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Number one with a bullet – The Black Course at Bethpage State Park makes nearly every list of the best courses on the planet and should be first on your itinerary when in New York. The 1936 vintage design by A.W. Tillinghast was the first publicly owned and operated course to host the U.S. Open in 2002. The Black now has two Opens under its belt, and will host the upcoming 2019 PGA Championship, making it destination worthy for pros and duffers alike. Playing the course is a bucket list round, but players should consider waiting until their game is ready. A famous sign on the first tee reads: "Warning – The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers." It’s not a joke, at nearly 7,500 yards; the course is a long, toothy beast. Miss the fairway, and prudence will dictate hitting a wedge back in to play. Many of the approaches are to elevated greens and serve as a test to even the most gifted shot makers. The Black is a long walk and doesn't allow carts, so be sure to wear your most comfortable golf shoes and call ahead for a caddy to help keep you out of the notoriously thick rough.
More info: About 50 minutes from Midtown, a weekend round for non-New York State residents runs $150.
Neshanic Valley Golf Course
Nestled along picturesque farmland, Neshanic Valley is the kind of golf course that almost makes you wish you lived in New Jersey, and the club house is just far enough off the Turnpike to remind you why its called "The Garden State." The course features three sets of nine holes (all par 36) that can be mixed and matched. The bent-grass fairways, tees, and greens are immaculately kept, and while the landing areas are generous, miss your target, and the deep, native fescue presents a costly hazard, leading to a bogey at best. Locals of Somerset County guard their tee times like treasures: Non-residents are only allowed to book one week in advance, and open spots are frequently hard to come by. But the hassle is well worth it.
More info: About an hour from Midtown, a weekend round for non-registered adult runs $85.
Often overlooked, the Red course is another A.W. Tillinghast gem at Bethpage State Park. The vintage track is a little more accessible than the Black course, substantially easier, and, unlike its more venerable counterpart, players are allowed to ride in carts. If you've played the Black course before, the Red's first hole will suggest you're in for a similar level of masochistic ecstasy. But the course's opening salvo is its most rigorous, and after you mark your first score, the Red will start to seem downright gentile by comparison. That said, the course is not easy, and will certainly test every facet of a player's game – tee shots will require draws as well as fades, while the putting greens demand total attention to speed.
More info: About 50 minutes from Midtown, a weekend round for non-New York State residents runs $96, and $37 for a cart.
If you can make birdies here, you can make birdies anywhere. Pete Dye specializes in designing golf courses so difficult that carding a par can seem like a Herculean labor, and Pound Ridge is no different. Set in the stunning Westchester woods, the gorgeous course bares all the hallmarks of a Dye track – undulating fairways, a few blind shots, and a several holes that present more risk than reward. Buy a yardage book in the pro shop to figure out where the optimal landing areas are. Dye likes to make them look much smaller than they are, coaxing players into making poor decisions, and Pound Ridge drives that concept to a tee.
More info: About one hour and ten minutes from Midtown, a weekend round runs $210.
The pinnacle of seven courses at the Crystal Springs Resort, Ballyowen offers players a taste of Scotland in north Jersey, a bagpiper can often be heard piping from the first tee at this links-inspired track. Consistently ranked among the top courses in the state, Ballyowen was built on a former mine near the Walkill River, and the layout is challenging yet pleasant. The fairways are generally wide, but if your drives miss the target, it may take some time and an extra set of eyes to find your ball (the native fescue rough seems to thrive on a steady diet of Titleists). Conditions on the course are pristine, and the overall experience punches well above its price point. For more Scottish flavor, and as you'd expect, the clubhouse boasts an excellent selection of "medicinal" single malts to tend your wounds after the round.
More info: About an hour and 20 minutes from Midtown, a weekend round runs $110.
Trump Golf Links Ferry Point
Politics aside, we'll concede that Donald Trump understands what is important in a creating a spectacular golf course. First, location, location, location – only 12.5 miles from Midtown, Ferry Point beguiles players with fairways and greens set among grassed swales back-dropped with mind-blowing views of Manhattan and the Whitestone Bridge. The visuals alone make for a unique golf experience. Second, commission a rock solid layout by one of the world's great course architects, Jack Nicklaus, which bears all his design hallmarks – bunkers in the center of the fairway, a drivable par-4 seventh hole, and a strong finishing crescendo with a dog-leg right par-4 16th, a short par-3 17th, and a reachable par-5 18th, all played against New York's East River.
More info: Roughly 30 minutes from Midtown, a weekend round runs $215.
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