[This flyover was updated on May 15, 2013.]
Observations: Holbrook Country Club (5/15/2013)
It was a short and simple answer to a short and simple question. Before our first round at the Holbrook Country Club a few years ago, we asked the starter if he had any advice for a couple of course newbies on how to approach the par-71 in front of us. "Sure," he said, as straight to the point as he recommended for our drives. "Don't go left, and don't go right."
At Holbrook, a 6,252-yard Town of Islip course, playing it straight as directed comes with rewards, most notably short- and middle-iron approaches to accessible greens. From the back tees, six of Holbrook's 11 par-4s (and eight of 11 from the middle tees) measure 370 yards or less. On holes like the 337-yard second and 322-yard sixth, launch tee shots with your most comfortable clubs -- say, a hybrid -- and leave yourself a short iron or wedge from the fairway or rough.
But it's a different story if you can't follow the starter's basic advice. Every hole at Holbrook is surrounded from tee to green by dense trees. Though there is a fair amount of rough to work with, consistently venturing too far to either side will sentence you to a round filled with the maddening thuds of balls meeting tree limbs and the requisite recovery shots. As such, Holbrook is a relatively mild challenge for the low- to mid-handicapper but a royal pain at times for more erratic players and beginners.
Water is not a prominent feature at Holbrook, but the first shot of the day comes with the psychological nuisance of a pond in front of the tee. It won't impact well-struck tee shots, but it will have a say in how you play the par-5 fourth, which parallels the opener on its way back toward the clubhouse. On #1, a 365-yard par-4, an accurate tee shot leaves no more than a middle iron to a back-to-front green. Same for #2, which bends slightly to the left. Both holes feature left-side fairway bunkers in the area of short drives and hybrid shots. Ahead at #4, the previously mentioned pond juts into the fairway's far-left flank and forces players into an early aggressive/conservative debate. Laying up leaves a wedge or 9-iron, in most cases.
A rarity at Holbrook, the par-4 fifth plays long and arrow-straight. At 436 yards, it's the lengthiest two-shotter on the course. There's very little margin for error on the left side, especially off the tee, as the treeline slopes away from the rough and is nearly impenetrable. Two fairway bunkers pinch the left side of the 322-yard sixth.
Beyond the sixth green, the round shifts to the southern portion of the course, where most of the remaining holes wait after a long walk or ride to the seventh tee. What greets you is a challenging four-hole stretch that begins with a 536-yard double-curve par-5 that snakes right and back slightly to the left. Drives aimed out over the right treeline should find the diagonal segment of fairway, especially from the 490-yard middle tees.
The 207-yard eighth (192 from the middle) forces most players into an uncomfortable position on the tee, leaving them to choose between a fairway metal, hybrid or long iron. Those who decide on a longer club to avoid the two front traps will risk scooting off the front-to-back green. Closing the front side, the 380-yard dogleg ninth bends to the left around a small pond, dropping downhill along the way and back uphill to a generously sized green. Reeds obscure the view of the fairway, but their right edge serves as a visual aid along the popular target line.
Players with a left-to-right ball flight will feel comfortably at home on Holbrook's back nine. Five of the back's six par-4s fade to the right, beginning with #10, a 428-yard bear that leaves close to 200 yards between the fairway bunkers and the putting surface. The fairway turns at a sharp angle, meaning drives could easily run out of playable real estate and into trouble. Slightly shorter, the angled 12th presents similar problems, but successful tee shots net manageable approaches to a deep green. Favorable par and birdie opportunities follow at the 326-yard 13th, 325-yard 14th and 309-yard 16th. Each of the three present sand in the fairway and at least two green-fronting traps.
The trek back toward the clubhouse stops at the 17th tee, where a lengthy par-3 again puts your long irons to the test. This one is 179 yards uphill, its target a putting surface that slopes gently from left to right in the direction of a deep bunker. A ledge in the front portion of the surface is a rare instance of dramatic contouring on Holbrook's greens. The round concludes with the back's only par-5, a 500-yard finisher that narrows as it approaches the final flag. From there, it's one more long haul to the clubhouse.
Views like the one pictured to the right -- fairways and greens framed by tall, dense trees -- are the norm at Holbrook. Get used to it. Breaks in the treeline are few and far between. The playing area is fairly wide, however, and the rough is typically medium-length and playable. Greens roll on the slow side and are usually lightly sloped, at most.
Aside from the occasional ragged bunker (and missing rake), Holbrook is a nicely maintained town course. Locals say the pace of play, like at most munis, can slow to a halt at times in the summer. Walkers should be aware that there are lengthy trips after #6, #16 and #18.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
Starting at #9, Holbrook serves up a steady diet of doglegged par-4s. The ninth, though, is unique for a number of reasons. It's the only par-4 that takes a significant turn to the left (#2 bends softly in that direction) and the only dogleg with water inside the turn. Also, it's arguably the roomiest hole on the course, thanks to openings in the treeline on both sides of the fairway.
The hole drops slightly downhill from the tee and curls around the hazard before the far end of the fairway makes the climb back up to the green. From the tee, the landing area is blocked from view by the reeds swaying around the perimeter of the pond. But serving as a landmark is a single small tree just off the right edge of the hazard. Send a drive over this tree and benefit from a skip downhill along the ideal line of play. What's left is a wedge or short iron uphill to one of Holbrook's bulkier greens.
[UPDATE - 5/15/2013: This small tree is gone. Use the edge of the hazard as the ideal line off the tee.]
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
Do what you can to avoid bad pulls off #5 tee. The treeline on the left side is dense and nearly impenetrable. You'll likely be forced to take a drop on the course's longest par-4.
Just a suggestion: If you're enjoying that delicious egg-and-cheese sandwich that you brought with you to the course, don't leave it unattended and unwrapped in your cart as you try to two-putt for par. A team of crows perched around the course will be eyeing it, and they won't hesitate to swoop in and indulge. They'll throw in a few mocking calls for good measure when your par putt rims out, all while conspiring to steal your next snack. Don't believe us? One Holbrook golfer shared his own crow story in a Newsday column.
Along with its sister course in Brentwood, Holbrook typically runs monthly and seasonal specials that keep the cost of a round, with cart and reservation, under $50. Check the coupon section of the Holbrook website for current discounts.
700 Patchogue-Holbrook Road, Holbrook 11741
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