NEW YORK CITY — Looking to head out to the links this summer? Fancy yourself as a recreational Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods?
No need to head east or north or even join a private club, because the Big Apple is dotted with public golf courses that cater to duffers and pros alike, no matter what your handicap.
We've spoken to high school golf coaches and golf pros and have come up with some of the most challenging and picturesque holes.
From the monstrous 619-yard par 5 second hole at Van Cortlandt to the 190-yard ninth at Kissena, widely considered the most difficult par 3 in the city, the city's public courses present a challenge to any skill level.
Prefer your golf with a view? How about the breathtaking 405-yard par 4 17th at Clearview with views of the Throgs Neck Bridge and Long Island Sound, or the 422-yard par 4 seventh at Dyker Beach in the shadows of the Verrazano Bridge?
Here's DNAinfo New York's list of the best 18 holes in the city:
1) Van Cortlandt Golf Course (Kingsbridge, Bronx) No. 2 (619 yards, Par 5)
Nothing like a 619-yard, par 5 on the second hole to shatter egos right away. Hit a long and accurate tee shot and just keep hacking away.
It is likely to be a good four or five shots just to get on the green. A par, even a bogey, is an accomplishment on a hole known as "The Babe."
"I named it after [Babe Ruth], the home run king," Van Cortlandt general manager Will Larkin said. "You have to hit the first shot to a slanted fairway so you only have about 10 yards to keep it in and then it will down to the left rough. Then your second shot, you have to play about 150 yards slight right or it will roll down to the left rough. I think it's one of the most challenging holes in the area."
2) Forest Park Golf Course (Woodhaven, Queens) No. 4 (475 yards, Par 5)
Accuracy is key throughout this incredibly tough par 5, arguably the most difficult and unforgiving hole on the course.
“There’s a 200-yard carry to another plateau and then it funnels in to a very tight green with woods on the left and right,” Forest Park manager Bob Smith said.
“It’s one of the toughest holes we have.”
3) Pelham Golf Course (Pelham, Bronx) No. 5 (432 yards, Par 4)
Ranked the No. 1 handicap hole on the course, this par 4 requires a long uphill drive and an accurate iron to an elevated green.
“What makes Pelham’s fifth hole so unique is it really requires a player to work the ball well off the tee,” said Jim Buonaiuto, general manager of the Pelham Bay and Split Rock Golf Courses.
In order to keep the hole manageable, the ball has to carry from right to left.
"Any drive off the tee that leaks right makes the hole incredibly long and almost impossible to reach in regulation,” Buonaiuto said.
4) Dyker Beach Golf Course (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn) No. 5 (341 yards, Par 4)
Feeling lucky? Then go for it from the tee box of this slight dogleg left par 4 with a blind fairway, rolling hills and a tiered green. You could eagle the hole, but miss and you might as well get a blanket for all the time you’ll spend in the sand.
“It’s a short par 4, but it has a blind fairway so it’s a risk-reward hole,” Dyker Beach general manager James Hallquist said. “You can go for it and almost drive the green, but if you don’t, you’re in big trouble. If you get in the bunker, you literally need steps to get out of it. That’s the risk.”
5) Dyker Beach Golf Course No. 7 (422 yards, Par 4)
This difficult par 4 with views of the Verrazano Bridge requires a strong tee shot followed by a long-to-mid iron approach to an uphill, undulating green guarded by bunkers.
“It’s in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge and I would say it’s the hardest hole on the course,” general manager James Hallquist said. “It’s long with a narrow fairway and it’s brutally elevated. I’ve never parred the hole, not even close. I think I bogeyed it once.”
6) Split Rock Golf Course (Pelham, Bronx) No. 8 (441 yards, Par 4)
Ending what is commonly referred to as New York City’s “Amen Corner” is this beast of a par 4.
This hole is dogleg left and requires a blind tee shot to an iron shot over a creek to an elevated green. Right-handed golfers, draw your tee shot or else you will drive through the fairway or be blocked by trees.
Long hitters are forced to use either a 3 or 5 wood off the tee.
“A well struck drive may bounce off the down slope of the fairway and run into a wooded area to the left or a creek that bisects the fairway at about 120 yards from the green,” said the course's general manager Buonaiuto.
Even if you steer clear of the water hazard, you still have to contend with a massive approach shot.
“With bunkers left and right of the lay-up landing area off the tee, a perfectly placed drive only rewards the average golfer with a 220-yard approach shot into a bowl shaped green,” Buonaiuto added.
7) Clearview Golf Course (Bayside, Queens) No. 9 (430 yards, Par 4)
The good news is you don’t need to have the most accurate tee shot. The bad news is the same isn’t true with the other shots in a hole that gets more difficult as you approach a green protected better than Fort Knox.
From a bunker on the right to a marshy area on the left and a steep drop-off behind the green, this hole abounds with traps and stumbling blocks.
“The long par 4 offers a generous landing area from the tee, but tightens considerably as you approach the green,” said Joe Bischoff, the course's general manager.
8) Kissena Golf Course (Flushing, Queens) No. 9 (190 yards, Par 3)
Perhaps the most difficult par 3 in New York City, you have a narrow tee shot uphill to an elevated green. Hit it short, or long, and you’re in some pretty difficult rough. Hit it left or right of the green, you’re in the trees.
