Golfers on Long Island have a lengthy list of courses to choose from, a roster that is deep enough to suit any mood. Feeling rusty and want to loosen up on a familiar course? Chances are there's a nearby nine-holer that will fit the bill. High on confidence and craving a battle with the elements? Head east to gusty Tallgrass, Long Island National or Montauk Downs. Looking for a test of accuracy and positioning? Tee it up at Great Rock or Spring Lake.
But for those in the market for a low-key, 18-hole round on an executive-length course -- whether for practice or simply a relaxing afternoon with friends or family -- there's not much to choose from. In fact, there's really only one option (other than repeat rounds on your neighborhood nine-holer) -- the par-60 Heatherwood Golf Club in Centereach.
Coming in just short of 4,100 yards, Heatherwood is made up of a dozen par-3s and six par-4s. With only three of its par-3s playing shorter than 150 yards, it will certainly give your middle and long irons a workout. Early in the round, following the 158-yard opener and a short left dogleg, Heatherwood tests your mettle (and fairway metal) with 200- and 194-yard holes at #3 and #4.
The par-4 fifth rips a page from the Bethpage Blue playbook, dipping straight down from an elevated teebox and back uphill to a wide fairway. Inside the landing area of the #8 fairway, another small valley impacts the setup to the approach on this 379-yard two-shotter. A great tee shot could leave just a downhill pitch; a shorter or unlucky tee shot could net a blind iron approach. Climb a hill to the elevated tee of Heatherwood's "signature" hole -- the par-3 ninth, a 148-yarder that uses a small pond to distract players from its more significant feature, a green that stretches more than 30 yards deep.
The 13th and 14th -- both par-4s -- are the most interesting holes on the back side. The fairway of the 278-yard 13th ends abruptly 60 yards short of the green. From there the hole turns left, and the flag waves atop an elevated green. A small pond sits between your ball and the pin. A drive of about 230 yards will catch a downhill slope in the 14th fairway and tack on some extra distance. Rough on the right side of this hole is blanketed over undulating sidehills that cause an uneven stance and obscure the view of the green. Stay to the left side of this fairway if possible.
Heatherwood's par-3s differ very slightly from one hole to the next, and the same can be said for their defenses. Almost all of them are protected by a pair of large and steep sand traps. And with plenty of trees on the course, shadows serve as a more mental barrier between the ball and the bottom of the cup.
There is one other defender of the cup, one that's not really present by design. Putts on a line to the center of the hole have a tendency to juke and jive in all directions as they roll over Heatherwood's choppy greens. But other than a few bumps on the putting surfaces, Heatherwood is in good condition for a course that caters to all skill levels.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
The 148-yard ninth asks players to account for several factors -- a downhill shot, above-the-trees wind effects and the green's 30-yard depth, all while ignoring the highly visible yet largely insignificant water hazard down below. A crisply struck short iron will set the stage for par or better. However, those fooled by the distance or faulty depth perception may find themselves with a longer-than-necessary putt or chip.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
At 388 yards, the par-4 14th is Heatherwood's longest hole and one of the few containing any element of strategy. It's important to keep out of the right rough, an undulating mess that slopes up toward the adjacent 16th fairway. Not only will it snag your clubhead on the approach, but it will also set you up with a pesky sidehill or uneven lie. And it doesn't let up as you get closer to the green. An awkward chop pitch from a mound of thick stuff is likely if you wind up short and right.
303 Arrowhead Lane, Centereach 11720
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