Last week I had an opportunity to play at Long Island National Golf Club in Riverhead, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. Masterpiece. The golf course was built in 1999 on the Gatz family property, once a potato farm. Upon construction the golf course was leased to and managed by American Golf. In August 2010, the lease expired and William Gatz returned to the helm. Gatz has a successful banking background and has now focused his attention on managing the golf course. His vision is to provide an alternative for the public to experience a private golf club feel without having to pay a membership fee.
In the past year or so there have been many renovations to the golf course and the clubhouse in an effort to restore a tarnished reputation. As a golf professional, I have been lucky enough to play some of the best golf courses up and down the East Coast. In my opinion, Long Island National has a private club feel that the general public can enjoy.
The facility at Long Island National has all the amenities comparable to some of the high-end private courses. Along with the perfectly-manicured golf course, the club has a bar and grill called Bogey’s, which boasts a tremendous lunch menu. I took the advice of the waitress and enjoyed the chef’s homemade pulled pork sandwich with fresh coleslaw, despite the rib-eye sandwich being the most popular item on the menu. If you are looking for lighter fare, the salads are generously overflowing with fresh local produce. I have played the course many times and have never stopped for lunch, but I would recommend Bogey’s as a great spot for lunch or happy hour.
The golf course has undergone changes as well. Upon driving in, I noticed the fescue on the property was fully-grown and about waist high. Immediately I was skeptical, realizing that even though the aesthetics of tall grass blowing in the wind looks great, it is difficult to play out of (not to mention a pace of play issue for a stubborn golfer looking for his golf ball). Once I got out on the course I was overwhelmed with the condition. The greens were in magnificent shape and the fairways were striped to perfection (most likely due to some new irrigation). The fescue was a penalty if you hit into it, but it provided some defense for the course, especially since the front nine has no water hazards. As for the back nine, there are a few holes where some water comes into play. The bunkers were strategically placed in Robert Trent Jones fashion but most impressive was their challenging playability.
The most effective marketing tool the club has implemented is creating a database of e-mail addresses, sending out weekly info on club events and attractive promotions. Recent activity has included demo days on the range, greens fee and lunch packages and upgrades on your bucket of range balls. If you would like to sign up and become included on the e-mail list please go to the website and subscribe at www.golflongislandnational.com.
Mr. Gatz and his staff along with the recent renovations, have changed Long Island Nationals’ reputation from an average public course to an opportunity to experience a high-end private facility, of course without having to pay the price for a membership. For the non-golfers, go check out the lunch and happy hour scene at Bogey’s bar and grill. [/expand]