An introduction to Long Island

As part of the public golf courses series, this time we go to one of the finest regions of the U.S. We’re taking a look at the best public golf courses on Long Island.

This is the 118-mile stretch of land which runs east from Queens and Brooklyn all the way to Montauk at its most eastern point. 

Some of the finest golf courses in the U.S. are located on Long Island. These include the likes of Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America and so many more. 

See more: What are the best golf courses on Long Island?

But I would argue the strength of a golf destination or state, is not just the quality of its private courses, but the strength and depth of public courses. On Long Island, there is such a huge choice of public courses, I could have written a top 20 or 30.

Best for…

GroupsBethpage State Park Golf
Value for moneyThe Town of Oyster Bay Golf
ClubhouseBethpage State Park Golf
ViewsTimber Point Golf Club

The best public golf courses on Long Island

RankGolf Course
1Bethpage (Black)
2Montauk Downs Golf Club
3The Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course
4Bethpage (Red)
5Spring Lake Golf Club
6Timber Point Golf Course
7Eisenhower Park (Red)
8Harbor Links Golf Course
9Pine Hills Golf & Country Club
10Sunken Meadow Golf Club
Table showing the best public golf courses on Long Island

1. Bethpage (Black)

Bethpage Black Golf Course, Long Island, New York - Photo Credit Monica anne Pedano

This impressive golf facility houses five golf courses; the Black, Red (which follows up on this list), Yellow, Green and finally the Blue. 

The club actually started life as the Lenox Hills Country Club, with one 18-hole golf course. It was in the 1930s when Bethpage Park Authority acquired the land. In a stroke of genius, someone decided A.W.Tillinghast would be the man to oversee the creation of three new golf courses and the complete renovation of the Lenox Hills course. 

So it wasn’t long after at which point the Black, Red and Blue came into existence, with the Lenox Hills course becoming the Green.

The Black course has hosted multiple major championships, being the first public course to host a U.S. Open. This was the occasion when Tiger Woods romped to victory.

There is however some controversy over recent work done by Rees Jones. Purists argue Jones’ focus on protecting par has lost much of Tillinghast’s original design.

Either way, it is still a behemoth of a course well worth ticking off your list. Following in the footsteps of the pros is one thing, but being able to do so for around $100 is even more appealing.

2. Montauk Downs Golf

Montauk Downs Golf Club, Long Island - Photo credit David Palefsky
Photo credit David Palefsky

On the most eastern tip of Long Island, is Montauk. Here you’ll find Lake Montauk, Montauk State Park, and if you look closely enough, the Montauk Brewing Company. It is also here you’ll find Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course. 

The course is state operated, although this wasn’t always the case particularly when it first opened back in 1927. Originally a Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout, over the years it benefited more and more from his son Rees Jones’ architectural attention. The most recent update was in 2008, Rees adding a more strategic element which was arguably missing previously.

In typical Trent Jones fashion, Montauk Downs can play long and tough. The fairways are narrow and the greens quite penal. 

Unfortunately over the years, much of the surrounding rough and undergrowth has become quite dense, which only adds to the challenge. As is the fact despite not having any holes close to the sea, the course gets battered by sea breezes. 

This is definitely one of the better public golf courses on Long Island. A bit of a trek to get to, but worth it nonetheless.

3. The Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course

Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course, Long Island, New York

Once the Woodlands Estate, it is the hilly Woodbury square which is where you will find the Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course. The 121-acre estate is as verdant as they come in Nassau County. 

The course is a cracker and without doubt one of the finer public golf options on Long Island.

The routing was actually devised by the legendary Tom Fazio, a man more accustomed to working on private projects. Although to be fair, the facility did start life as a private golf course before being more recently converted into a public offering.

As to be expected with a Fazio design, it is not the easiest layout to play. The front nine offers a stiff test, with its tree-lined fairways allowing very little margin for error. It does open up a little on the back nine allowing the driver to come out to play a little more.

