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Beyond FedEx Cup sites, public golf can be found in the northeast

It's playoff time on the PGA Tour, and the FedEx Cup playoffs take us to the northeast part of the country, where you'll find a large percentage of America's greatest private clubs. And while the perception is that in order to play golf in the Northeast, you have to belong to one of them, that isn't exactly true.

Yes, there are options, and probably more than you think.

Everyone knows about Bethpage Black in Farmington, N.Y., just outside of New York City. Playing the Black, which has played host to two U.S. Opens, usually requires an overnight stay in your car to grab a coveted tee time on this physically grueling A.W. Tillinghast design. But the other munis at Bethpage aren't a bad choice either, including the Blue that's always in good shape, cheaper and probably a lot more enjoyable for the average player.

But besides Bethpage, there are other choices in New York, including the Mike Hurdzan-designed Harbor Links in Port Washington, Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s Long Island National in Riverhead, and the forgiving Rock Hill Golf Club on the east end of Long Island. And if you head up to central New York, there's the site of a former FedEx Cup host site, Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, which features among its challenging tracks the Tom Fazio-designed and tour-tested Atunyote Course.

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The first FedEx Cup event of 2011, however, will be played across state lines, with the Barclays at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J. The Garden State has plenty of public offerings, including Crystal Springs Resort, which has seven -- count 'em -- golf courses in Hamburg about an hour from the NYC metro area. You also might want to try out the Architects Club in Phillipsburg, which reflects the design work of the great American classic architects. Or head over to Flanders to play Flanders Valley Golf Course, a terrific muni and value that offers 36 holes of pure golf with no frills.

After the Barclays, the FedEx Cup playoffs head to the TPC Boston and the Deutsche Bank Championship. No surprise, the area has plenty of great private clubs, but the daily-fee golfer does have some options. For example, there' Granite Links at Quarry Hills, a magnificent course built on an old quarry with terrific views of the Boston skyline. If you're in Plymouth, be sure to check out Pinehills Golf Club, especially the Rees Jones Course, a difficult course with stunning views from elevated tees. (The other option, the Nicklaus Course, is pretty good, too.) Or for one of the better values, head over to Lakeville south of Boston to take on Poquoy Brook.