by Rob Dimino
Earlier this summer, all that stood between me and a sub-80 round was the 18th hole at Stonebridge, a long dogleg right that plays about 430 from the tips. It's not the most challenging hole on the course, but it's a straightforward test after a fun-house round filled with double-tiered and humpback greens. It's laid out the way an 18th should be -- all out in front of you with few surprises, generous enough to reward you with a birdie chance yet spiteful enough to add an extra stroke if you don't lavish it with attention.
[ABOVE: Bethpage Red's final green]
Stonebridge's 18th always stands out among my favored finishing holes, so making my way up to the approach shot, I started considering where it would rank among my top Long Island closers. I set it aside long enough to finish up my 79, then resumed on the car ride home. Here's what I came up with:
First, some honorable mentions:
Mill Pond: Partly because I'm a sucker for par-5 finishing holes, partly because I usually play this particular one well. Two good shots can mean putting for eagle. Loses points because of the back-left hole location, which leaves you with a circus putt from anywhere on the green.
Wind Watch: Not the typical 18th, but I suggest getting a few groups together for a scramble at Wind Watch, if only for the 18th. It makes for a dramatic finish. You can watch the trailing groups trek uphill to its three-tiered green, which sets up tough putts from just about anywhere, especially when there's a free steak dinner on the line.
Montauk Downs: There's still a long way to go when you enter the final stretch at Montauk. It's all there in plain sight from the elevated tee -- an endless fairway rolled out toward a distant green and clubhouse. Battling Montauk's trademark wind, you need to be on point over the last 450 yards.
Bergen Point: Long and windy with a water hazard stalking you the whole way, this is a closer with bite. The elevated soup-bowl green is unique. It's a standout hole on the Suffolk muni.
On to the top 5:
5) Bethpage Green: Some consider this the best 18th at Bethpage. It's a great hole, but for me it loses points because you can miss way right and actually have a better angle into the green than if you were playing from the fairway. Probably the best greenside bunker on the whole Island.
4) Smithtown Landing: Options off the tee -- try to lop off a chunk of yardage by bombing over the corner of the left trees, leaving you less than 100 in; or play for position and leave yourself with a sweet-looking downhill approach. Very hard to get the yardage right.
3) Stonebridge: Well-structured hole. Try to go over the fairway bunker on the right and risk losing it right into the trees. Stay safe on the left and you leave yourself with a tough angled approach. The contoured green is not as severe as some others on the course but it could bite you if you lose focus.
2) Bethpage Black: Sure, the pros might think it's too simple for a U.S. Open finisher, but they're only here twice a decade or so. Ridiculous views highlight the strengths of this hole. Approaches from the rough are almost impossible to hold the severely uphill green. Coolest-looking final hole out there. Extra points for me because it's great eye candy while slugging Heinekens at the bar.
1) Bethpage Red: Tough tee shot. Tough approach shot. Awkward pitches and chips from anywhere around the green. It keeps you on your toes from start to finish, and the sweet stadium green is just the cherry on top. Absolutely beautiful landscape that is pretty much what any club should want as a finishing hole.