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Selecting the best 18 holes in Queens required hours of exhaustive research on the four public golf courses in the borough: the Clearview Golf Course, the Douglaston Golf Club, the Forest Park Golf Course and the Kissena Park Golf Course. Without playing favorites, the result is a Par 71, 6,472-yard golf course with a little something for everyone.
At 6,472 yards, the ideal Queens golf course laid out here is longer than any of the four as they exist today and probably tougher, as well. There are few holes most would consider easy, not to mention having water, plenty of sand and woods, as well as rolling fairways and blind shots.
The Clearview Golf Course, the busiest city course in the five boroughs, clocks in with six holes to lead the pack. Located in Bayside near the Throgs Neck Bridge, Clearview is represented by six holes that provide lots of length and mostly straight shots.
Next up is Douglaston with five holes, including the first and 18th. With its extraordinary hilly layout, the course tucked in behind the Douglaston Shopping Center and the Grand Central Parkway has plenty of character and adds some intrigue to this idealistic Queens course.
Forest Park checks in with four holes, all of which epitomize why the 18 holes hidden away off the Jackie Robinson Parkway in Woodhaven make up a must-play course for Queens golfers.
And last but not least is Kissena Park, the shortest of all four at 4,665 yards, but with plenty of interesting holes to choose from, most notably the Par-3 ninth.
If you are familiar with these courses, some of the choices may surprise you and some should be expected. Either way, the 18 Best Holes in Queens offers a case on why staying home to golf in Queens may be a pleasant alternative to Long Island or Westchester.
The opening hole at the Douglaston Golf Club offers golfers an elevated tee box and the opportunity to hit all they have in their bag. A valley-like fairway is flanked by trees on either side, but it is better to miss right, with a dramatic slope that could funnel the ball back into a playable lie for the second shot. The green has bunkers both right and left and water to the front and right. The green is relatively flat, resulting in a lot of pars if golfers can reach it in regulation.
The No. 2 at the Clearview Golf Course is a Par 5 reachable in two if you can crush a drive and keep just right enough to miss the trees on the right and not be blocked out by the trees front and left of the green. The fairway, however, is sloped toward the tees, making reaching the green in two a difficult proposition. Better to hit a safe club on your second shot and position it in front of the green for the easy pitch and putt. Get it close enough and you can still make birdie.
The third hole at Douglaston can be played in a number of ways. A large gully and water to the right of the tee make a good, long drive a necessity. If the player can hit long enough, staying right cuts down on the yardage for the second shot. But a steep hill and trees make the shot dangerous. Better to hit just left, where the sloping fairway gives the player a straight shot to the green, protected by two sand traps in the front.
The Par-3 fourth at Clearview is one of the courses signature holes, with water front and left of a green flanked by bunkers on either side and the Clearview Expressway behind. While slightly more manageable from the white tees, which measure 170 yards, the 190-yard blue tee shot is one of the tougher in the borough. It is better to miss short than be long, with trouble right, left and behind. Be prepared to wait, however, as the hole is notorious for being a logjam on the course.
The No. 1 handicap at the Forest Park Golf Course in Woodhaven, the Par-4 fifth hole measures out at more than 410 yards. There is water short and on the right and a bunker just short of the green and also right, both of which eat up golf balls. The hole requires a straight and relatively long tee shot if there is to be any hope of reaching the green in regulation. Nothing fancy is required to figure out the hole, just four accurate shots to make par. Birdies are rare here.
The big hitter in your group might be able to reach the green on a 322-yard Par 4, but the uphill slope and bunker protecting the front of the green make a measured drive of about 250 yards the prudent choice. With trees right and left, the fairway is the only safe place to be off the tee. The bunker forces a flop second shot and is certainly the cause of most of the bogeys on this hole. Smart play is the only way to ensue par and even offer the occasional birdie opportunity.
This dogleg right is short enough particularly from the white tees, measuring 290 yards to again be reachable in one for a big hitter, but like the sixth at Kissena, a shot in the middle of the fairway and a short chip to the green is the best way to make a birdie. Ranked the No. 11 handicap at Forest Park, the seventh plays a lot harder. There are no bunkers or water, but trouble lurks at every turn.
