It's only natural for golfers with a competitive streak to shoot for personal benchmarks when they're out on the course and playing above their standard. Breaking 80, touching 90, keeping it under 100 -- whatever the goal may be, usually somewhere around the turn, players in the midst of one of their finer rounds will start extrapolating. Just match that front-nine 41 on the back and it's a record low. Or something along those lines.
At the Lido Golf Club in Lido Beach, the back nine doesn't take too kindly to such simple math. Lido's 16th and 17th (a story for another day) stand in the way of new lows as watery hurdles that force players to earn their pars and bogeys before continuing on to the more accommodating 18th.
The 16th, popularly known simply as the "Island" or "Double Island" par-5, is a living tribute to C.B. Macdonald's "Channel Hole" at the original Lido, a links course once considered a jewel of early 20th-century golf design and a marvel of engineering. Though today's two-fairway hole is only a Robert Trent Jones replica of Macdonald's #4 (the original course was buried long ago), it maintains the same risk/reward theme -- a conservative route over some water, an aggressive route over a lot of water, and plenty of trouble in between.
From the tee, the view of the 487-/460-yard par-5 doesn't reveal any clues about the proper approach. Visible up ahead are landing areas, a lapping lagoon and a faint glimpse of a flagstick in the distance. Even Lido's repeat customers have a hard time deciphering #16's puzzle-piece fairways. If you're a first- or second-timer on the course, hope for an experienced playing partner. If you don't get one, just take your best swing and hope you don't hit it straight (it's the worst way to go).
[ABOVE RIGHT: #16 as seen from the tee. The left route begins just beyond the bridge. The right route is out of sight beyond the water. LEFT: The orientation of the first fairway becomes more clear once you reach the bridge (though by now it's too late to rethink your strategy).]
The two-pronged fairway -- shaped like the head of a wrench -- is the first stop. From there, the next target is a second fairway laid out diagonally from the first and surrounded by water. It ends at a channel-side green that can only be reached in two by a pair of expertly executed shots.
So which is the way to go? A tee shot to the left side offers a greater margin for error and requires no threatening water carry. You're more likely to stay dry on this side; the trade-off, however, is a less direct route that adds yardage to the hole. Going to the right side requires a water carry of up to 200 yards, depending on the tees and your aim. The reward is a slightly better chance of reaching the green in two, but the downside is a poor angle to the green and another long water carry on the second shot.
The wild card in all this: a straight tee shot could be lethal. That's because the gap between the fairway sections is filled with water and within reach of drivers, fairway woods and possibly hybrids. And you're not free of trouble even if center-line shots manage to stay dry. A small sand trap keeps balls from rolling into the lagoon, but it sets up awkward sideways recovery shots to either prong of the fairway.
[ABOVE LEFT: The view from the left side, with the flag barely noticeable next to the smokestack. RIGHT: Another lengthy water carry separates the right side from the farther fairway and green. BELOW: With a devious grin, this sliver of sand awaits the dreaded straight drive.]
Another wild card -- the wind. On a wide-open plot between Reynolds Channel and the Atlantic, Lido is one of the windiest courses on Long Island. Wind speed and direction can alter your strategy completely from one day to the next.
Save for a watery 25-yard gap in between, the second fairway leads to the green almost as an extension of the first fairway's left side. It is a narrow finger of land bordered on three sides by water. Players approaching from the left will almost always use this farther fairway to set up a third shot at the green. Lay up to your most comfortable distance -- once you're on the second fairway, the approach will be anywhere inside 130 yards.
From the right, players can bypass this second fairway altogether if they're within reach of the green, but the risk is great. An attack on the green requires a nearly full water carry. A left-to-right ball flight into the green can cut off some of the risk; meanwhile, position too far right will add distance. From a perfect spot at the edge of the fairway (about a 270-yard drive from the back), it's close to 180 to the center of the green. This yardage increases quickly as position becomes less ideal.
One final factor that raises the degree of difficulty of the hole is the lack of yard markers. Once you tee off on #16, you're on your own. There is a 100-yard marker on the second fairway, but that's about all. It's easy to get confused without prior experience.
GOLI's Rob Dimino has played Lido more than any other course on the Island:
"Even after so many rounds on that course, I'm still a little uncertain about the best way to play the 16th. What I've been doing lately is hitting 3-wood to the left side, which puts me in good position to lay up close to the 100-yard marker and leave a full wedge shot into the green. Unless you are absolutely sure about your distances, there are just too many things that could go wrong up the right side. You have to carry so much water, and it basically takes two perfect shots to reach the green. You could always bail out short of the green on the second shot, but you could have done the same thing up the left side with less risk."
For more on the Lido Golf Club, check out the course flyover.