By Dave Shedloski
This week’s venue for the opening event of the FedExCup Playoffs, Glen Oaks Club on Long Island, N.Y., is going resemble a bit of a U.S. Open redux. Wide fairways and fast greens will await the 125 players competing in The Northern Trust, which sounds a lot like the setup at Erin Hills, where Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open.
And then there’s this from course superintendent Craig Currier: “Guys who can fly it 300 yards definitely have an advantage.”
Gentlemen, start your bludgeoning.
Glen Oaks, formed in 1924, is hosting a PGA TOUR event for the first time in its history, though its ties to the tour are deep, considering that its first professional was Canadian Open champion Leo Diegel. He stayed only one year before pursuing a tournament golf career. He went on to win consecutive PGA Championships in 1928-29.
Located originally south of Lake Success and bordering Deepdale Golf Club on land purchased from the estate of William K. Vanderbilt, Glen Oaks eventually made way for inescapable urban sprawl and moved to its current site in Old Westbury, N.Y. It features 27 holes, but the tournament course is a composite par-70 layout of 7,360 yards.
Joe Finger designed the original layout that opened in 1971, but Currier assisted architect Joel Weiman of the McDonald & Sons Design Group, which did the construction work, in a complete renovation. When they were finished, the course drew raves, with some even declaring its look reminiscent of Augusta National Golf Club with its wide, manicured “clean” appearance that includes shaved areas around relatively small but exceedingly quick greens.
Currier isn’t a stranger to big events; he previously was responsible for preparing and maintaining Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in nearby Farmingdale, which played host to the 2002 and ’09 U.S. Opens. Currier arrived at Glen Oaks in 2010 and starting in 2011, he helped take a narrow tree-lined rather mundane layout in another direction. As Currier explains it, every hole was about the same yardage and the corridors were maybe 40 yards wide and blocked the view of one hole from others.
Though they undertook a tree removal program, they had help. Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in ’12 removed approximately 1,000 trees. Then they went about changing nearly every hole in routing and length to mix things up. They also doubled the fairway grass, which connected holes to one another. “They flow together better,” Currier said.
Weiman and Currier also fixed the bunkering. The previous traps were flat and barely visible. Now they are larger, elegant and flashed up, with no jagged edges, giving it further resemblance to Augusta. And even though there are fewer traps than in the original design, they are more strategically placed and easier to find with the fairways flowing directly into them.
“It’s a fabulous golf course, similar (in style) to Augusta National in that you have to play shots to certain quadrants of the greens,” veteran player Scott Brown told PGATOUR.com last year after getting in an early scouting trip to the course last year “It’s not crazy tight (nor is Augusta National) and it’s fun to play. The greens are firm and you have a lot of options for shots around the greens.”
Handling the tricky greens will be crucial, but Currier noted that this will be a bomber’s paradise with such wide playing areas. “It’s definitely a big advantage on some holes for the guys who can really move it out there,” he said.
Named the 2015 Club of the Year by the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association, Glen Oaks is expected to shine in its TOUR debut, especially if the sun shines. The weather forecast looks good, ensuring for the firm, fast conditions that will test the players and show off Glen Oaks in the best light.
The place is ready for its debut.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.