Everyone seeks the comforts of familiarity at one time or another. Some might revisit the pizza place they haven't been to in years, the one with the Sicilian slices they once could eat by the pie. Others might find themselves struck by the mood to settle in at that old dive once more for nostalgia's sake, a place "where everybody knows your name," so to speak.
For Long Island golfers, especially ones who grew up with a Nassau County Leisure Pass in their pocket, comfort might be that course "where every hole is the same" -- as one fellow player described the White Course at Eisenhower Park a few years ago. Eisenhower White, a Robert Trent Jones design and companion to the Blue Course, is that delicious Sicilian pie -- no frills, just function. Some might savor every bite, every wide target area; others might feel the agita set in halfway through and wonder how they ever indulged so much.
The par-72 White Course is known for its bunkers and elevated greens. Sand traps dot the landscape near the midway point of every hole, and one or two larger bunkers carve out comfortable homes in front of every raised surface. If you like to tote your bag around, the flat fairways make the White a good walking course. Beginners might relish the step up in difficulty without fear of water and other penal design aspects.
On the other hand, if consistently getting the ball airborne or out of a trap is a problem for you, the White can be a long 6,932-yard slog. Golfers who like variety and different types of challenges when out on the course will feel like Bill Murray's Phil Connors in "Groundhog Day" -- each tee another morning wake-up call from Sonny and Cher, each elevated green another unwelcome greeting from Ned Ryerson.
Eisenhower White is nine holes straight out and straight back, times two -- with emphasis on straight. Unlike the Blue Course with its occasional twists and turns, there's not a dogleg to be found on the White. But its style can still be appealing. Players who like the idea of having their accuracy and distance control challenged will enjoy every approach shot over yawning bunkers. So will players eager to show off an impressive assortment of high-arcing wedge shots.
The opening two holes introduce the White's personality without delay. Both are 366 yards from the middle tees and present at least two traps inside a driver's landing zone. The right side of #2 is sand-free, but the greenfront trap is set up to intercept approaches from that angle. White's longest hole (from the middle tees) is the 518-yard third, an imposing par-5 with the course's shallowest green. Only the most skilled players with power and ball control will be able to reach and hold this green in two. The rest will need to map out a route to the green that avoids a solitary but sizable trap about 250 yards out.
Another characteristic quirk of the White Course (and Blue) is the twin par-3s. When you turn back toward the clubhouse at the 178-yard fifth, you'll find two nearly identical holes sitting side by side. The intent, apparently, is to allow faster groups to play through. The only difference between the two is the style of the bunkers. In 2006, dozens of the White's bunkers were reshaped and renovated. On the par-3s, only one twin was given a facelift. (Imagine the therapy.) This contrast is most notable at the 177-yard 17th, where the left hole features a sprawling, stylized trap, while the other hole lives on with its small, circular bunkers.
Playing alongside the par-5 third, the 472-yard seventh (pictured left; click to enlarge) is nearly a carbon copy of its longer neighbor. A fairway trap juts into the short grass and directs drives toward the open right side. Here, instead of one giant bunker in front of the green, a diagonal trio of smaller traps sits ahead of the surface. Down the center is the way to go on #9 and #10, where sand waits on both sides of each fairway and green. The shortest par-4 on the course -- the 336-yard 11th -- favors a second shot from the right side. Staying short of a small right-side trap still nets a wedge or 9-iron approach.
You won't be alone if a wave of deja vu clouds your senses just ahead on the 12th tee -- you've already played the hole twice before at #3 and #7. Beyond the customary sand in the left fairway, a very soft bend leads to a surface shielded by two traps.
By the White's standards, #13 is as quirky as the Road Hole at St. Andrews. Off to the left, a beefy bunker sports a grassy knob in its center, and pronounced slopes toward the green's center make it one of the course's most slippery surfaces. Not to be outdone, the 16th green plummets hard from back to center.
Decent drives should fly by the three bunkers in the fairway of the 468-yard 18th. Once beyond the sand, it's a straight, unobstructed run to the flag -- until one final greenfront trap makes its bid to put a little beach in your birdie attempt.
Eisenhower White's 18 holes play in two directions -- tee off east away from the starter's booth, then back west to complete each nine. Gauging the wind's impact on each hole is not rocket science. If you have a breeze at your back to start the round, you're ahead of the game, as the course's two longest par-5s and par-4s (middle tees) point your driver in the same direction. And just when you thought the White's layout couldn't be any more repetitive, note that the four par-3s all play back toward the western sky. Counting their fraternal twin holes, that's eight par-3s in total, all similar in style, all nearly identical in orientation.
All of the greens, except for one (see below), are medium-sized and round in shape. The back and sides of each elevated putting surface slope down to level ground with rough that typically prevents balls from trickling too far. There are no traps behind any of the greens, and open space off the back is often plentiful, especially around the par-3s.
In 2006 the course underwent some cosmetic improvements, mainly the construction of new tees and the renovation of sand traps. The most notable examples include the addition of fairway bunkers on #7, #11 and #16, and the reshaping and enlarging of greenside traps on #10 and #17.
The White is a high-traffic course. Rounds often get frustratingly slow during peak times.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
#3 is the most unique hole on the course solely because of its wide, oval-shaped green. The fact that this shallow green resides at the end of the course's longest par-5 makes #3 the White's most remarkable and demanding hole, as well. A 300-yard blast still leaves 210-plus into the perched putting surface. A tip of the cap to those who can reach this green and hold it in two. The rest of us will be farther back in the fairway, trying to pitch over a mammoth bunker that covers nearly the full width of the green (pictured right; click to enlarge).
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
It would be too easy to recommend avoiding the nearly three dozen sand traps that muck up the fronts and sides of the White's 18 greens. Instead, at the beginning of your round, pick your least favorite approach distance and consider that your zone to avoid. Whatever that distance is and whichever two clubs it sits in between varies from player to player. But what holds true for all players is that if you're uneasy from that distance normally, you'll be even more queasy when the green is elevated behind a big fat trap.
Merrick Ave. at Stewart Ave., East Meadow 11554
(516) 572-0327 / 0330 (wait time)
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