Just a quick drive from Northport's Main Street and the 18-hole Crab Meadow Golf Course up near the Sound, the Northport Golf Course at the VA Medical Center rolls gently in residential quietude. Beginners, juniors, seniors and just about anyone looking to escape the daily rigors of Long Island living for even just an hour or two will find this hidden playground very appealing.
The 2,460-yard par-35 sits next door to the medical complex on an open slice of North Shore real estate. Its six par-4s -- topping out at 335 yards -- are joined by a reachable-in-two par-5 and a pair of short-iron par-3s. If a light crowd allows, players can drop a few balls around the course to brush up on iron play, practice drives from the par-5's elevated tee or blast out from a handful of sand traps.
Northport offers a fair amount of variety for a nine-holer. Doglegs turn left and right. Holes climb and descend small hills. A steeper challenge can be found at longer nine-hole layouts on the Island, but even with its laid-back vibe and abbreviated distances, Northport will keep you interested. The 265-yard first is a straight-forward par-4 rising gently uphill. Parallelogram fans will appreciate the square green and rectangular bunkers in front. Next, the slightly longer 295-yard second rolls down the same hill until it meets an undersized green, this one mostly unprotected.
The farther half of the third fairway is hard to see through an intrusion of tall trees on the right side, but a high-trajectory drive will fly the treeline and find a sweeping target area. Safe plays are up the middle toward the fairway's sharp turn. An elevated tee awaits at #4, Northport's only par-5 that, despite the 450-yard distance, will make you work for birdies. Its elevated green -- tilted from front to back -- is wedged between a frontside bunker and a rear upslope that can set up some awkward chip shots. Misses long or left are prone to fly into the woods.
The fifth is a fun, downhill par-4 that ends at a slippery, two-level putting surface. If the pin is in the back, you'll want to catch the downslope on your approach. Otherwise you'll have to putt down the hill -- and unlike your local mini-golf course, there's no chute up top to slide your ball down to the bottom level. No matter the club, a solid tee shot on #6 should leave a short-iron second shot, but a wide bunker serves as a sandy moat closely guarding another diminutive green. The 145-yard seventh and 240-yard eighth are straight holes with enough breathing room to put even the most prolific scattershots at ease.
Northport is, very simply, a pleasant setting for nine holes of golf. Judging by their lush good looks, the fairways receive the same careful treatment as the meticulously manicured flower beds that are present around the course. Greens are small and a little more grown-in than many golfers are accustomed to, but the ball still moves where you expect over the surfaces with a bump or two here and there.
The course is easy to walk -- in fact, the toughest stretch might be the 300-yard stroll from the clubhouse to the first tee. Make sure you head in the right direction once you finish up on the fourth green, as #5 and #8 share a teebox.
Water makes its lone appearance on the par-3 ninth.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
Water-carry par-3s are generally uncommon sights at local nine-holers, but Northport's closer is an exception that sets up for fun and exciting finishes. The water only extends about 50 yards from the tee, so it's not exactly the 17th at Sawgrass that we're talking about here. It's more of a distraction than a true obstacle, as only mishits should find their way into the drink. Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable hole with a green that's hard to see from the tee, a large right-side trap and trees hanging over the left side. And it's even better if you're an amateur horticulturist as well as an amateur golfer. The hazard is surrounded and partially filled with an array of colorful flowers and aquatic plants.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
Trouble is hard to find at Northport. But if you get a little overzealous and hook a drive on the par-5 fourth, you could send your ball on a nature hike in the woods from which it likely will not return.
79 Middleville Rd., Northport 11768