A ridiculous number of people fly into and out of the New York City metro area each year — 30 million people into John F. Kennedy International (JFK), 22 million people into Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), and another 15 million into LaGuardia (LGA). That’s 67 million people who pass through that isosceles airport triangle each year. Even more remarkable is the fact that JFK and LaGuardia are only 10 miles apart and Newark is only 35 miles from JFK. But for the consumer (in particular the golfer) it can mean plenty of cheap flights into a destination loaded with top-notch golf. Yes, sadly, most of the greatest golf here is PRIVATE, but there’s still just enough great golf for the rest of us. (Interesting fact: Long Island itself is more than 120 miles long — that’s why Montauk Downs isn’t on my “Great NYC Courses” list.)
5 Great Golf Courses
Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point (8.9 miles from LGA): Regardless of your political affiliation, it is hard to discredit the incredible results of Trump’s investment in golf, and this magnificent Jack Nicklaus signature romp beneath the Whitestone Bridge is as good as public golf gets in New York. The famous skyline backdrop is a treat throughout the round, as are the incredible conditions and river-links style of golf.
Bethpage State Park – Black Course (23.6 miles from JFK): I’ll be honest (and ready to take some heat for this). I had more fun on the Red Course than the Black. It’s not that I’m not a good enough player for the Black (well, yeah, maybe it is). There are plenty of great holes in this “American Top 100” 18, but not every hole is awesome (as so many others have said). As one who has camped out hoping for a tee time (and got one), I’m of the camp that there are seven “signature worthy” holes on the Black and five on the Red Course. While I encourage you to play both, the Black is the course the PGA Tour plays (see this week’s PGA Championship) — and a prime tee time with that ever famous sign that warns those who think their game is better than it is. It is definitely worth playing once.
Pound Ridge (42.5 miles from LGA): Controversial, to say the least, I love this course for all the bold (boulder) designs and think Pete Dye deserves credit for giving zero … well … you know what I’m saying. This is as Wolf Creek wild as New York golf gets, and it’s the state’s version of Muskoka golf through the Canadian Shield. If you understand either reference and enjoyed either of those courses, you’ll probably love Pound Ridge as much as I do. Similar to Bethpage Black, this course is not for the timid. It will “rock” you.
Crystal Springs – Wild Turkey (57.5 miles from EWR): Ballyowen may be the more popular course at Crystal Springs, but to me the first few holes at Bally make no sense (game-flow-wise), while everything at Wild Turkey makes sense. Yes, there are some crazy holes, but it’s a fun round.
Bethpage State Park – Red Course (23.6 miles from JFK) There is a golf book by author Ever N. Hayes called “The Magician” about a kid who grows up on the streets of NYC and learns the game on these courses. When I was at Bethpage State Park watching all the kids hit balls, I wondered how many of them would go on to become superstars like Stellar in “The Magician.” What a great place to learn the game., and kudos to those who maintain these immaculate golf parks. Bethpage Red is a fun round through and through — challenging but not nearly at the level of the Black. Perfectly complementary.
4 Signature Golf Holes
No. 15 at Pound Ridge It hurts to pick just one from Pound Ridge, but this 3-par is more of a 3-point jumpshot over the marsh to a surface backed by a literal backboard of stone. The long, narrow green is the perfect complement to this short little hole.
No. 6 at Crystal Springs (Ballyowen) : Holes 1, 2 and 4 might be the least logical golf flow in America. But once you get past that bottleneck, there is a lot of fun out here and this 3-par over water is one of my favorite holes in New Jersey.
No. 7 at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point: This short 4-par with water all down the right side rates as the easiest hole on the course, but it’s also the most fun. Gotta love the city and bridge views on 9, 13 and 18 as well.
No. 4 at Bethpage State Park (Black): I debated taking No. 8 or No. 17, another pair of stellar New York 3-pars but felt like the par-5 holes of the state needed a little love and this one is such a great golf hole from beginning to end.
3 Tourism Attractions
One World Tower and Observatory: I’ve seen New York City from above by helicopter, and I’ve seen New York from below by boat. Few angles have blown me away more than those from the One World Observatory in the new World Trade Center. Looking down on the 9/11 Memorial and absorbing those emotions, then spanning across the rivers and buildings to the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and beyond is truly breathtaking.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: I’m more impressed by what the Statue of Liberty represents than I am by the statue itself — and doubly impressed by the incredible survival stories of the determined people who sacrificed so much to make America their home. And I love that we have a physical beacon of hope for all the world to see. Standing at the feet of Lady Liberty is something else.
Brooklyn Bridge: I have enjoyed no metro walk on Earth more than across the Brooklyn Bridge, particularly at night, particularly with my youngest daughter. Grab a slice of pizza in Brooklyn and walk along the water at sunset, watching the colors fade behind the world’s most famous skyline. Best part? The walk is free.
2 Great Lodging Bases:
Crystal Springs Resort (57.7 miles from EWN): This resort is epic in so many ways. The six golf courses, the incredible spa and putting course, as well as my favorite swimming pool in America. All of that and a “very loose” affiliation with one of the most radical water parks on the planet — Mountaincreek, formerly known as “Accident Park” — makes this resort an idyllic big-city escape and family vacation target. (Read “The Rise and Fall of Action Park” for a little shock and awe). Crystal Springs is one of my Top 10 Family Resorts in America.
The Holland Hotel: Everything about New York City is crowded and expensive. Except the Holland Hotel. Look, I’m not going to attempt to convince you that this little place at the New Jersey opening of the Holland Tunnel is the Ritz-Carlton, but it is family owned, overflowing with donuts and absolutely convenient to everything in New York City, within a short walk of a mall and subway stop. The rooms are sufficient, and if you’re one of those “only here to sleep” people, it’s pretty much all you need. When in NYC on my own dime, I don’t stay anywhere else.
1 Dining Hotspot
How do you pick the single best restaurant in New York City? You don’t. You make the point about pizza. Now, I could tell you about this little restaurant under the Brooklyn Bridge called The River Café that is a phenomenal place for a date night and leave it at that, but … yeah, okay I’ll do that. No one wants to hear a non-New-Yoker’s thoughts on pizza. Fuggedaboudit.