Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ghetto Golf, vol. 7: Silver Lake GC, Staten Island

Bye, home. See you in a few.
I've been in New York City for over a decade; I've been a NYC golfer since 2005. Yet in all that time, like a lot of Manhattanites, I've never set foot on the island known as Staten; never had a reason to. (After a while this becomes a weird, snobbish point of pride--never been there, never will!) Despite what the NYC transit map inaccurately depicts, it's not that close to Manhattan, and then there's that forbidding $13 toll charge if you want to cross the Verrazano Bridge by car.

But last week after the Brooklyn Open had finished, I was waiting at the bus stop in front of Marine Park when a tournament volunteer saw my clubs and struck up a conversation. He asked if I had ever played in Staten Island, and sang the praises of one of the courses there, Silver Lake. What's more, he claimed, getting there by ferry from either Brooklyn or Manhattan was quick and easy, even more so than the trip to Marine Park which, let's face it, is closer to the Atlantic Ocean than to actual New York City proper. Even for a lot of Brooklynites on the opposite edge of town, the trip to MPGC is forbiddingly long.

On the MTA's map, Staten Island appeared to be about a pitching wedge away.

Since I'm the kind of person who believes just about everything I hear, at least momentarily, I looked into it a few days later. The Staten Island Ferry is a 25-minute trip from the southernmost tippy-toe of Manhattan. Once off the boat, I can board one of three city buses that stop right in front of the course, about a 12 minute ride. Considering I live just under 20 minutes from the Ferry terminal, the whole trip in theory would add up to less than an hour, which could actually make it the second-most accessible course from the center of Manhattan.

So, in keeping with the LGNYCGT (Legitimategolf New York City Golf Tour), I went ahead and lined up a tee time at Silverlake, really not knowing what to expect. Over the years I've only heard people mention this place offhandedly, and never saying anything substantive, good or bad, about it. What can you do, sometimes you just have to leave your front door and explore things for yourself, right? It's time to set sail

Taking the subway to Bowling Green station.

Lower Manhattan is a hotbed of touristy delights.

The Manhattan terminal is surprisingly nicely appointed. It feels and smells like an airport. Actually, I have seen airports with more limited snack options.

An excellent doo-wop group did a great job of entertaining the room.

At both terminals, I had my bag sniffed by some security officers. They were adorable.

The ferryboats are massive, with something like four levels of passenger space and a total capacity of several thousand per boat. 60,000 or so people ride the ferries every day.

The ride, while slow, is really, really scenic. 360 degrees of dramatic views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten, New Jersey and the various historic islands--Ellis, Liberty, Governor's--that dot the lower Hudson. Picturesque bridges, seafaring traffic, etc. On this day it was a little bit cold, but still a nice enough opportunity to stand on the deck and enjoy a breeze. In the spring and summer, I imagine it's pretty awesome to stand outside and take it all in.

Blow through your snacks already? No worries, there's a snack bar onboard the ferry.

Here, I was imagining what it was like to be an turn of the century immigrant sailing into the New World.

The ultra-exclusive Bayonne Golf Club in the distance, looking insanely awesome.

Oh crap, I didn't realize how far I'd be traveling. Now I feel a little faraway and homesick.

Getting off at the St. George terminal on Staten Island--another fairly extensive food court. Considering the food courts at both terminals, as well as the onboard snack bar, that's an awful lot of concessions for a 25-minute journey.

One dreary bus ride later, I've arrived at the course. Yep, that's a cemetery across the way, where I'll have to wait for the bus when I'm done. Long as it's not dark by then, it shouldn't be a problem.

The clubhouse, with its Veranda Cafe seems like something of a dining destination in these parts.

One of the nicer portable pro shops I've seen in the city.

I was astonished too see this: rotating hole locations. Plus greens maps. Wow!!! Something I've only ever seen on nice courses. Unheard of in New York City--at most other courses around here you're lucky if the front/center/back color-coded flags are correctly set up. So already, I have a good feeling about this place.

7th hole is interesting: a short, easy tee shot, but a super-shallow blind green makes for a tough approach.

9th tee, a demanding tee shot. No room whatsoever for slicing here, but I can dig that.

I got so caught up playing speed golf that I nearly drove the cart into this fairway bunker. Talk about a sand TRAP AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. (sorry.)

The Good
Silver Lake is a charming layout with really nice variety and character to the holes. The course offers a decently challenging golf experience without relying too much on length or blind shots. The greens are smooth; nice conditioning all around, actually.

Rotating pin locations: not just a rare, exotic amenity, on a deeper level I think it's a reflection of a thoughtful, golf-minded management.

I didn't patronize it, but the clubhouse restaurant looks nice; people seem to enjoy it.

Accessible from Manhattan. A well-planned and executed trip should take just under an hour.

The Bad
The pro shop is puny and anemic. Then again if you're an NYC golfer, you're not expecting anything more anyways.

Staten Island is sort of an insular place. (One wonders why it's even part of New York City to be totally honest.) It's not really a destination for outsiders, so there is a slight locals-only atmosphere which might be slightly intimidating, especially for those from outside of the city.

Surprisingly, that's about it.

My round
I had a really nice time here even though I hacked my way to a 20-over 90. The front nine was deserted, allowing me to blaze through in about an hour. I got so caught up in the fast pace, I didn't bother warming up, and during the round I didn't grind it too hard--just wanted to keep the train rolling. I probably could've scored better had I not been in such a rush the whole time. Still though I enjoyed playing all 18 holes.

On the back nine I caught up to a slow group and had to join up with another single who was behind me. Not long after that though, the slow group sped up to a respectable pace, so my entire round took about three hours--hallelujah. Talk about a great first impression.

In my opinion, a golf course can be measured in large part by how well I can recall the holes afterwards, and I'm glad to say that I can remember pretty clearly the shape and character of just about every hole here. I'm sure the place can get crowded and miserable like any NYC course, but on this day I happened to have a really fast outing. So I was swayed obviously, but bottom line I was impressed with the course and I'm already looking forward to coming back (and improving on my horrible 90).


  1. that course looks great. plus, I love the SI Ferry, great view - daytime or nighttime

  2. The course looks great. A couple times there and you should figure out the best way to play it. Like John said, the ferry trip looks like a worthwhile experience by itself. Maybe plan a family outing with your lady with a late lunch at the Veranda Cafe?

    1. Forgot to mention, the ferry ride is free. Amazing bargain, but it doesn't make any sense and that annoys me to no end. They could charge a few cents and ridership wouldn't change. Meanwhile subway fare, bridge and tunnel tolls go up every other year. It's all so stupid isn't it.

  3. That looks like a nice track. I am sure it'll become one of your favorite local destinations in no time, at least when you have fair weather for that ferry ride. -sjduffers

  4. Looks really nice. Surprised you'd never ventured out there before. What's the story with that bunker in the middle of the road?

    1. Like I said there's a psychological barrier between the two islands. Staten is by and large a place for people to live. They really don't get a lot of visitors and I think they like it that way. The cart path leading into the bunker, I have no idea. It really sneaks up on you though--it's at the top of a slope so you don't see the sand until its almost too late.

      Speaking of sand, I'm just now sort of realizing--this course has almost no greenside bunkers. Still really like the course, but that is kind of a deficiency IMO.


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