Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ghetto Golf, Volume 1: Express Bus edition

Occasionally I am asked about what it's like playing golf while living in this urban hellhole, relying only on public transportation. I won't lie, it's a fairly hardscrabble life compared to that of most of the golfing universe. So I thought I'd try and photojournal some of the experience.

Contrary to popular belief and to the surprise of even a lot of people who live here, there are golf courses inside of New York City limits, at least a couple in every borough except Manhattan. Full on, 18 hole par 71s and 72s. Up to 6,900 yards if that's what you're into. A few of them are even directly accessible by public transit. Which technically I should be grateful for, I think.

It's not easy though, bringing a golf bag on a subway or bus. Space is already tight, and there's plenty of climbing up and down steps. People in your face all the time. Not being mindful, you might find yourself locked in a random conversation with a guy who played golf one time. Sometimes trains are crowded and you have to stand, which means wrangling the bag with one hand and holding on for dear life with the other. All this takes a fair amount of practice before you can do it without stressing yourself out.

Last year Golf Digest managed to spot a golfer in the NYC subways and ran these shocking Bigfoot-style photos.
My own subway trip, I'll cover in another post. Today, we'll be traveling via MTA "Express" bus. This particular route runs from midtown Manhattan all the way to the southern tip via Broadway and by chance, stops right in front of the Dyker Beach course in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. (Fun fact--it's where TV's Scott Baio hails from.)

There are maybe eight or nine 18 hole courses within the city limits. But this route is by far the shortest. On a good day I can get there in about 45 minutes.

(I live about a mile across town from the nearest bus stop. I could either walk or ride a bus or train there, but typically my trip starts with a short bike ride.
Stock photo to give you a rough visual--I assure you this isn't me.
It took me a while to work up the nerve to actually strap on my golf bag and go for a bike ride, but once I did it became normal pretty fast. It's a pretty sweet way to get around, you just have to get used to the wide load. Sometimes I underestimate the width and some sideview mirrors get bumped.)

Ok, here I am arriving at Union Square, where I'll park the bike and catch the bus. Centrally located, its a major juncture of nearly every city subway line making it a popular meetup spot as well as gathering area for skaters, creepers, drifters, activists and other assorted scum.

Looking north uptown, there's the Empire State Building. Think I see our bus coming; somehow, it's on time.

Express Bus is the lux route compared to the subway. There are: fewer stops, fewer passengers, plush seats and tinted windows. On a good day its the fastest ride out there. All this is reflected in the fare, which costs 240% more than the standard subway or bus ride.

 Passing through Greenwich Village/NYU area.

Crossing Houston ("HOW-stun" is what its called over here) Street into SoHo. Renowned shopping destination. For jerks.

As a matter of fact yes, stuck behind tourists again.

The signage there commemorates the Canyon of Heroes section of Broadway, site of many a triumphant historic victory celebration. Except that one time when Jay-Z copped a ride on the Yankees' float, which quite frankly kind of sucked.

A rare bit of inspiration in a golf-barren wasteland.

Zucotti Park, which you might recognize as the site of the "Occupy Wall Street" event. I played a lot of golf during the movement, and got a front seat to history just by taking this bus route to course. I was there man.

In today's New York City, a slice of pizza costs a dollar, and sucks.
In New York City, Subway stores feature classic gothic architecture.

Serving up NYC's famous "dirty water" hot dogs.

Shoe shine guys doing business on the sidewalk.

 At times, it feels practically third world over here.

There's some tourists, worshipping at the Wall Street bull.

Finally, we've reached 1 Broadway at the southernmost tip of Manhattan.

It's really tiny, in the left half of the shot, but technically I am showing you a photo of the Statue of Liberty here.

Entering the Battery Tunnel. This thing got completely flooded by Hurricane Sandy last fall, putting a major dent in my golf routine.

Trying to snap this photo I accidentally used the flash. I was mortified at what I had become but hey, just one of the costs of running a blog I guess.

Welcome to shitty Brooklyn! While there is a decent part to Brooklyn, somewhere, this isn't it; this is the harsh, industrial, polluted butt end. Here we are on the expressway. There's Staten Island in the distance, and that tall bridge over yonder, if you can make it out, is the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island and we're headed towards the base of it.

After a few boring miles of expressway, our exit approaches. 

 And here we are in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

 See ya!

A quick trip today--about 45 minutes from pickup and here we are at lovely Dyker Beach Golf Course (and Dog Run). Time to shake off the cobwebs from the bus ride and tee off.

Hope you've enjoyed this little slice of life. Naturally there's a few sights I missed out on this trip, but don't worry they'll get covered in an upcoming edition. Stay tuned for that and others including "Ghetto Golf: Subway edition".


  1. For some reason, I thought you lived in Brooklyn, didn't realize you had to commute from Manhattan. Let's see some course photos. I felt jipped after the cross-town photo odyssey.

  2. Have you ever shown up at Dyker and been shutout - no room for a single? I would dread making the trip only to find an outing or large group had the course tied up.

  3. Oh, a couple other things:

    1. Nice photography
    2. Like duke said, course photos
    3. Can't wait for the subway trip!

  4. Duke: I was too spent after taking so many photo's en route. I'll get around to it. Tough crowd.

    bkuehn: It happens about a couple times a year, where I'll show up and I don't like what I see on the first tee and I end up going back home. The last time though, I ran into such severe train delays that I never even got out of the subway, just switched directions and slunk back home all defeated. It got me so depressed that I developed a cold that night.

  5. Man, that sucks being a golfer and living in Manhattan, because that bus trip is probably by far the best and most comfortable of your options. I can't wait to see the subway one! Much respect to a true, legitimate, golfer.

    Looking forward to read more about your perspective on all golf things. Nice start to the blog!

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  7. Great read, Beef. You've quickly made it to my daily work golf site rotation. I thought you lived in Brooklyn, too. Although you call it shitty, I'd take it over Manhattan any day, and I miss the borough dearly. But to each his own.

    Can't wait to read more entries!

  8. Fascinating stuff, thanks for sharing. I feel almost guilty my course is only five mins from home, here in London England !


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