Purists might object to a number of things about the Heartland Golf Park in Edgewood. After all, nobody plays nine holes at a "golf park." Floodlights on a golf course? Leave that to sports like football and baseball. Yet there they are, light stanchions for -- gasp! -- night golf. And sticklers for details might scoff at Heartland's relatively benign recreations of classic par-3s from around the world, some from as close by as Shinnecock Hills and the National Golf Links.
For the rest of us though, Heartland is simply a good time with a few irons, a wedge and a putter. It is a 1,220-yard par-3 course in the strangest of settings -- a rectangular plot in an industrial area near the Deer Park train station, surrounded by office buildings, the Long Island Railroad and the park's hulking driving range. Nowhere else can you take aim at Royal Troon's famous "Postage Stamp" green as the wailing 4:51 from Penn Station barrels through the background.
Despite all the concrete and machinery that surrounds it, Heartland actually does have the feel of a park. Mounding, mainly a visual element that stays out of play, rolls through the property. Some holes play uphill, others downhill; some greens are hidden from view, others, like Heartland's opener, feature dramatic slopes that can be seen from the tee. Modeled after A.W. Tillinghast's tenth at Winged Foot West, #1 has a pear-shaped green with a low front half and a raised back tier.
The second is a 136-yard shout-out to the 13th at Merion. Use enough club to fly over a large bunker while taking care to stay short of the three traps behind the flat green. Augusta National's signature 12th -- the par-3 at Amen Corner -- is recreated at Heartland #3, where a small pond stands in for Rae's Creek. The wide, shallow green with a bunker in front and two more long makes for a tiny target from 155 yards away. C.B. Macdonald's famous "Redan" at the National Golf Links of America serves as the model for Heartland's fourth, an uphill shot through a narrow chute of trees to a diagonal green tilted away from the player.
The 140-yard fifth plays downhill to a small, square green. A pot bunker hides between the putting surface and a larger trap to the right. It's back up the hill at #6, a tip of the cap to #11 at Shinnecock Hills. Missing left here leaves a testy bunker shot or an awkward recovery from the side of a mound.
Still fresh in the minds of 2010 U.S. Open spectators, Pebble Beach's famous drop-shot seventh is the inspiration for Heartland's seventh (pictured right). An office building substitutes for the mighty Pacific. Still, the 107-yarder will challenge your wedges. After the 126-yard eighth (the "Postage Stamp" at Royal Troon), it's on to a much less daunting version of the famed "Island Green" at TPC Sawgrass. Here, you can miss anywhere but left and still manage to stay dry.
Tee boxes are a bit chewed up -- not surprising for a par-3 course that appeals to all types of players. But the greens are well-kept, soft and fair. Fairways are maintained and rough is left to grow a little long. If you miss the greens, expect to do some real work with your wedge. Some bunkers have high faces that call for nicely lofted recoveries. Trees and rolling mounds enhance the park setting and successfully block out much of the surrounding asphalt.
A mini-golf course and a driving range featuring automatic-tee stalls make up the rest of the park. Popular night golf under the lights makes Heartland unique for another reason -- it's the rare course where twilight golf is more expensive than daytime golf. A rock formation overlooking the front end of the course is straight out of Angel Stadium.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
Amen Corner and Sawgrass get all the TV time, but to golf aficionados, the real star is the classic "redan" hole -- often imitated around the world, but rarely duplicated. Sitting diagonally and tilted away from the golfer, the green on most redans is difficult to hold with anything but an excellent tee shot. Heartland's fourth lacks the penal characteristics of C.B. Macdonald's work at the National Golf Links, but it still requires a highly lofted iron that flies over a short-left trap and lands softly on the putting surface.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
Shots missed badly to the right of the redan green may find their way out of bounds and into any of the abandoned freight cars rotting next to the course. Train and railroad gurus probably won't mind, and may even relish the opportunity to dig around for their ball. Others will just find the area a little creepy. Stay straight.
Don't waste time by going straight from the car to the starter. Green fees and any other items (balls, tees, etc.) must be paid for at the driving range, without exception.
1200 Long Island Ave., Edgewood 11717
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