6 observations from a 2-course, 36-hole day of golf in New York City
With the GOLF.com staff working Monday through Sunday for last week’s U.S. Open, this week is a little more laid back. For me, that mid-week free time is used for one thing — golf (obviously). With a small chill lingering in the air as summer departs in the northeast and winter rapidly approaches, my goal is to get as much golf in as I can before the clubs go in the closet until next spring.
So, I decided to play 36 holes on Tuesday — from mid-morning until sundown. Two rounds in one day might not seem unusual to some, but in a golf-crazed area like New York City, you’re more likely to find a seat on the subway during rush hour (pre-pandemic) than you are to book two tee times at different courses on the same day. Thankfully, with the help of a trusty coworker, we got a morning tee time at Dyker Beach Golf Course, and an afternoon slot at Marine Park Golf Course, both a short drive from my Brooklyn apartment.
Though I’m fairly new to the scene, playing golf in the city can be an interesting experience. You are rarely not paired up with strangers, and the cast of characters can be an eclectic bunch, to say the least.
With all that in mind, here are six observations from a 36-hole day of golf in Brooklyn.
1. The golf boom is real
Keep in mind this is merely anecdotal proof, but there is hard data to back up this claim, too. With a pandemic limiting the recreational opportunities this year, golf has been the new go-to sport for many.
In our morning round, the third in our group was a Brooklyn bar owner complete with a sleeve of tattoos, tight-fitting clothes and a Hogan hat to top it off. The look was exquisite, but hardly what you’d expect rolling into a country club of the more uppity variety. He told us he’d recently gotten back into the game after years of not touching a club. With all the extra free time on his hands, he’s been playing five days a week. Talk about catching the golf bug.
During the afternoon round, we were paired with a national sportswriter who had also gotten back into playing. Baseball was his first passion (and you could tell from the athletic swing and solid contact he produced), but now he’s getting back into chasing around that little white ball.
Two rounds and two characters jumping back into the game in a pandemic-laden world. A small sample size to be sure, but would the groups be filled out differently if the bars were still open or baseball was in the midst of a more normal heated playoff race? I’d imagine so.
2. Bryson DeChambeau has golfers’ attention
As we whacked the ball around just days after his U.S. Open win, a funny thing happened — DeChambeau was the talk of the course. When one gentleman accidentally hit his ball offline and into our fairway, he sincerely apologized and told us he was doing his best “Bryson impression.” And our Brooklyn bar owner playing partner also expressed his admiration for the budding superstar. He said he liked that DeChambeau does things his way and isn’t “just another stick in the mud.” Golf should take note that having different and compelling characters will draw in a wider demographic.
3. Fall twilight golf in the northeast is divine
I’ve always thought long-shadow golf is the best brand of this sport, but this was my first experience taking part in an autumn twilight round in my new home. In Texas, twilight rounds mean a break from the intense rays that have been beating down all day as the sun casts shadows over the mesquite and cedar trees that dot the landscape. Up here, it means throwing on a sweatshirt (conveniently available in the GOLF.com Pro Shop) as the brisk air sends a slight chill into your body. And the shadows are even longer from the towering oaks that line the fairways. Pair that with watching the sun set over the distant New York City skyline, and it was unlike any round I’ve played before. Definitely a pro-twilight guy up here, too — even if I’m not a huge fan of the cold.
4. People in New York City are friendly
New York City has a reputation for grouchy strangers, but on the golf course that couldn’t have been further from the truth. All day the people we ran into were more than happy to strike up a conversation on a backed-up tee box or chat about the condition of the course after the round. New York can get a bad rap for the lack of traditional pleasantries, which is true to an extent. But in a city as fast-paced as this, often time it is just a matter of conserving energy. If you smiled at every passerby on the street your face would be sore by day’s end. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought that New Yorkers are friendlier than they let on, but sometimes it takes a day on the course to remind you that these interactions do exist, they are just rationed.
5. Well-maintained greens make all the difference
When I go to a muni, I’m not expecting Augusta National-esque speed, but I do want a chance to make a well-struck putt. At both Dyker Beach and Marine Park, the greens were in solid shape that allowed that to happen. Dyker’s greens were a bit fuzzier than Marine Park, but both were maintained to a level that felt appropriate for their budgets. There is nothing more disappointing than walking onto the first green only to find the greens in poor shape.
My only hope is that public courses can figure out a way to curb the number of unfixed divots. Again, I understand the limited maintenance staff issue, but the onus for fixing ball marks ultimately falls on the players. Fixing your ball mark (and others that you see) enhances everyone’s experience. Some sort of incentive program or local campaign for fixing divots on the green would be a great way to spread the habit. Simple things like this can make the muni experience even better for all involved.
6. Golf in the city is an escape
I love living in New York City, but at times it can be overwhelming. Getting out to the golf course — all without leaving the city — can be an escape. The best part is, there are plenty that you can reach via public transportation, no car necessary. The city courses might not blow you away, but when you strip away all the amenities and luster that comes with a posh club, the game is still the same.
Being able to get outside and take a four-hour walk through nature all without ever leaving the city is invaluable. At times during my outing, I forgot I was even in this bustling metropolis. Playing golf in the city is an excellent way to recharge your mental batteries — I speak from experience.
This is a part of our Muni Monday series, spotlighting stories from the world of city- and county-owned golf courses around the world. Got a muni story that needs telling? Send tips to Dylan Dethier or to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow Muni Mondays on Instagram.