Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course, Montauk, New York Guru's Rating: 9.1
Non-Resident Weekend Rate (with cart): $96
The importance of a bargain has never been lost on my father. Since he came to this country nearly six decades ago, Dad has waged a campaign against the “overpriced,” the evil mark-ups, the “totally outrageous,” ripoffs. “Do you know how much it cost them to actual make that?” Dad has been famously known to ask (“them” and “that” can refer to any number of things). I’m proud to say that I’ve learned from my father – I know a good deal when I see it (I’m an agent now after all). And when it comes to golf courses, I have yet to find a better value than Montauk Downs. “The Downs” is outstanding golf at a price that even my father would acknowledge is exceptionally fair.
For just $48, New York State residents with a valid driver’s license can book a weekend tee-time at Montauk Downs (through a pretty simple phone reservation system), widely considered to be Long Island second-best public course (behind Bethpage Black). The gorgeous track is part of Montauk State Park, which also includes six tennis courts, and a swimming pool. A driving range and restaurant round out the amenities.
The course itself relies on stunning natural beauty and a memorable, challenging layout, conceived by Robert Trent Jones. Wind is usually a factor based on the course’s location – smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound. And while you won’t directly face the sea during your round, beachy vegetation constantly reminds you where you are. Grasslands, interesting looking plants, and a variety of wild animals are among those you’ll encounter as you navigate through Montauk Downs.
Most Memorable Hole: You can pick any hole at Montauk Downs and make an argument. I’ll focus on the course’s signature – #12, a gorgeous par 3 which plays 228 from the tips. The tee box is elevated and the wind swirls as you gaze out to a large elevated green surrounded by mean rough. Enjoy the view because this is a tough hole to par.
Most Challenging Hole: I always have extreme difficulty with #10, a relatively short Par 5 (499 from the tips, 466 from the white tees) with a tight, unforgiving fairway. You’d better own a power fade off the tee, but not a full slice; my playing partner lost his seemingly well-angled drive into some plants at the base of a massive and interesting looking tree, about 220-250 yards out. Even if you bomb one to the perfect spot, you’ve still got a lot of real estate ahead of you to an uphill green, surrounded by traps, and harder to read than “War And Peace.”
The Bottom Line: Sure, Montauk is the furthest point out East, but if you’re in the Hamptons, playing The Downs should be a priority. Terrific experience at an even more terrific price.
Guru’s Tip: The restaurant has a decent selection of sandwiches and snacks to grab at the turn, but if you truly want to savor the last morsel of your round at Montauk Downs, grab a seat on the large outdoor patio after your round. My friend Damon Hack, who writes for Sports Illustrated, named the spot as one of his favorite 19th holes in all of golf.