For years, on the way to playing nine holes at North Woodmere Park, I wondered why a street named "Golf Drive" existed in a residential area with no apparent connection to golf. The Nassau muni was about a half-mile away, and certainly not the type of course to be commemorated on road signs. Had I ever turned down Golf Drive, my mind might have been blown. Along its short run it crosses streets named Bunker, Eagle and Hook. It doesn't stop there -- on the other side of a hazard-sized inlet are roads like Fairway Drive, Green Place and Tee Court.
It wouldn't be until only recently during my research for "Long Island Golf" that I discovered the reason behind the golf-centric street names. Those Woodmere neighborhoods between Peninsula Boulevard and Hungry Harbor Road were built on top of what was once a golf course.
Digging deeper revealed that this was a fairly common occurrence. When the suburbanization of Long Island kicked into high gear, in many cases, failing or abandoned golf courses were leveled, paved over and topped with the neighborhoods we know today. Often the old golf grounds were memorialized on street signs.
So, as a sucker for this sort of local history, I plan to feature these road-mapped ghosts of Long Island golf's past on occasion over the coming months. Are there golf-titled roads in your area? Perhaps you live in the middle of a long-gone fairway -- or pot bunker.
As for the above-mentioned course:
Known as Cedar Point and built over marshland west of Woodmere, the course came to be, most likely, during the 1920s golf boom. Newspaper and other published accounts reference possible ties to organized crime. Evidently the course was plagued with drainage and flooding issues that would render it unplayable for extended periods after rains. In 1932, the course was rebranded as Meadowlawn Golf Club and introduced a "pay as you play" policy that one local newspaper, The Wave, found to be a novel concept.
"Seldom is it that the public is permitted to share a sporty 18-hole course, a splendid modern clubhouse, old English grill, up-to-date lockers and showers on a green-fee basis," The Wave reported, ironically the same year that Lenox Hills Golf Club became a public facility in what would eventually be known as Bethpage State Park.
Meadowlawn fell short of its lofty expectations. In the spring of 1938, it became known as the Westwood Golf & Tennis Club, and in the five years since the dawn of Meadowlawn, the course had been "neglected and abused both physically and conversationally by the golfing fraternity," according to the Nassau Daily Review-Star.
The story comes to a rather typical and uneventful conclusion. Like many middling clubs in the post-Depression and World War II era, it likely floundered until it was either sold or abandoned. Newsday articles in 1945 discuss attempts to build a racetrack on the property. Tragically, in 1947, two people died in a fire that burned down the deteriorating former clubhouse.
One interesting part of the history concerns a players club organized by former caddies at courses around the nearby Rockaway peninsula. The club held its championships at various Long Island courses, including Cedar Point during its final days. Eventually, the club decided to purchase a failing golf course farther east in Massapequa and refurbish it into the "Peninsula" Golf Club that exists today.