A long Par 4, the eighth at Clearview offers a great view of the Throgs Neck Bridge in the distance and a wide open fairway. Still, it is common to find golfers in the woods on either side of this wide hole. Relatively straight and downhill, the eighth offers even duffers the opportunity of reaching the green in regulation. There is not a lot of danger on the hole, but it is still fun to play. A forgiving second shot at a big green makes par possible every time, but by no means a lock.
Easily the most difficult Par 3 on all four of the public courses, the ninth at Kissena is a monster. From the blues, the tee shot seems almost straight uphill. While some may tackle the green which is protected by a bunker to the left and woods to the left, right and behind with a long iron, the best way to make it to the pin is with a fairway wood. The 17-yard green should hold your shot, but pin placement then comes into play if birdie is an option. Be happy with par on this hole.
The 10th at Douglaston starts the turn, offering hackers a wide open fairway and reachable green from an elevated tee. The green, however, is tucked behind a hill, making going for it very iffy. A solid drive down the middle with sparse trouble on the right offers a straight look on second shot from the slightly doglegged fairway. The ground surrounding the green is mostly hardpan, making chipping a dangerous proposition. The tee shot also displays a terrific view of several holes beyond the green.
The 11th at Kissena has a sloped fairway with bunkers both left and right at about the 150 mark. A decent drive should set up an easy pitch into the 22-yard green, but with a dramatic slope to the right it is much better to be wrong left, where it is still reasonable to reach the green with the second shot. Trees, two bunkers and the cart path surround the green, making ball placement very important. A nice hole to play if you can get off the tee in good shape.
A lengthy Par 4, Forest Parks 12th hole is also very hilly, requiring accurate and long shots. The courses No. 2 handicap, it also measures at 400 yards for the ladies and 415 from the white tees. The hole completes a string of three long holes at Forest Park, all measuring more than 400 yards and all among the toughest on the course. The 12th, however, is the toughest of all, with a green guarded by a bunker front and right. Relatively straight, if you can make par, you can feel good about yourself.
Another long Par 3, the 13th at Forest Park has made more than just a few golfers feel unlucky. Reaching the green from the blue tees is a frightening proposition, with most golfers having to settle for a short chip and putt just to make par. Trouble lurks short and right of the green with a well-placed sand trap that has seen its share of balls. Though ranked the No. 14 handicap, the hole is far from easy, attesting to just how tough Forest Park can be for the average golfer.
At 465 yards, Clearviews 14th hole ranks as the longest Par 4 to make it as one of the best 18 holes in Queens. It is just 10 yards shorter than the 15th but is reachable because of its downward sloping fairway. Trees flank the fairway on both sides, while bunkers and more woods protect the green. A huge drive and long second shot are required just to be on in regulation for one of the better driving holes in the borough.
Hold nothing back when teeing off on the 15th at Clearview. The 475 yards are mostly uphill, with four sand traps perfectly placed in the middle of the fairway. Short of the traps and you have a lengthy shot to the green and possible eagle try, but if you can carry the bunkers or get a lucky roll, you can probably get close to the pin, which is shaded by trees to the left. A good hole to score on and one that can turn an otherwise frustrating round into a memorable one.
A look at the Douglastons 16 would show a mostly unremarkable hole, one that is pretty much wide open. But the 16th is anything but easy. A good tee shot and you should be sitting pretty, but the elevated green, as well as deep trouble if you go long, makes the hole much more hazardous than it would appear. Many balls have been lost by misjudging the distance, so it is much better to be short and chipping than long and searching.
Like the eighth hole, the 17th at Clearview is mostly downhill with views of the Long Island Sound in the distance. A wide fairway, with trees left and right, calls for a straight shot off the tee. A little topspin will put most in a position to use a short iron for their second shot on what would otherwise be a long hole. The green sits up and is inviting from just about every conceivable angle, but misjudging the distance could easily turn an expected par into bogey or double bogey. Another excellent driving hole.
Though it reads 550 yards, it might as well be a mile. The 18th is a monster and easily the most intriguing and enjoyable closing hole on any of the courses. Characteristic of Douglaston, the fairway is extremely hilly, with several blind shots, including your third shot which will most likely come from about 100 yards in front of the green. Bunkers and the cart path make holding the green imperative if one hopes to close his or her round with a birdie.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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