SHOREHAM, N.Y. -- With roughly 45 public courses, Long Island provides plenty of affordable golf within a five-hour drive of New York City.
The epicenter, of course, is Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, home to five municipal courses. Bethpage Black, an A.W. Tillinghast classic, hosted the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens and is on tap for the 2019 PGA Championship and 2024 Ryder Cup. It's an epic challenge from the 6,700-yard white tees. Shooting your handicap is virtually impossible for first-timers, given its elevated greens and fierce bunkering.
The Red Course at Bethpage has a reputation for being nearly as strong.
Bethpage's Blue, Yellow and White Courses round out this popular facility of the people.
More patriotic-colored courses -- the Red, White and Blue -- are found in East Meadow at Eisenhower Park, a sprawling playground run by Nassau County that includes a 9/11 Memorial, mini-golf, a massive lighted driving range, swimming and more.
Eisenhower Park's Red Course designed by Devereux Emmet has hosted a major too -- the 1926 PGA Championship won by Walter Hagen -- as well as a Champions Tour event. Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed the Blue Course and White Course at Eisenhower Park.
Two other unique golf experiences are found much farther from the Big Apple in Suffolk County, the Tallgrass Golf Club in Shoreham, and Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course in Montauk. Architect Gil Hanse designed Tallgrass to be a faux inland links that's fun and mostly forgiving. Montauk Downs, ranked the second-best "hidden gem" in the country by Golf Channel travel expert Matt Ginella, is another state park course kept in great shape for an affordable green fee. Its elevated greens aren't as intimidating as Bethpage Black, but they're still tough to hit and hold. With no houses in sight and thick scrub lining the fairway, Montauk Downs, hunkered down at the eastern tip of Long Island, feels far from civilization. A round is the perfect escape from the crush of city life for a day.