Between the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and the announcement of the Open doubleheader at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014, public golf is all the rage. Zzzzz. Wake me for my tee time at Pine Valley. All this Regular Joe madness is a snooze compared with the shivers that the average daily-fee golfer feels when scoring a prized invite to an exclusive private club. Open host Pebble Beach over doors-shut Cypress Point? Fat chance.
While many golfers dream of playing Augusta National, few have driven by the club 1,000 times. I've driven past Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y., more than playing partners have driven past Corey Pavin. I grew up about three miles from Deepdale, but until last week I had only gazed longingly at it through the hedges.
So when a friend offered me a spot in his group for a Monday outing—an event to raise money for Deepdale's retiring superintendent of 41 years, Jose (Luis) Ramos—I almost dropped the phone from excitement and trepidation. Deepdale is the kind of private club that Dick Cheney would love. Even the club's name forebodes, with its echoes of Deep Throat, never mind its murky past as site of the 1955 Calcutta Scandal handicapping hoax.
Naturally, at 5 a.m. on the day of the event I awoke in my old bedroom at my parents' house, that dream factory of yore, to the sound of a near-torrential downpour. I called the club at 6 a.m. No answer. Rising panic. At 6:30 I got through to the pro shop. Everything was still a go; the radar showed the rain ending in half an hour.
I drove the nine minutes to Manhasset from neighboring Great Neck, making one left turn, one right, three more lefts and a final, almost inconceivable right turn into the club. I could have done it blindfolded.
The rain had stopped. The stately metal gates were flung open. A mist rose off a holding pond as my '97 Subaru Impreza with 192,000 miles crawled up the private lane so as not to disturb the speed bumps.
What awaited was an impressive brick clubhouse, a friendly staff and a pristine, vaguely outdated course that's perhaps the 15th best on Long Island. After we finished, my buddy asked if I wanted to play Fishers Island Club two days later. That, or we could check out a practice round at Bethpage. Fishers Island makes Deepdale look as accessible as Sam's Club. I hate to spit on public golf's moment, but Fishers Island it was.
GOLF PLUS will next appear in the July 13 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.