The Timber Point Golf Course in Great River juts out into the waters of Great South Bay and provides some of the most gorgeous and inspiring scenery to be found on any Long Island course. While the vistas on the Red Course pale in comparison to those on the bayside Blue, the two layouts share a rich history. The Red and Blue both offer faint glimpses back into a past era when Timber Point was one of the most magnificent golf courses in the country.
Built in 1925 during the golden age of American golf design, Timber Point has transformed from an ultra-exclusive private club -- where only the elite of the elite were granted access -- to a Suffolk County-operated, 27-hole facility that has attracted foursome after foursome of local players and across-the-Island visitors since the 1970s. William Quirin writes in "America's Linksland" that when Timber Point was a club, its few members were so protective of their privacy that they pooled money to purchase a neighboring estate for sale (now Heckscher State Park), then left it as a hunting preserve so as not to allow outsiders to encroach upon their secluded turf. Today, on beautiful summer days, the tees, fairways and greens of the Red, White and Blue Courses are full of the recreationers that the original club sought to keep far, far away.
Like the Blue, six of the holes on today's Red Course (#2 through #7) are modernized relics from the original 18. At 3,300 yards from the back tees and 3,093 from the middle, the new Red is the middle course of the three in terms of length. It is the driest of the trio, with water in play on only two holes.
The Red tees off just outside the doorstep of Timber Point's stately clubhouse. Driving-range netting frames the entire length of the first fairway to the right, while the left side shares an open expanse with White #9. Any well-struck opening tee shot -- whether it's driver, hybrid, long iron -- sets up an aggressive attack on a back-to-front green.
The par-3 second doesn't boast the scenery of its one-shot counterparts on the coastal Blue Course, but this version offers its own array of land-locked challenges. First impressions convince sand-fearing swingers to play away from the long, left-side trap sunk well below the raised putting surface. But the green, pitched right-to-left and down toward the front, ensures that misses deep and right are not rewarded.
Playing side by side and sharing a scattering of trees and traps in their adjoining rough, #3 and #4 are very similar in length and design. One major difference, of course, is that the 455-yard third is a par-5 and the 425-yard fourth is a par-4. Timber Point's strong gusts in from the water often create crosswinds here, though at times the par-5 could be easier to reach in two than its slightly shorter neighbor. (Oddly, during Timber Point's pre-Depression heyday, the par-4 was actually a few yards longer than the par-5.) Both greens, tilted back to front, are receptive to long approach shots.
Your touch with longer irons will be tested on the 174-yard fifth (193 from the back). Missing to the right of the surface leaves a difficult uphill blast out of the sand. Off-target approaches on the 366-yard sixth will also find themselves marooned in the desert. The Red's two largest greenside bunkers reside here, and both are fed by rough-covered slopes that may do more damage to scorecards than the sand itself.
A lengthy and narrow fairway awaits on the other side of the course's access road at #7. There is very little room to miss off the tee before balls are either unplayable or out of bounds. A draw that starts on a line toward the right-side hazard should settle nicely into the ideal landing area. The 410-yard eighth, with a green that's out of sight from the tee, fades around the same hazard.
The Red Course closes with a straight, 290-yard par-4 that can be attacked any number of ways depending on what clubs are hot that day. Hit driver and pitch onto the green, go iron-iron -- whatever's working.
Most greens on the Red Course are tilted from back to front and receptive to any type of approach. They typically fall off into rough on the back side.
With the exception of #7 and #8, splash landings are not as much of a concern on the Red as they are in the White's ponds and the Blue's bay and inlets. Wind is the dominant factor, whether it's blowing off or toward the bay. The two par-3s play in opposite directions (#2 plays away from the water; #5 directly at it), and #3 and #4 -- laid out side by side -- parallel the shoreline. Players will be helped or hindered by strong gusts on almost every shot.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
Red rookies will find the view from the tee on #7 unsettling. The slim target is obscured by reeds on the right and deep rough on the left. Players who cannot control their ball flight will be left just as uneasy knowing that trouble lurks in both directions. This 517-yard par-5 asks for a heck of a shot off the tee, and the reward for those who come through is a wave of relief and a clear view of the exposed green.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
Eyes are drawn to the sand trap short and left of the elevated second green before they refocus on the right side of the surface to find a target. But missing deep and right is no picnic. Pitches to the green from that area will run downhill with speed. If you feel confident about your sand skills, don't be afraid to flirt with the trap in order to get close to the pin.
150 River Road, Great River 11739
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