Note from TheMirl.com: This is the first installment of a regular series by C.J. Papa reviewing golf courses in the New York area.
It is the best kept secret on Long Island and Owner Mel Mindich wants to change that so his golf course becomes a household name. The Links at Shirley, just off Exit 68 on the Long Island Expressway in Shirley, is a terrific daily fee public golf course that is worth the drive.
“Our reputation for being the best public facility out here is established,” said Mindich. “Word of mouth is the only thing that grows your golf business. Golfers telling other golfers. At the beginning most people kept it a secret because access to golf courses is hard and people don’t want to tell other people about it.”
I am not one of those golfers that keeps a secret because I am here to tell you to head out to Shirley and challenge yourself on a fun track. Mindich and architect Jeff Meyers designed a course with four sets of tees on each hole that stretch from 5,137 from the yellow tees to 7,030 to the black. Chose the right distance, pick the right club and swing for the pins.
“We are really a private club quality golf course,” said Mindich who makes the daily trip to Shirley from his home in Westchester. “We are the best public facility never to have hosted the U.S. Open, ever since Bethpage Black had it. That’s been one of our mantras.”
The Links opened in the summer of 2000 and it was the dream of Mindich who says most guys would like to own a bar, restaurant or a golf course. The facility has a championship golf course and a short course which is 18 holes and is lighted for night golf.
Mindich is a hands on owner who was involved in every detail of construction. From the approval process, which he completed without a lawyer, to the buildings on the course, which he did with his own crews. The Links was completed in just 13-months, and he credits that to instant decisions he made during construction. Mindich spent most of his life building homes and it was a perfect fit for him to be in the middle of things and get his hands dirty.
“The course is much superior to what I envisioned. I was going to build a little country golf course and it grows and you get hooked and your ego gets involved and you want to make it the best it can be.”
Mindich is like a proud parent boasting about his 18-children. Each hole is very special to him and it is difficult to pin him down on which hole is his favorite. I agree with Mindich because each hole has a different personality. I have played the course many times and here is my scouting report.
The first hole is a reachable par 5, with a big drive. The second is a sharp dogleg left. The third is a brutal par 4 that always plays into the wind and has a creek down the left side. Number 4 is a par 4 with a lake on the right side. The 5th is a par 4 with a green that is perpendicular to the hole and a huge waste bunker in front it. The 6th is what Mindich calls his signature hole, a par 4 that has a double green with the 8th hole. In between is the 7th a par 3 with a small green. The 8th is a short par four that downwind is reachable with a huge drive. The 9th is a par 5 that is reachable in two but has a large lake on the left side.
Number 10 reminds you of the 10th hole at Shinnecock with an elevated green. The 11th is a short par 4 with a small green. The 12th is a par 3. Don’t be short or long. If that is not enough, holes 13 through 17 are where you can add shots quickly. The 13th is a par 5 that has a large bunker in the middle of the fairway and a green that slopes away from you and out of bounds down the left side. The 14th is a long par 4 with a waste bunker on the left. The 15th is a monster par 4 that is on the other side of the lake that borders 9. 16 is a par 3 with that same lake down the right side and 17 is no picnic. Another long par 4 with humps down each side forming a tight fairway. 18 is where a good drive will allow most golfers to gamble and go for the green in two.
“I like number 18 because it is a real gambling hole,” said the man who grew up a New York Giants fan and switched to the Yankees when they moved to San Francisco. “Usually all of the action is on the last hole. All your presses and bets. There is water on three sides and if you go for it and hit a good shot it’s reachable. If you miss on either side or go over, you are in the water.”
As for the Links at Shirley, it is a sure thing that you will have a great time playing the course.