“It’s a bit of a hit off the tee and it's all uphill at a 30-degree incline to a postage stamp [green],” Kissena Park manager Mike Castle said. “I’ve played it a million times. I’ve birdied a couple of times, but as far as hitting greenies, a handful of times.”
9) Douglaston Golf Course (Douglaston, Queens) No. 9 (202 yards, Par 3)
There’s no good place to miss on this par 3 with an elevated green. There are two bunkers to the left and one on the right. A short shot means a tough chip and if you’re long you’re in jail with fast greens running back to front.
“It’s a very difficult par 3,” said Keith Kim, Douglaston Golf Course general manager. “You can see the city skyline and the clubhouse from the tee box. Either way you look, you have a good view. You make a par there, you’re happy.”
10) South Shore Golf Course (Huguenot, Staten Island) No. 9 (533 yards, Par 5)
Strong ball strikers can get a favorable roll off the tee into the downhill green and a quality second shot could mean a birdie or even an eagle to close out the front nine. There’s a water fountain and pond to the left of the green, making it an especially scenic hole.
“It’s a tough driving hole and the second shot has to be precise,” said Greg DeAngelo, who works in the pro shop. “With the water on the left, I would say it’s the signature hole.”
11) Marine Park Golf Course (Marine Park, Brooklyn) No. 9 (415 yards, Par 4)
The ninth hole at Marine Park poses the most unique challenge on this course. It's the only hole with a water hazard in play and has a green that's a little more than 50 yards and just 15 yards deep, making it difficult to hit.
"To carry the water on the left side of the hole from the blue tees requires a 250-yard shot," Marine Park golf professional Hunter Watkins said. "In the future you will have to carry over the water rather than miss the water on the left. It is my desire to see this hole become the 18th and not the 9th."
12) LaTourette Golf Course (New Springville, Staten Island) No. 10 (511 yards, Par 5)
Take a deep breath because this is no easy start of the back nine. You drive from an elevated tee to a valley where your next two shots will be uphill to a well-protected green.
Hit it left on the slight dogleg right and you’re out of bounds, hit it right and you’re in the trees.
13) Dyker Beach Golf Course No. 11 (160 yards, Par 3)
So you just finished the 400-yard 10th hole and you breathe a sigh of relief at the site of this downhill 160-yard par 3. Big mistake. The unique design of this green occasionally means an extremely hard pin placement, but the bunkers are a constant nuisance.
“It’s basically circled by a bunker so if you get in the sand, you’re in trouble. You won’t par the hole,” Dyker Beach general manager James Hallquist said. “It’s a nice hole, a typical par 3, but those bunkers are pretty nasty.”
14) Forest Park Golf Course No. 12 (435 yards, Par 4)
There’s a nice view of the Manhattan skyline looking back from the green that you’ll hopefully enjoy after conquering this difficult par 4, one of the more challenging holes at Forest Park.
“It’s over 400 yards straight up a hill with undulating greens,” Forest Park manager Bob Smith said. “It has a two-level green.”
15) Pelham Golf Course (Pelham, Bronx) No. 13 (441 yards, Par 4)
Trees line both sides of the fairway on this 441-yard par 4. Drive the ball too far and you’ll have a downward lie, over a creek, to an elevated green.
“Pelham’s 13th hole is a great example of a risk-and-reward par 4,” said manager Buonaiuto.
If you hit a driver off the tee, the golfer has to contend with a downward-sloping fairway that runs into a creek.
"Laying up leaves a golfer with a long iron or possibly fairway wood into a green that is only receptive to very high shots,” Buonaiuto said.
16) Forest Park Golf Course (Woodhaven, Queens) No. 15 (145 yards, Par 3)
If you shank your tee shot, your ball is getting wet on this deceivingly tough 145-yard par 3 with a kidney-shaped green.
“It’s about 148 yards over water to a kidney-shaped green with a bunker on the left,” Forest Park manager Bob Smith said. “It’s our signature hole.”
17) Clearview Golf Course (Bayside, Queens) No. 17 (405 yards, Par 4)
Looking for a hole with a view? It doesn’t get much better than No. 17 at Clearview, a downhill medium-length hole with breathtaking views of the Throgs Neck Bridge and the Long Island Sound.
“A relatively easy downhill par 4, a good drive will leave most players with a short iron into the green with bunkers protecting both sides,” Bischoff, Clearview Golf Course's general manager, said. “It is a beautiful hole with fantastic views of the Throgs Neck Bridge and East River.”
18) Douglaston Golf Course (Douglaston, Queens) No. 18 (533 yards, Par 5)
It’s just cruel to finish off a long day of golf, especially if you walk the 5,585-yard course, with a 533-yard par 5 on 18.
Blast a tee shot to a narrow, tree-lined fairway that has bunkers on the right and then try your luck with a blind second shot to an elevated green guarded by more bunkers.
“It has its undulations and a lot of times you have a blind shot into the green, which is a little more elevated,” said course manager Keith Kim. “From the tee box and all the way in you have a pretty wide view of the clubhouse. It’s pretty wide open and a nice way to finish.”