LI Pulse: The Top Nine Holes

June 1, 2010

Long Island Pulse magazine Top Golf Holes June 2010 issue.

Long Island Pulse magazine Top Golf Holes June 2010 issue.

Title: The Top Nine Holes
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: June 2010
Start Page: 49
Word Count: 1,451

Want to play world-class golf? Go east. Some of the best holes anywhere can be found on courses snaking along the East End of Long Island, from Friar’s Head in Riverhead to the wind-swept dunes at Montauk Downs State Park.

The concentration of golf courses is remarkable. Nassau County features 47 clubs and the expanse of Suffolk holds another 77 courses. In fact, there are more golf courses than McDonald’s drive-thrus on Long Island. Chew on that.

“Eastern Long Island, there’s no place better in the world. And I mean by far,” said Mike Meehan, 41, winner of the last two Long Island Opens and the first assistant pro at Nassau Country Club.

And for those who don’t have guest privileges at one of the famous and fabulous private courses, there’s always Bethpage State Park. The Black and Red courses are widely considered among the best public links in the US. So is Montauk, a destination in its own right.

“Long Island is a destination for people who want to play great golf courses,” said Steve Smith, executive director of the Long Island Golf Association. “The diversity of courses on Long Island is noteworthy.”

All those well-manicured greens got us thinking: What are the best holes on Long Island? Call it a quest. Great courses are plentiful. Memorable holes? Even more so. We cherry-picked nine favorites from locals in the know. Here is our highly subjective, but eminently playable list:

Atlantic Golf Club No. 11
1040 Scuttle Hole Road, Water Mill

Status: Private
Pro: Rick Hartman
Signature Hole: 128-yard, par-3 11th
The Skinny: The Rees Jones course was built in 1992 and has routinely been listed among the Top 100 courses in the US. Atlantic will host the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship Sept. 25-30. Like all East End courses, the wind is a factor. Last year’s Long Island Open was decided on No. 11. In the final round, the golfer chasing Meehan saw his demise there, where anything to the left bounces off the green and into the hazard. “He was a yard off from the perfect uphill put,” Meehan said. “It landed on the left side, hopped off the green, down the slope and into the hazard. I couldn’t believe it. It’s one sick hole. Of all the holes, that’s a really cool par 3.”

Deepdale Golf Club No. 15
Horace Harding Expressway, Manhasset
Pro: Darrell Kestner
Signature Hole: 410-yard, par-4 15th
The Skinny: Built on the grounds of the William K. Vanderbilt II estate in 1924 and redesigned by Dick Wilson in 1954, this private course is home to one of Long Island’s top golfers in Kestner, 56, winner of 1996 PGA Club Professional Championship with a record 17-under-par. We’ll let him break it down: “It’s a very demanding golf course,” he said, noting that fairways are always cut tight and the course plays firm and fast. “You have to hit the tee ball straight and the targets are small with deep bunkers. And you have to have great touch and feel around the green with a good short game. It’s the ultimate test. A lot of our members will shoot a lower score at Shinnecock than Deepdale. Deepdale is just so much more demanding around the green. It’s a very underrated golf course.”

Friar’s Head No. 15
3000 Sound Avenue, Riverhead
Pro: Adam McDaid
Signature Hole: 485-yard, par-4 15th
The Skinny: Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in collaboration with Ken Bakst, this masterpiece in the dunes became an instant hit when it opened in 2003. Golf Week ranked it ninth among modern courses. Nos. 14 and 15 combine to form among the best back-to-back holes in the world. And No. 18 is another classic. The stairway to No. 15 reveals a challenging downward par-4 with great vistas. “It’s a straightaway hole going downhill,” Meehan said. “It looks so natural. The whole course is impressive.” Added Kestner: “Friar’s Head is one of the prettiest golf courses on Long Island, very scenic.”

