Recently I played the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club located in Mount Sinai. Despite living four miles away, it was my first time teeing it up here since I moved to the area five years ago. After playing 18 holes, I am now kicking myself for not coming sooner because I believe this course is one of the best values in eastern Long Island.
In this review I'll go over my impressions of the course design, playing conditions, and several other things you should know about.
A Beautiful Golf Course
I've driven by Willow Creek well over a hundred times. I got a few glimpses of the course through the gates, but I didn't know what a beautiful piece of land it is.
Golfers on Long Island are more than aware that land is at a premium, and a lot of our public courses are "squeezed" into them. I did not get that impression at Willow Creek.
Regarding architecture, I wouldn't call this one of the classic gems out there like Bethpage, Montauk Downs, or Eisenhower. The course was built in 2005, and it felt more like playing at a golf community down in Florida. Not a bad thing, but it was more reminiscent of that style of golf. On many of the holes you'll see houses, and even get a stern warning about your club selection off the tee:
Willow Creek is challenging, but not impossible. One of the course's main defenses is massive bunkers that will challenge your tee shots and approaches. Most golfers will be intimidated by the water, as it comes into play on the majority of the holes. However, there were only several shots where I felt it was a significant problem. Lastly, the greens have a lot of undulations, and depending on the pin position it can make them very difficult.
Some of the more beautiful holes are on the back nine in my opinion, particularly down the home stretch.
Overall, the course design is much nicer than your run-of-the-mill public track (especially in this area). I enjoyed my round, felt challenged (but not overwhelmed), and was very pleased with the setup. If you check out the GolfAdvisor reviews, you will see many similar sentiments out there.
Private Club Conditions
I've played a majority of the golf courses on Long Island at this point. Growing up, I ventured to almost every single public course available. In my adult life, I've been fortunate to also play some of the classic private clubs through tournament play and friends.
Willow Creek has better conditions than you would expect at most public courses on Long Island. The fairways were in excellent shape and mown pretty tight. Unfortunately, our area has had some of the worst rain I've ever seen lately. Before my round, it had rained more than an inch overnight, so the course had taken on some water. Because of that, the greens were showing a little more wear and tear. I could tell in other areas that they were nicely maintained, and the speed was more than acceptable despite the recent bad weather.
Long story short, I think you will be pleased with the playing conditions compared to many of the other courses in the area.
One caveat that I should throw in is that you cannot walk Willow Creek. This was a bit of a bummer for me because I always prefer to walk a golf course. But alas, I had to take a cart.
It Was a Bit Slow
I played at Willow Creek on a Wednesday afternoon, which you would expect not to be peak popularity. It was a beautiful fall day, which brings out more golfers than usual, and the course was crowded.
ClubCorp is the operator of Willow Creek. They are one of the largest golf course management companies in the world, and they take playing time seriously. The scorecard has an estimate of how long it should take you to play every hole. Additionally, on the golf cart, they have a picture that reminds you their goal is for you to play in 4 hours.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The round took five hours, and on most holes, we were waiting on tee shots. I wouldn't call it egregious, because most Long Islanders are used to these conditions at courses open to the public.
I should also mention that there was not a marshall present that day (a drink/snack cart was driving around though).
If you plan on playing Willow Creek, especially on the weekend, this is something you should know.
Willow Creek Is a Great Value
Any course is going to have its positives and negatives. In my opinion, the positives win out at Willow Creek. It is a beautiful golf course that will challenge every level of player.
If you are looking to snag a deal, then playing on a weekday is your best bet. I was able to book my tee time for only $31 through teeoff.com (there was a 30% coupon available sitewide). Depending on when you play, tee times can cost anywhere between the high-thirty dollar range all the way up to over a hundred dollars. It is a semi-private course, and memberships are available as well.
If you are living in this area or traveling to eastern Long Island, Willow Creek should be on your list. It is one of the best golf courses in this area that is open to the public.