Fairways & Greens
August 16, 2017
|The Links At NorthFork - Real Links Experience, Right Here At Home|
By Colin RitsickI have never crossed the Atlantic Ocean, but I imagine The Links at NorthFork to be as authentic of a links course as there can be this side of the pond. Knee high fescue runs wild along the fairways and protects the greens, with rolling hills that parallel almost every hole. Long expanses of bunker add to the true links feel.
If you can hit it straight and you can putt the lights out, you will score well at NorthFork. Any draw or fade to your game at all, and you may be in for an interesting round. The course seems simple enough at first, no trees in sight and not much water - just golf at its most fundamental. But as you make your way down the first fairway and onto each one after that, you will learn that anything but an ideal tee shot is going to leave your ball with a nice comfy bed of bent grass rough or worse - a cozy cave of fescue. But therein lies the magic of The Links at NorthFork, its simplicity from afar is what hides its difficulty. It tests the shot making and scrambling ability of every golfer who crosses its path.
But within the chaos of trying to find your ball on a 30 degree slope in knee high grass, you can't help but notice the raw beauty. The course is downright gorgeous. It's spread out and not hidden within the walls of encroaching neighborhood estates, but rather there is green space as far as the eye can see. Yes, there are some neighborhood homes on the back nine, but even they have acres of land to themselves. The overall effect of varying shades of green grass within the bent and fescues, sandy brown bunkers, some of which are massive, and a horizon of farmland, railroad and wheat crops is simply beautiful.
Perhaps the prettiest sight of all was the shape the greens are in. Pristine one might say. Pristine, however, does not mean easy. The putting surface at The Links at NorthFork is... how should I say it... fun! I love a challenging green. If you get bored easily with greens that all look the same and are more or less flat, you need to play here. The greens are rolling, wide, deep, long, shallow, small, have different shelves, well-protected, wide open... any type of green you can think of it's here. There are only two constants that I noticed. One, there wasn't a brown spot or a rough patch on a single one. And two, they're fast as hell. Maybe not U.S. Open at Oakmont fast, but still.
The very first time a tree of any sort comes into play isn't until the 13th hole. It's wide open in every direction for two and a half hours and then boom - you hit a wall.
From 13 until 16, you're given a small vacation from the roughage of the links play. Right as the fairway on 13 starts, all of a sudden it isn't mounds of fescue that you have to be wary of but rather a wall of forest. The wooded holes still carry a links feel to them, but with much less chance of finding your ball after you've duck hooked one into the trees. Not that I would know.
Accompanying the forested holes is a change of elevation not seen in the rest of the course. It's not easier nor harder, but it is refreshing to have the slightest change of scenery before you finish your round.
One of the neatest opportunities that The Links at North Fork offers is an alternate way to warm up for your round. The driving range, which hits off grass, may not be the most practical warm-up for everybody. Nothing is more frustrating than striping balls off the range only to get on the course and forget how to swing. Well, NorthFork has a way to bridge the gap: the 3-hole loop - no frills, no picturesque greens and approach shots, but a practical way to warm up for your round, or extend your round for that matter. It is included in any round of golf purchase.
After the swings are swung and you've thrown away your scorecard, the bar and lounge area inside the clubhouse has the friendly welcoming design of a country club yet none of the pompous or grandiose tones at all. Beer and food prices are fair for the size and quality of what you receive and it leaves you with the same taste that the course did: completely satisfied.
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