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Long Island: 72 holes in 72 hours

By Mike McAllister
SI.com

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Arrive early for a tee time at Bethpage Black course in Farmingdale.

LONG ISLAND COURSES

Island's End: Yardage/par: 6,639/72. Greens fees: $33-$54 ($16 for cart). (631) 477-0777. http://www.islandsendgolf.com/

Bethpage State Park (Black): Yardage/par: 7,297/71. Greens fees: $39-$98 ($31 for cart). (516) 249-0707. http://nysparks.state.ny.us/golf

Long Island National: Yardage/par: 6,838/71. Greens fees: $49-$129 (cart included). http://www.longislandnationalgc.com

Montauk Downs: Yardage/par: 6,762/72. Greens fees: $34-$78 ($15 for cart). (631) 668-1234. http://nysparks.state.ny.us/golf

Alternative courses: Eisenhower Park, Harbor Links, Lido, the Links at Shirley, Oyster Bay, Tallgrass.

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Long Island (New York)
Hamptons (New York)
Golf

(CNN) -- Golfing in the Hamptons -- sounds pretty hoity-toity, doesn't it? And well it should.

The upper crust of New York society is blessed with an abundance of riches when it comes to playing 18 holes in Long Island, led of course by the legendary Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, along with National Golf Links (Southampton), Maidstone (East Hampton) and Atlantic (Bridgehampton).

The bad news is that unless your family tree includes a Rockefeller or Vanderbilt, you're probably not going to get within sniffing distance of the top private courses. Not to worry. That abundance of Long Island golf riches also extends to public-access courses, including another legendary layout -- Bethpage Black, site of Tiger Woods' 2002 U.S. Open win.

One advantage of a golfing vacation in Long Island is that the relatively compact area will not require you to stick a lot of miles on your rental car. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean you won't be spending a lot of time behind the wheel. The Hamptons can be one long traffic jam, particularly on summer weekends. That's why we'd advise you to plan a trip either before Memorial Day or after Labor Day and hope the weather holds up. October might be a nice month, and you'll get a break on the rates.

Your travel time will be cut down considerably by flying into Long Island MacArthur Airport but don't fret too much if you can only catch a flight into New York's LaGuardia or Kennedy or Newark Liberty airports.

No matter which airport you fly into Friday morning, here's how we'd play it the rest of the weekend.

Friday afternoon

Island's End: This four-star-rated course (by Golf Digest) is semiprivate, but the public can still get tee times. Located in Long Island's underrated North Fork wine country -- nearby Ternhaven Cellars is known for its red wines -- Island's End's signature hole is the par-3 16th along the Long Island Sound. The view is supposed to be spectacular, whether you're looking toward the Connecticut coast or along the Long Island coast.

Saturday morning

Bethpage State Park: Rare is the course that's treated like a U2 concert, with people camping out overnight just for the privilege of seeing it live. But getting onto the Bethpage Black course in Farmingdale may be tougher than actually playing it (and make no mistake -- you better have your game on to survive the Black).

Local residents can make tee times in advance, but if you're an out-of-towner, it's first-come, first-serve for one of the few available slots. You should consider playing one of the four other Bethpage tracks, all designed by A.W. Tillinghast. The Red course is considered a touch above the Blue, Green and Yellow.

Saturday afternoon

Long Island National: Before you play the Robert Trent Jones course at Montauk Downs on Sunday, you can check out the work of his son at this track in Riverhead. The 6,838-yard layout from the tips may not seem as intimidating as others, but the tall fescue grass, ocean breezes, 55 bunkers and three lakes offer sufficient penalties. There are also a couple of old-school touches -- a shared fairway on the front nine and a double green on the back nine.

Sunday morning

Montauk Downs: Like Bethpage, the state of New York manages this public course. And like Bethpage Black, you may have to show up in the wee hours to secure a tee time. Oh, and like Bethpage Black, it'll be worth it (especially because it's relatively cheap -- again, just like Bethpage). Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Montauk Downs is on the tip of Long Island, about as far east as you can go. Expect to deal with windy conditions and thick rough on a course that will test you mentally as well as physically.

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