The green complexes are definitely a highlight, something to be admired on a public course. 

This is a great layout in an easily accessible part of Long Island.

4. Bethpage (Red)

The Red course at Bethpage opened around the same time as the Black and the Blue, all three designed by A.W.Tillinghast in the mid-1930s. 

There is much debate as to the Red’s merits when it comes to comparing it to the Black. Some feel it is very much the Black’s little sister, impressive but not quite reaching the same level as the epic Black. Others believe the Black is so far ahead, there really is no comparison. 

What can be said of the Red, is that there are some epic holes. For example the first is an absolute brute, a par-4 measuring over 450 yards. An elevated tee box with bunkers stretching down the right hand side of the fairway. You’re then trying to position yourself on a small raised green…welcome folks!

There are a number of other holes which present similar challenges, including the beautiful 18th. This is a really strong finishing hole, with deep bunkers left and right of the fairway coming into play for most mere mortals. The green is uphill and well-protected so accuracy from your approach shot is critical. 

Overall the Red is a fun layout. It was designed by one of the preeminent architects of the Classical Age. Yes, it doesn’t quite reach the bar set by the Black, but few would. It is still however an immensely enjoyable round of golf at really good value.

5. Spring Lake Golf Club

Located in Middle Island, is the family owned and operated Spring Lake Golf Club. This beautiful park-like setting is home to 27-holes of golf featuring the 18-hole Thunderbird course and the 9-hole Sandpiper. 

Despite being right in the heart of Middle Island, there is a sense of serenity and solitude which reigns supreme. The fairways are lush and for a public golf course, in fantastic condition.

From the back tees, the championship Thunderbird measures over 7,000 yards and features a great variety of holes. There are some necessitating careful strategy and others just demanding brute force with the driver. It is great fun.

Nearly every hole is flanked by trees which does require some accuracy off the tee to score well. Likewise, confident approach play is vital due to the depth of the greens. Depending on the pin position and your choice of iron, you could be left with some pretty lengthy putts!

6. Timber Point Golf Course

Along Suffolk’s south shore, overlooking the Great South Bay is the superb Timber Point Golf Course. This prime location has stunning sea views whilst also being a good vantage point to the barrier island of Fire Island.

Timber Point started life in the heyday of Golden Age architecture in the 1920s. At the time it was another exclusive private course and considered one of the finest tracks on Long Island.

It was designed by the legendary Harry Colt and Charles Alison, two men who had a significant influence on the spread of golf worldwide. Most of their work was done outside of the U.S., but there are the odd examples like here at Timber Point.

The club has 27 holes with the Blue and the Red making up the ‘championship’ 18. Yet it is the Blue which has most people salivating. 

There is a stretch of six or seven holes which are really sensational, with the climax being the par-3 Gibraltar. 

The green is perched high, with behind it vast views over Connetquot River. From the back tees it is over 200 yards and it will take a fine shot into ever-changing wind conditions to find the right part of the pitched green.

The terrain is constantly moving and large ponds come into play on a number of occasions. This is a great track and good value. Few courses on Long Island, private or public, will match some of the views.

7. Eisenhower Park (Red)

Eisenhower Park Golf Course, Long Island, New York - Photo credit Joseph Gulotta
Photo credit Joseph Gulotta

Another public golf course on Long Island with an illustrious history. Eisenhower Park has seen it all.

The course was originally part of the grand Salisbury Golf Club, considered one of the finest golf complexes in America. There were five 18-holes courses onsite with the Eisenhower (Red), the #4 Course at the time, opening in 1912.

It was designed by Devereux Emmet, the same architect of Garden City Golf Club fame. So highly rated was the course, it was chosen as the host venue for the 1926 U.S. Open, won by Walter Hagen. 

Many years later, following the collapse of Salisbury Golf Club, the renamed Eisenhower Park Red Course is the only remnant of the Salisbury days. Although not quite considered in the same echelons of its heyday, it is definitely ranked as one of the better public golf courses on Long Island. 