Montauk Downs Golf Course No. 12
50 South Fairview Avenue, Montauk
Pro: Kevin Smith
Signature Hole: 228-yard, par-3 12th
The Skinny: This course has a beguiling past and to golfers who have battled the wind, it still confounds. Master builder Carl Fisher birthed the course as part of a grand development in 1927. Robert Trent Jones Sr. redesigned it in the 1960s and the state took control in 1978. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, but be prepared for the swirling wind blowing in from the Sound and the Atlantic. No. 12 features a well-bunkered green. “You’re not going to find your ball if you miss-hit to the left into bramble. And to the right are a couple of lateral water hazards,” said longtime pro Kevin Smith, who has never seen a hole-in-one at No. 12. “It’s a green you either knock it on and have a shot at par or miss it and take bogey and possibly more.”

National Golf Links of America No. 17
16 Sebonac Road, Southampton
Pro: Jim Morris
Signature Hole: 360-yard, par-4 17th
The Skinny: Scottish links-style course, which opened in 1908, was laid out by Charles B. MacDonald and later redesigned by Perry Maxwell and again by Robert Trent Jones. The old windmill is an ever-present landmark. So are the bunkers. Everyone agrees the visuals are stunning. “The 16th hole they call the punch bowl,” said Steve Smith, a 20-year member. “The green is in a crater. You can’t see much else. When you walk up the side to the 17th tee, you are looking at a downhill par-4 hole with a 180-degree panorama of Peconic Bay. This hole is worth the price of admission.” Another classic is No. 4. The National will host the USGA Walker Cup in 2013.

Sebonack Golf Club No. 18
405 Sebonac Road, Southampton
Pro: Jason McCarty
Signature Hole: 560-yard, par-5 18th
The Skinny: Sebonack, designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak and opened in 2006, is a stunning course with several great holes along Peconic Bay. Golf Week ranked it sixth among modern courses. No. 2 gets a lot of raves. But the closing hole is special. “The hole is all about the wind,” Meehan said. “If there’s none, then the hole is not difficult. But a breeze changes the entire matter. It’s not a hard hole if there’s no wind. But when it gets into the wind, man what a different golf hole this is.” Sebonack will host the 2013 USGA Women’s Open Championship.

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club No. 11
200 Tuckahoe Road, Southampton
Pro: Donald McDougall
Signature Hole: 158-yard, par-3 11th
The Skinny: The history is undeniable. Shinnecock is the oldest golf club in the US, established in 1891 by a group which included William K. Vanderbilt. Four US Opens have been contested among the dunes, the last in 2004. Golf Digest ranks the course third in the nation. The uphill No. 11 hole is admired for the challenge it presents, called the “shortest par-5 in the world.” The green offers a small target buffered by bunkers. “Their par 3 really is a unique hole,” Steve Smith said. “It’s one of the memorable holes on Long Island.”

Village Club of Sands Point No. 14
1 Thayer Lane, Sands Point
Pro: Steve Suarez
Signature Hole: 170-yard, par-3 14th
The Skinny: The club, built by IBM in the 1950s, sits on 210 acres, which once belonged to the Guggenheim family. Purchased by the Village of Sands Point in 1994, the course underwent renovation in 2001. The signature hole runs along Hempstead Harbor and features a tee shot over a ravine. Suarez said you have to hit the hole because hazards surround the green. “It’s very underrated,” Kestner said of this gem. “No one really knows about that one. That will surprise a lot of people.”

Bethpage State Park, Black Golf Course No. 4
99 Quaker Meeting House Road, Farmingdale
Pro: Joe Rehor
Signature Hole: 522-yard, par-5 4th
The Skinny: No Long Island course is as well known or widely played, with a history dating to 1923. Bethpage Black is the signature course, ranked 26th in the US by Golf Digest, and host to the US Open in 2002 and ‘09. Designed by A.W. Tillinghast, Tiger Woods was the lone golfer to finish under par at the ‘02 US Open. That’s one tough course. While the entire hilly, back nine is exceptional, the par-5 No. 4 is legendary. Its strategic crossing bunker and sheer yardage are epic. “Demanding tee shot. Demanding second shot,” Kestner said. “And one of the best par 5s in the world. It’s a classic. It’s really, really good.”

