Golf in the City

By David AllenJune 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
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The par-3 11th hole, Dyker Beach Golf Course.

 
NEW YORK ' The first true Subway Series was contested in 1923 between the Yankees and Giants. The two baseball squads were only separated by a few miles ' the Giants played at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan and the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Later, the Brooklyn Dodgers made it a three-borough series, until both they and the Giants split for California in 1958.
 
Today, the Subway Series features the Yankees and the Mets, who reside in Queens. Since the formation of Interleague Play in 1997, the Yankees hold a 37-29 edge over their cross-town rival from the National League, including a 4-1 series victory in the 2000 World Series. The two teams have also played three day-night, dual-stadium doubleheaders, with the Yankees sweeping two of them. In this unique twin-bill, the two squads play an afternoon game in either the Bronx or Queens and then take a 17-minute bus ride over to the other borough.
 
With the Subway Series serving as inspiration, I thought it would be compelling to play a doubleheader of my own during a recent trip to New York. But instead of playing two nines, I would play four ' 18 holes in the morning at Dyker Beach in Brooklyn, and another 18 in the afternoon at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. And like the Yankees and Mets, I would use mass transportation. Not a cushy bus, mind you, but the subway. No police escort for me though.
 
Yes, they play golf in the big city, and plenty of it. There are 13 public golf courses in the five boroughs, from South Shore on Staten Island to Pelham Bay in the Bronx. And there's a rich history to these courses as well. Van Cortlandt is the oldest municipal golf course in the United States, having opened in 1895. Its legendary patrons have included Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, actors Sidney Poitier and Michael Douglas (scenes from the movie 'Wall Street' were filmed here) and the Three Stooges. Dyker Beach has also had some famous feet walk its course: Earl Woods, Tiger's father, took up the game here while stationed at nearby Fort Hamilton in the early 1970s.
 
Dyker Beach would be the first stop this early Saturday morning. With clubs slung over my right shoulder, I exited my friend's apartment on 66th and 2nd Ave. in Manhattan and made my way toward the Lexington Ave. subway.
 
Destination: Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
 
It had been more than five years since I last played Dyker and, to be honest, I wasn't excited to be going back. My memory of Dyker was that of a pinball gallery, with golf balls flying dangerously close to my head from everywhere. I remember one flying so close I could almost read the inscription on the ball. In a few hours, however, my perception of this course would completely change.
 
Here's this straphanger's journal of a day in the life of a city golfer.
 
  • 7 a.m. ' Leave 2nd Ave. apartment for Lexington Ave. subway station via foot.
  • 7:17 ' Board F train to Coney Island.
  • 7:26 ' Transfer at 34th St. Herald Square to D train (express) to Coney Island.
  • 7:42 ' Transfer to R train at 36th St.
  • 7:59 ' Arrive at 86th St. Station, Bay Ridge. Fifty-nine minutes. Not bad.
  • 8:11 ' Arrive at Dyker Beach Golf Club on corner of 86th St. and 7th Ave., just past Nathan's Famous hot dogs.
  • 8:30 ' Tee it up.

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    Unlike Alex Rodriguez and David Wright, I didn't have the benefit of batting practice. I was scheduled to tee off at 8:52, but there was a threesome on the tee so I hustled to join them.
     
    Right out of the box, Dyker was nothing like what I remembered. A recent $1.5 million makeover in 2007 added 12 new bunkers, moved a few others and transformed every tee box. The fairways were lush, the sand white and the greens looked like they belonged at a private course. They rolled very true, which is remarkable considering the amount of traffic at the course. According to an August-September cover story in The Met Golfer magazine, Dyker was the most-trafficked golf course in the world in the 1950s and '60s, averaging more than 100,000 rounds annually. Today, they handle about 70,000 rounds per year and as many as 350 per day on peak summer weekends.
     
    Dyker Beach Golf Course
    Web site
     
    How to get there
    From Manhattan, take D train toward Coney Island. Transfer to R train at 36th St. (to 95th St. - Bay Ridge); get off at 86th St.. Walk along 86th St. to 7th Ave.
     
    How to play it
    Book a tee time at golfnow.com or call 718-225-4653.
     
    19th hole
    The new 15,000 square-foot clubhouse has a huge patio out back for Sunday brunches and Slate, a 75-seat restaurant and bar.
     
    While set in the heart of Brooklyn, underneath the shadows of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, Dyker feels like it's hundreds of miles away from the city. On the second hole, I'm reminded of the last time I was in these parts, as I can spot one of the giants spans from the bridge off to the left of the fairway. Every November, the Verrazano is the scene of one of the greatest spectacles in all of sports ' the start of the ING New York City Marathon. The race is still fresh in my mind because last November I rumbled off that bridge along with 38,000 other runners ' talk about your foot traffic! ' headed for the great unknown. The feeling you have coming off that bridge to the welcoming applause and encouragement of the Brooklyn residents is like no other. And while it was very quiet on this Saturday, I was flooded with memories of the race throughout my round because the bridge is nearly visible from every hole.
     