Measuring a fine 7,000 yards plus, this lengthy course puts an emphasis on decent driving. Straight from the off you encounter two par-5s in the first three holes, whilst there are a handful of doglegs which require a decent drives. 

All in all, Eisenhower Park is well worth the visit. Yes, you’re right in the heart of Nassau County close to the busy shopping outlets on Merrick Avenue. Yet despite this, there is a blanket of peace and calm when playing here. This and its grand history make Eisenhower Park one of the stronger public options. 

8. Harbor Links Golf Course

Harbor Links Golf Course, Long Island, New York

This is a prime spot for golf; the prestigious gold coast north shore of Long Island. You’re just a stone’s throw away from Port Washington, 25 minutes’ drive from central Hempstead.

Harbor Links is one of the newest public golf offerings on Long Island having opened for play in 1998. It was designed by Dr Michael Hurdzan and sits on a wonderful plot of land. 

Prior to housing a golf course, this was an industrial sand mine and there are some unusual features which add to the overall experience. On the western side of the course is a high bluff which both protects the course but also provides a nice elevated tee box. 

Likewise, the 12th and 13th holes were built on land which was used for the tailings from the mine. These piles of rock and sand give a unique desert-like setting providing yet more theater. 

When constructing the course, Hurdzan’s aim was to work seamlessly with the natural environment. Subsequently, the course weaves around wetlands and features tall fescue grasses helping to protect wildlife habitats. As a result of this, Harbor Links became the 29th Certified Signature Sanctuary in the world in 2001.

There are some exclusive private courses surrounding Harbor Links, including Engineers and Deepdale. But Harbor Links is well worth the detour and is great value.

9. Pine Hills Golf & Country Club

Pine Hills Golf and Country Club, Long Island, New York

In the famous Pine Barrens region of Long Island, is Pine Hills Golf & Country Club. The club is tucked away in 165-acres just a few minutes off the Long Island expressway.

From the back tees, the course measures well over 7,100 yards with a par of 73. Length is definitely one of the main challenges, but fortunately the fairways are amenable to hitting the big dog. 

Although pine trees line most fairways, there is enough room to relax the shoulders a little. Only if you really start spraying it will you end up in trouble. 

Fairway bunkers are present on most holes whilst the greens are generally quite well-protected. The 498-yard par-5 15th is the signature hole. A sharp dog-leg left with a pond in play on the ‘Tiger line’. You’re then attacking a narrow green protected on either side by bunkers.

Pine Hills is a good test and rated as one of the best public golf courses on Long Island by GolfNow. 

10. Sunken Meadow Golf Course

Sunken Meadow Golf Club, Long Island, New York

Located in Kings Park, close to Fort Salonga, is a beautiful spot hugging the Long Island Sound. It is here where resides Sunken Meadow Golf Course.

Sunken Meadow is another golf course which has really good ratings from nomadic golfers. This in itself isn’t necessarily a mark of quality, but shows it hits the mark for the average golfer playing public golf courses.

There are 27-holes of golf onsite, of which the Red and the Green 9-holes were first to be built. They opened for play in 1962 and were designed by Alfred Tull, the person responsible for designing the Yellow course at Bethpage. 

Some two years later, the Blue course opened for play. Unlike the Red and Green, the Blue course meanders off into dense woodland. It is the shortest of the three 9-holes, but featuring a number of dog-legs and narrow fairways, definitely not the easiest. 

The favored 18-hole layout at Sunken Meadow is the Blue and Red nines. This provides a varied and challenging test.

What is the best public golf course on Long Island?

The best public golf course on Long Island is the Black course at Bethpage. It was designed by A.W.Tillinghast and opened in the early 1930s. It has been the host venue to a number of major tournaments and was the first public golf course to host a major tournament in the U.S.

How many public golf courses are there on Long Island?

At the time of writing, there are 40 public golf courses on Long Island.

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