the #10 green, send a soaring draw down the fairway of this 410-yard par-4. The right side is wide open for those who lack a right-to-left ball flight. The wind will assist you on the 340-yard 12th, another par-4 that is ripe for the taking. Just don't miss too far down the right side, where tall reeds can block any view of the green on the approach.
Similar to the par-5 fourth, the 486-yard 13th jukes to the right on the far side of a fairway bunker. This time the distant half of the fairway is obscured by a hill that houses the seventh green. High mounds penalize approach shots that stray into the right rough. The putting surface is one of the few on the course where balls cannot run off the sides. Instead, more mounding creates a miniature stadium-green effect.
If you've failed to correct an erratic driver by the 14th tee, the final stretch of holes will inflict some damage on the scorecard. Water stalks the fairways of Bergen Point's final five holes, though accurate players can instead focus their attention on earning birdie opportunities on a trio of medium-length par-4s. A pond down the left side of both the 382-yard 14th and 374-yard 15th will punish hooks and pulls. Miss on the roomier right sides, where you can still reach the greens in regulation from a decent lie. There is trouble on both sides of the 16th fairway, but even a conservative play will leave you in position to fire at the green on this 360-yarder. Fittingly, Bergen Point ends with a grueling par-4 into the strong wind. At 440 yards, the 18th hole is a nasty finishing hole that requires two mighty clouts to get anywhere near the putting surface when the wind is whipping.
On the bright side, Bergen Point's greens and fairways are receptive and nicely maintained. Expect some movement on your putts, especially from the edges of the surface. Very few of the greens are flat. Some, like #1, feature small ledges, while others have elevated sides that funnel toward the center. Players who rely on extra roll on their tee shots will probably not get as much as desired on the course's soft fairways.
Sticklers for manicured grounds will have to look elsewhere for their ideal golf destination. Bergen Point suffers from severe drainage issues, leaving swampy areas of standing water around the course well after the rains have come and gone. Unkempt sections of rough have turned rocky or muddy over time. Cart paths seem abnormally close to the fairways in some spots. For walkers, the course plays a few hundred yards longer than listed thanks to several hikes between holes. Try to hitch a ride to the 10th or 13th tee, if possible.
[UPDATE: It seems the staff has recently taken steps to address some of the issues with course conditions and has also made the bay more accessible to sightseeing golfers. A chewed-up, rocky patch of rough and dirt inside the bend of the dogleg 13th has been covered with new sod. Previously, the section of hardpan just off the fairway was as penal as an adjacent bunker. Also, the 12th tee provides the best view of Great South Bay now that a row of small trees has been chopped to stumps.]
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
Bergen Point's finishing hole is a true challenge, a 440-yard par-4 that normally plays into a stiff wind. The hole favors those with a draw, so players with a natural fade or slice will have even more distance to cover. An uphill approach leads to an amphitheater green whose right half is shielded by a deep trap. Most players will need at least three shots before they reach for the putter. High mounds prevent balls from venturing too far beyond the green, but if you somehow manage to breach the backside mounding, the steep downhill slide to the roadway below will destroy your final hole of the day.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
Cutting the sharp doglegs on #4 and #13 can have bad consequences if not properly executed. The par-5 fourth curves around the outside of the fifth fairway, and interior out-of-bounds beginning in the right rough keeps players on the correct hole. On #13, white stakes prevent aggressive players from taking a shortcut over the heads of players putting out on the seventh green.
Speaking of #7, avoid misses to the right side, where a line of loosely mounded dirt runs through the rough and invites hideous lies.
The scorecard includes hole diagrams with yardage estimates to significant targets and hazards.
69 Bergen Ave., West Babylon 11704
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