    One of the more scenic holes on the front nine is the short, par-4 fifth hole, which plays only 358 yards from the back tees. The Verrazano rises above the corner of this dogleg left, with the clock tower from Poly Prep Country Day School also visible from the tee. The bridge also appears to be right on top of you as you walk toward the corner of the dogleg right on the par-5 sixth hole. The next hole plays very uphill and much longer than the 412 yards listed on the scorecard. I found it to be the most difficult hole on the front side ' by far. It's not until you get to the ninth hole (par 5, 488 yards) that you feel like you're playing golf in the city, as 7th Ave. runs parallel left to the fairway. Cars are stacked up along the fence and occasionally crash through the fence, as I was told by a playing partner. So, in addition to errant tee shots, you must be wary of cars careening out of control.
     
    The signature hole on Dyker Beach is the uphill par-3 11th (150 yards from the white tees). From the green, you almost feel as if you can drive your golf cart onto the entrance ramp of the Verrazano. The back nine plays significantly tighter than the front, as trees seemingly obstruct any ball that misses the fairway. There is only one par-5 on the inward nine, the 450-yard 15th hole, although it plays considerably longer on this day as a spring rain starts to steadily fall. The weather cooperates for the most part, however, and we surprisingly got around in just under 4-1/2 hours. This is the equivalent of running the NYC Marathon in 2 1/2 hours, because just a week earlier one of my playing partners needed almost 6 1/2 hours to complete the same 18 holes. If you can play a round of golf in under five hours in New York City, you feel like you just punched a lottery ticket.
     
    I departed Dyker Beach at 1:08 p.m., and while I was tempted to stop at Nathans and scarf down 50 hot dogs like Takeru 'Tsunami' Kobayashi (he of the famous July 4 hot dog eating contest), I had a long trip ahead of me to the Bronx and a 3 p.m. tee time to catch. This time, I left Dyker feeling like I had hit a walk-off home run.
     
  • 1:18 p.m. ' As I walk down the steps at the 86th St. Station, the R train is pulling away. This is a helpless feeling for a straphanger, much like watching the Mets' bullpen (at least the 2008 version) fritter away a two-run lead in the ninth inning.
  • 1:30 ' Board the R train.
  • 1:45 ' Transfer to the D at 36th St., headed for Manhattan.
  • 2:21 ' Transfer to No. 1 train at 59th St./Columbus Circle. Last stop: 242 St./Van Cortlandt Park.
  • 3:00 ' Finally arrive at Van Cortlandt Park. The 23-mile journey takes nearly two hours. But at least I don't have to sit in traffic.
  • 3:08 ' After eight-minute walk through the park, arrive at pro shop to check in.
  • 3:28 ' Tee off.

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    The par-4 16th hole, Van Cortlandt Golf Course.
    America's oldest public golf course also boasts some of the longest par-5s in the metropolitan area. Hole No. 2, also known as 'The Babe,' plays 620 yards from the back tees and 605 from the middle tees. The hole bends slightly to the left and the second shot plays uphill, making it a Ruth-ian sized task to reach the green in two. After a solid drive and a well-struck hybrid, I still had 210 yards to the green for my third. No wonder why it plays as the No. 1 handicap hole.
     
    The other long par-5 is the 600-yard 12th hole, which ranks as the second-most difficult hole. The good news is that none of the current par-5s plays as long as the ninth hole did in the original Van Cortlandt layout. It registered 700 yards. Imagine how much fun The Babe would have had playing that hole.
     
    While the par-5s play extremely long, the par-4s at Vannie, as the locals call it, are far more generous. The par-4 6th hole plays 283 yards from the middle tees. It's an easy carry over the water off the tee but the fairway slopes significantly uphill, ending any dreams medium-length hitters like myself have of driving the ball on the green. The green is set back against the trees, making this one of the more picturesque holes on the course.
     
    Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course
    Web site
     
    How to get there
    From Manhattan, take 1 train to last stop, 242 St./Van Cortlandt Park. Walk through park
     
    How to play it
    Book a tee time at Golf NYC or call 718-543-4595.
     
    19th hole
    Gleeson's Sports Bar & Grill on Broadway is conveniently located across the street from Van Cortlandt Park, adjacent to the subway stop.
     
    My two favorite holes on the course are also short par-4s, the 310-yard 16th and the 324-yard 18th. From both elevated tees, you feel like you're standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, with the landing zones and greens well below. For the longest hitters, both greens can be reached off the tee; and for the shortest hitters, it's reasonable to expect a wedge in for your second shot.
     
    It was an uplifting way to finish off my doubleheader. After nine hours of golf, close to three hours riding the subways, and one too many three-putts, I went home saying I nearly drove two par-4s.
     
    Unfortunately, I had to hop in the subway again. Next time, I'm taking the bus.
    Getty Images

    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

    Getty Images

    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

    Getty Images

    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.