Selena Moberly’s Search For The Perfect Wave

May 3, 2010

Living in the home of a friend in the middle of a Central American jungle filled with spiders, scorpions and snakes – all for the sake of surfing the legendary waves of Costa Rica. That’s Selena Moberly’s life right now and the 13-year-old from Water Mill wouldn’t want it any other way.

Moberly is the Eastern Surfing Association’s No. 1 girls shortboarder age 14-and-under in New York for the second year in a row.

She’s also currently the No. 3 girl (ages 12-15) in the Costa Rican Circuito Nacional De Surf. Which is why she is living the jungle life. She relocated with her mother, Janice Moberly, to the Costa Rican town of Nosara, which features miles of white sand and roiling surf along the Pacific Coast.

Janice calls the year in Costa Rica a social experiment and not motivated purely by the sport. But we’ll see how far her teenaged daughter has developed on a shortboard at the Northeast Regional Surfing Championships May 21-23 in Hampton, N.H.

“The surf here is pretty good, but surf was not the main reason for this trial year,’’ said Janice, a registered nurse, who left her husband home on Long Island. “We had an opportunity to give Selena the unique experience of living in another country, so we went for it.”

Selena Moberly grew to love surfing ever since jumping on a board at 7, and calls Ditch Plains in Montauk her home. Now she spends five hours a day riding Pacific waves.

“I am a goofy footer, which means that waves that are going left is my frontside,’’ Selena wrote via e-mail, probably using a palm tree to shade her laptop screen. “I like waves to be overhead, which would be about six-to-eight feet. In my last contest the waves were 12 feet and heavy. A little big for me, but I still rode them.”

Surfing is not without consequences, especially for someone so young. Selena has suffered a black eye, a slight concussion, punctured an ear drum and collected all manner of cuts and bruises.

Then there is the cost of travelling. Her mother sold her car to help finance the year in Costa Rica, including the cost of a school tutor and surf coach, which is approaching $30,000.

“Selena is unsponsored,’’ Janice Moberly said. “As a young girl she represents a healthy down-to-earth lifestyle. She does yoga once a week, pilates three times a week and surfs every day. We would welcome a good fit for her in sponsorship.”

And there it is. The Moberlys unplugged from Long Island life to give their daughter, the youngest of three children – a brother and sister in their 30s – a once-in-a-lifetime exposure to a world beyond strip malls and MTV reality shows.

Nosara happens to be home to a renown yoga school and Selena hopes to be fluent in Spanish by the end of her excursion south of the border. So mother and daughter will deal with the spiders, scorpions and snakes in exchange for a mind-opening experience – and rad waves.

“It has already taken me to so many places and I have met so many new friends,’’ said Selena Moberly, who plans to join the National Scholastic Surfing Association and extensively surf the New Jersey shore this summer. “I hope to be able to continue my surfing competitions and go where it leads me.”

Blog originally posted at LI

LI Pulse: Fishing Montauk

August 1, 2009

 August 2009 issue of LI Pulse magazine.

Title: Fishing Mecca; World-class fishing awaits in Montauk
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: August 2009
Start Page: 52
Word Count: 992

A murky shadow at first, Kevin Faulkner’s eyes grew the size of dinner plates as the creature materialized into view. The mere sight of a great white shark inspires fear and awe and is equal to its myth. A monster seemingly as big as the 26-foot boat circled just beneath the surface in the waters off Block Island.

Just as quickly, it was gone.

“It was a surreal experience,’’ Faulkner said. “There was a lot of jumping around by me. Definitely the biggest thing I’ve seen in the water. I’m not scared of the water. But if this thing swam up to you, you’d die of fright.’’

While Faulkner didn’t hook the legendary shark, its mere presence is why Montauk is known as a world-class fishing destination. And it’s why Faulkner sits in traffic nearly four hours simply to experience the magic that is Montauk.

The 38-year-old contractor from the Poughkeepsie suburb of Dover Plains could sail out of any harbor along the Hudson River or Long Island Sound. Yet he suffers the stop-and-go trek through the Bronx, over the Throgs Neck Bridge, along the Long Island Expressway to the traffic-choked villages of the South Fork. The view along the way melds from concrete jungle into Pine Barrens, and finally rolling hills and beach dunes known sparely as The End.

