By Erik Matuszewski
It makes sense that states like Florida and California rank 1–2 in number of U.S. golf facilities, given their year-round warm weather and positioning on opposite coasts. But do you know which state checks in third?
That would be New York, with more than 750 golf facilities stretching from Buffalo to Montauk. Michigan has a few more golf courses, but actually trails the Empire State in total facilities, which, like Bethpage or Winged Foot, can have more than one course. New York’s depth and breadth of golf is more significant than many realize, boasting more courses than entire nations like Scotland, South Korea, Ireland, and South Africa. Outside of the U.S., only five countries in total have more golf courses than New York: Japan, Canada, England, Australia, and Germany.
The home state to stars such as Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, New York this year hosts its 32nd major golf championship—the most of any state outside of Georgia, although that’s skewed by an annual soiree that’s more about a certain club in the town of Augusta. No state has hosted either the U.S. Open or the PGA Championship more often than New York. The virus-delayed 2020 U.S. Open marks the 20th held in New York and the sixth stop at Winged Foot, which is appealingly close to the nation’s biggest media market as well as just over an hour from the USGA’s headquarters in New Jersey. Speaking of the sport’s governing bodies, both the USGA and PGA of America were founded in New York City.
New York also has no shortage of avid golfers. Among states, it ranks fourth, just behind Texas and Florida (California is a healthy No. 1), according to the National Golf Foundation, and no metro area in the nation is richer in its concentration of golfers than in and around New York City.
In terms of supply, there’s both quantity and quality. Take a spin through Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Courses in America and you’ll find a whopping 14 are in New York. In that heady group are both of the parkland-style courses at Winged Foot; the bruising West and its devilish green complexes designed by A.W. Tillinghast being the host for the 2020 national championship.
While New York’s storied private courses are widely known and exceedingly coveted by golfers—a deep lineup that includes Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America, Fishers Island, Friar’s Head, Garden City, Sebonack, Maidstone, and Sleepy Hollow—almost 75 percent of the state’s golf supply is open to the public. Most notable are the five color-coded courses at Bethpage State Park, the most notorious of which (the Black) hosted the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens, and the 2019 PGA Championship. But Bethpage has courses that fit all skill levels and offers access to a wide and diverse cross-section of customers from all walks, not unlike the New York City/Long Island area itself.
“The Met area and New York has such an insatiable appetite for the game itself,” says Brian Mahoney, the executive director of the Metropolitan Golf Association. “That’s really at all levels—from the players of all abilities and a competitive standpoint to the history, culturally and beyond. It’s truly the mecca. We’re very blessed and benefit from having the greatest courses, whether that’s private or public.”
The iconic moments linger, whether it’s the modern—Tiger Woods as the only player to break par in winning the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage—or the historic—Bobby Jones winning his third U.S. Open title in a 36-hole playoff at Winged Foot in 1929. Indeed, New York is filled with many of the oldest golf clubs and courses in the country, but still offers an almost unmatched wealth of options for average Joes.
While Florida and California are rightfully recognized as the traditional hotbeds for golf in the U.S., New York has also established itself as one of the game’s prime hotspots.
Have you played golf in New York? Tell us about your experience and your favorite New York courses below.