The Blue Course at Sunken Meadow State Park is the facility's shortest nine-hole layout, but thanks to doglegs that range in severity from softly bending to boomerang-curved, it is by no means the simplest. Throw in the fact that the Blue Course weaves entirely through thickly tree-lined corridors, and suddenly you have a bit of a challenge on your hands.
Sunken Meadow Blue is a 3,046-yard par-35 that requires players to exercise discipline and execute accurate, if not necessarily lengthy, shots from the tee. While the Green and Red courses share space on one side of the facility, the Blue -- built two years after the Green and Red in 1964 -- spreads out through the trees east of the clubhouse. Dense woods separate each hole from the others. There are no water hazards and only a few fairway bunkers, yet players can still find trouble if they attempt to overpower the short course with the driver and miss wide of or through the fairways.
A downhill par-4 opens the round. The 341-yard starter slants to the right on its way to a green pitched toward the right front. Two traps protect the sides but leave the foot of the green exposed. Compared to the sharp angles that await later on, the left turn at the midpoint of #2's fairway is soft, and it's safer to negotiate now that two bunkers have been erased short of and inside the bend. Again, a pair of small sand traps accomplish little in the way of defense of the green. A front-to-back slope does a slightly better job at keeping balls away from the pin.
Though it's by far the shortest par-3 in the entire park, #3 can be a tad tricky if only because part of its putting surface is obscured from the tee. The rough is raised in front of the left half of the green, preventing players from getting a clear look. Also hidden almost entirely by this rough is a fairly deep greenside bunker. For a hole that only plays 132 yards at its max, every ounce of deception counts.
After a nearly straight, 496-yard journey between the trees on the Blue's lone par-5, the sweeping turns resume again at the 408-yard fifth. Not quite a 90-degree angle -- but close -- this dogleg forces players to consider clubbing down from the driver and planning their route more conservatively. A straight drive of 225 yards or so has a good chance of overrunning the hole's rolling fairway. This inner debate sparks back up at #7, this time a full 90-degree turn to the left. Attempts to cut the corner run the risk of a bad bounce or poor lie behind or next to a tree. And a steep drop behind the green is a short par-4's way of mocking aggressive shots.
The 376-yard eighth heads straight out before drawing softly uphill and to the left. Blue's closer allows frustrated drivers to finally swing away without too much care. From an elevated tee, players can attack a relatively wide landing area and set themselves up for a wedge approach and potential birdie putt.
The Blue Course comes as close as a smooth middle iron to Long Island Sound, but you'd never know it. Dense woods surround every hole on the course. At Sunken Meadow, water plays its biggest role as the exhilarating backdrop to pre-round range work. There are no hazards on any of the courses.
Fairways rise and fall on the Blue Course, sometimes with subtlety, other times more dramatically. Rolling fairways like the fifth (pictured) dead-end at greens that play at moderate speed with clearly defined slopes. Once you venture into the rough -- especially around the greens -- lies are a mixed bag. Balls can sit up on fluffy blades of grass or sink into choppy, uneven ruts. Bunker edges can be quite ragged, though they shouldn't affect play unless you somehow settle into a lip.
HOLE(S) TO REMEMBER:
Golfing Magazine included Blue #9 in its Long Island Dream Golf Club in 2011. While it isn't the most difficult, breathtaking, rewarding or magical medium-range par-4 you'll ever stroll up to, it is most definitely a welcome sight after two hours of veering fairways and a great opportunity to take back a stroke or two. Not much thought required, just an elevated tee, a green not all that far away, a driver and an unshackled swing. A bunker in the left rough defends against short pulls. Another trap farther up in the right fairway acts as a sentinel 60 yards ahead of the surface. Pound a drive near this bunker -- about 270 yards depending on tees -- and you gain a strong upper hand. From here the biggest concern is ending up on the wrong side of a horizontal ridge that cuts straight across the center of a deep, relatively narrow green.
AREA(S) TO AVOID:
There are two places to find big trouble on the right-angle seventh -- in jail and long. It's a tempting stretch of lawn, that far half of fairway "that's really close when you think about it, if I could just draw it a little more, or maybe try..."
That line of thinking has its rewards, but the fallout is usually ugly. Here, getting stuck inside the turn takes a short, sweet hole and ruins it. You're in jail, and there's little to no chance of finding an angle to the green. If you do have a shot, great, but there's more danger in play. Behind the green is a steep slope down toward the trees and cart path. Just because you hacked cleanly out of the clink doesn't mean you won't fall into this trap. The farther you go down the slope, the better your chances of bogey or double. Play safely toward the center of the turn -- a hybrid or long iron, for most -- and you'll avoid both trouble spots.
Sunken Meadow State Park, Kings Park 11754
(631) 544-0036 (pro shop); (631) 269-0707 (reservations)