Fans of Bethpage State Park and its collection of hilly, strenuous par-4s might recognize the fourth hole at the nearby Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course. It's a Bethpage hole in every way but address, a brutal two-shotter that missed the exit for the Red Course and settled just a few miles north in Woodbury for a golfing existence devoid of fanfare and magazine features. Tucked away deep inside the Tom Fazio-designed municipal course, #4 carries on in relative quiet, its prominent feature -- a climb as big and bad as Black #15 -- invisible to everyone but those in the center of its fairway.
Oyster Bay #4 is, quite simply, one of the most challenging par-4s found on any Long Island public course. While it weighs in at a modest 380 yards from the middle tees and 414 from the tips, its mountainous climb adds two to three clubs worth of distance. Joining forces with the hill to make #4 all-around nasty are sand and grass bunkers, steep surface ridges and hovering treelines.
From the tee, the first-time player sees a tight driving hole not unlike many others. The view down the fairway is framed by trees. With limbs and leaves on all sides, there's nothing to see beyond the turn. Instincts might say to club down and hit a safer shot, but that will likely make the second shot even dicier. To really assess the situation, you need to make your way down the fairway, because the nature of #4 doesn't reveal itself until about 200 yards out from the tee.
At the midway point between tee and green, the task at hand becomes clear. The approach is dead uphill, over a rising expanse that is blanketed in thick rough and pocked with grass bunkers. On the right side of the hill, a serpentine bunker 50 yards in length curves beside the last available yards of fairway. To the left, an encroaching treeline is a repository for wayward balls. Atop the hill, only the tip of the flagstick is in view, barely noticeable against a backdrop of perimeter trees. It won't be until you reach the summit that you notice the three-lobed green and the lack of playable space behind the surface.
[TOP RIGHT (click to enlarge): Oyster Bay #4, as seen from behind the green -- and way above the fairway. ABOVE LEFT: The tee doesn't reveal much. It's a tight drive, but playing conservatively just delays the battle. ABOVE RIGHT: #4 begins to take shape as you round the bend. Tee shots to the inside part of the turn, even passable ones just off the fairway, will be left with poor or obstructed angles. The flared-out section of fairway to the left is ideal position, but you'll need the driver to get there.]
Now knowing the hole from front to back, it's time to rethink the tee shot. Given #4's soft right turn to a narrowing, uphill fairway, it's imperative that the tee shot does not go right. Anything under the treeline, as well as many shots settling innocently into the right rough, will be cut off from a shot at the green. Venture far into the trees and even a lay-up for a passable third shot becomes risky.
So the play is to the left. But you'll need to be aggressive with it to lighten the load on the second shot. In a recent round, with a stiff wind in our face, a 165-yard approach played like a 190- to 200-yard shot. And that's to a shallow greensite. You need to chop off as much yardage as possible with the driver, ideally settling into the widest segment of fairway about 130 yards short of the green. After this point, the fairway narrows to a nub and the path becomes treacherous.
Hanging back off the tee and playing #4 as an ultra-safe three-shot hole is an option, but where to lay up? The final 50-60 yards are covered in medium to thick rough. With the bunker, the mounds, the grass depressions...there are very few favorable spots inside the 100-yard marker.
[ABOVE LEFT: Fifty yards long, this sand trap squiggles its way alongside the last few yards of fairway as the climb begins. RIGHT: The route up the hill is marked by thick rough and grass depressions. Just out of frame to the left, dense trees threaten to steal strokes. The flag is barely visible up top. BELOW: The left lobe of the three-tiered green. On this day, misses into the greenside bunker would require a delicate escape to a short-side pin -- with a downslope to the bottom tier waiting behind the cup.]
The green and its surrounds maintain the hole's relentless personality. Players banking on a two-putt and a quick escape to the friendly fifth should hope their ball comes to rest on the correct tier of the three-level surface. Otherwise it's the putter's turn to take on #4 with either a testy downhill roll or a hard-to-read uphill swipe. Worse, however, is trying to navigate the multi-tiered green from off the surface, like from the back-left bunker or the downslope of one of the rising mounds that frame the green. Breach the line of mounds behind the flag and lost/unplayable balls become yet another headache.
PREVIOUS CLOSER LOOKS:
Mill Pond Golf Course #5 -- (6/24/2014)
Tallgrass #8 -- (3/13/2013)
Bethpage Red #13 -- (8/14/2012)
Great Rock Golf Club #11 -- (5/31/2012)
Bethpage Yellow #12 -- (1/5/2012)
Stonebridge Golf Links #7 -- (9/15/2011)
Lido Golf Club #16 -- (8/25/2011)
Stonebridge Golf Links #4 -- (7/29/2011)
Great Rock Golf Club's new 12th green -- (6/6/2011)
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