Long Island features a collection of golf courses that is the envy of most nations, so why not add a Long Island National Golf Club to the mix? Robert Trent Jones II completed the Riverhead design just prior to the new millennium.
Although these days it is Friar’s Head, just down the road, that draws most of the praise for its wide expanses of sand, Long Island National certainly got the regional trend started. Players will come across a number of enormous sand hazards that spread themselves between multiple holes; early on, they’ll contend with a trap that runs nearly 200 yards along the left of both Nos. 2 and 3.
At the end of both nines, they’ll try to avoid a more natural-seeming waste area that infringes on both the par three No. 9 and the par five No. 18. The former, a relatively short hole (165 yards), will threaten players who go either left or long with a sandy demise. The latter, a relatively long hole (615 yards) brings this same sand hazard into play along the green, after players have already battled against a separate sandy monolith off the tee along the right.
Candidly, I think the name of the course is a bit presumptuous given that there can only be one "national" on Long Island -- ergo, the National Golf Links of American in Southampton.
The layout by veteran architect RTJ, Jr. i a quite good in key spots but there are lulls. The broader issue is that creating golf on Long Island is that this special piece of terrain is home to the best private golf in the USA. With such a very high threshold the wherewithal to break through the high ceiling was never going to an easy situation.
Originally, LINGC was open to the public as an upscale daily fee layout. Once the club went private it then attempted to steer itself into a lane filled with an array of stellar courses.
LINGC starts strongly with a series of engaging par-4 holes. The land was nicely shaped so that the holes appear as natural as possible. The issue is that the middle portion of the design doesn't continue at a high level and you get a bevy of holes that are good -- but hardly earthshattering in terms of their overall sophistication.
When you reach the inward half, you get a few holes showcasing a look more at home in Florida than on Long Island. Again, nothing truly terrible but given the neighborhood the need to bring to life holes that really are special is simply not happening enough on a consistent basis.
Fortunately, the final three hole are a key highlight in bringing the round to a fine climax. Jones added two testing par-4s at the 16th and 17th holes. The closing hole is a stout par-5 over 600 yards and it will not yield unless the shot execution is carried out with great care.
If Long Island National were located somewhere else but on Long Island it's likely the layout would enjoy a bit more attention. The effort by Jones does have its moments and it's worth playing. However, for those with limited time and opportunity there will be a stronger desire to seek out other more acclaimed courses. That's a shame but it's clear reality.
M. James Ward