The rich and famous transformed Southampton and East Hampton into destinations for the jet set. Montauk is less pretentious than its neighbors to the west, a laid back beach resort at its core. Surfers and families flock to the white sand and roiling surf. But it has long been known as a fishing Mecca, luring hardcore anglers such as Faulkner.

“I’d drive eight hours to get there,’’ Faulkner said. “Montauk is a very unique place. I’ve fished a lot of places with a lot of people. It’s pretty much unanimous. There’s nothing like Montauk. We’re just lucky it’s here.”

The waters surrounding Montauk yield spectacular fishing year round and offer something for everyone. There’s Zen-like surfcasting along the rocky shoreline guarded by the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Charter a boat to hunt sharks in the open ocean. Or come as you are and hop on a party boat for six hours of guilt-free fishing in the rips (turbulent currents) just offshore.

While it’s not equal to Key West or Oahu or San Diego in its diversity, migrating fish populations make Montauk a veritable feast of fluke, flounder, striped bass, sea bass, bluefish, tuna and yes, sharks of every stripe.

Frank Mundus put the East End village on the sport fishing short list for adventurers in 1951 when he harpooned a reported 16-foot, 4,500-pound great white. It was a feat that inspired the character Quint in the novel and film Jaws, which spawned a cultural phenomenon.

But great white sharks are the white whale of Montauk fishing, more salty story than everyday occurrence. Still, the legend is grounded in fact. The 17th annual Mako/Thresher Mania Tournament, which begins August 6, highlights Montauk’s connection to monster fishing.

“I think it’s reputation for shark is well deserved,’’ said Lee Ellis, 39, who lives and works in East Hampton when he’s not out on his boat “T-Bone” off Montauk. “There’s been a lot of shark hunted out of there. It’s a great place for a person to go out and get the biggest fish of their lives. Shark fishing is a great adrenaline sport.’’

Yet the region’s real rep is built on an army of weekend anglers intent on landing plentiful—and feisty— striped bass and blues.

“During the summer time, we get a lot of tourists in Montauk,’’ Capt. Carl Fosberg said before taking out the “Viking Starship” for a summer night fishing trip in search of bluefish and striped bass. “There are a lot of first-timers. It’s family-friendly and fun fishing. We supply them with everything they need. We make sure they enjoy themselves. It’s about getting the kids fishing.’’

A memory that sticks in his mind is the frigid conditions of a March fishing trip 60 miles offshore. A 9-year-old boy was one of the few anglers undeterred by the weather.

“It was really cold. The kid was die-hard,’’ Fosberg recalled. “He would not leave the rail. He was fishing the whole time. And he ended up catching the biggest fish on the boat.’’

A 25-pound tilefish was the prize that day.

“When you see a kid smile—so proud of himself—it’s a nice moment because you know that kid’s going to be hooked into fishing for the rest of his life,’’ Fosberg added.

It begins at one of the marinas dotting Lake Montauk, which spills almost directly into the Atlantic. Most boaters make a beeline east of the lighthouse, setting up between the mainland and Block Island.

Try night fishing from August into September. The Viking Fleet (, which features an $85 trip from 7pm to 1am, is the best bet. Bring a sweater because it can get cool. Sunsets are intense and there’s nothing like a full moon on the water. It will be an unforgettable experience either way.

“That’s what makes fishing so great,’’ Ellis said. “It is something different for everybody.”

Guide Bill Wetzel, a veteran surfcaster, said the fishing is the best he’s seen in the last decade. The ample rain and east winds have been a surf fisherman’s dream. And with 50 miles of sandy beach and rocky shoreline to roam, getting a line in the water is simple.

“Anybody can get started,” said Wetzel, who likes August best. “All you need is a rod and waders.”

There aren’t as many boats on the water this summer. One of the unexpected bonuses of a sour economy, say regulars. It’s also been great fishing so far. If you can stomach the slow crawl along Route 27, The End will reward your patience. From land or sea, Montauk offers world-class fun for every angler. And that’s no fish tale.