The 517-yard, par-5 4th hole at Bethpage Black.
Jim Krajicek
By Joe Passov
Friday, June 12, 2009

BEST PUBLIC COURSES NEARBY
\nTwenty minutes west of Bethpage is Eisenhower Park's Red course ($45-$49; 516-572-0327, www.nassaucountyny.gov), a classic golden age design by Devereux Emmet in much-improved condition that played host to the Champions tour from 2003 through '08. Loren Roberts called the Red "the deal of the century," but it's tough for nonresidents to get on. Try walking up in the early a.m. or later in the afternoon. If the Red puts up a stop sign, Eisenhower's White course, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. effort, offers a near-equal challenge for less money. Sixty range bays await if you simply want to beat balls.

\nThe closest quality upscale public track is Harbor Links ($69-$111; 516-767-4816, harborlinks.com), a Michael Hurdzan creation 45 minutes northwest in Port Washington. For the $69 walking rate from Monday through Thursday you get a linksy, 6,927-yard course hewn from a reclaimed sand quarry that sports fescue grasses, dunes, wetlands and a trio of holes with split fairways. Other positives: 10-day advance tee times for nonresidents and a nine-hole executive course ($18-$24).

\nIf you're staying in the city, the best option is Dyker Beach ($18-$50.75; 718-836-9722, dykerbeach.americangolf.com), an ancient but challenging muni in the southwest corner of Brooklyn with views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It's accessible by subway; just take the R train to 86th St., the second-to-last stop in Brooklyn.

\nBEST ALTERNATIVE AIRPORT
\nLaGuardia and Kennedy aren't really that far away from Bethpage, and bargain fliers might benefit from the outstanding new Jet Blue terminal at Kennedy, but savvy travelers should investigate a Southwest flight that touches down at Islip, a.k.a. Long Island MacArthur Airport. Rental cars also tend to be cheaper at Islip, and the serious drop in hassle factor (you're already on Long Island) adds to the value. High rollers with private planes can get really close, landing at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, less than four miles from Bethpage.

\nBEST EATS
\nFor carnivores craving the ultimate beef-and-booze experience, there's a branch of the legendary Peter Luger's (516-487-8800, peterlugers.com) up in Great Neck. Some swear that the steaks at its 112-year-old Brooklyn location are better, but if you can put up with the gruff waiters and cash-only policy, this is the next best thing. Less celebrated nationally but justly famous in the neighborhood is Rothmann's (516-922-2500, chasrothmanns.com) in East Norwich, which serves up a mean porterhouse for two, three or four people.

\nFor Italian fare, head east along the Long Island Expressway (a.k.a. L.I.E., a.k.a. Interstate 495) near Exit 56 to Cafe La Strada (631-234-5550, cafelastradarestaurant.com) in Hauppauge. Be careful — it's easy to fill up early on the freshly baked breads, so save some room for the seafood specials. The baked clams are a favorite any night of the week.

\nBEST PLACES FOR FUN AFTER DINNER
\nB.K. Sweeney's (516-935-9597, bksweeneys.com) in Bethpage is where the locals watch sports highlights and swap horror stories about their adventures on the Black course. Located a couple of J.B. Holmes drives to the west of the park, it wows with a huge oval bar, 28 satellite screens and dark wood everywhere — plus a chicken pot pie that's better than mom's. The Blue Point Summer Ale on tap goes down pretty easy. Speaking of easy: Sweeney's runs shuttles to the tournament.

\nSerious beer connoisseurs soak up the ambiance (and the 68 ales and lagers on draught) at Croxley Ales (516-293-7700, croxley.com) in Farmingdale, situated a chip shot from the train station. Another plus — whatever sporting event you want to see, it will be on.

\nIf you're seeking a slightly more sophisticated watering hole (hey, to each his own), shoot for the lounge at Waterzooi (516 877-2177, waterzooi.com) in Garden City, Long Island's only Belgian bistro. If 130 flavors of Belgian beer and a slew of attractive people are to your tastes, you'll be right at home.

\nBEST ESCAPES FROM THE GOLF
\nReady to show off those six-pack abs? O.K., then how about those king-sized love handles? Folks of every description flock to Jones Beach State Park (516-785-1600, nysparks.state.ny.us), the state's biggest sand trap. Six and a half miles of ocean beach, a half-mile of bay beach, a swimming pool and a boardwalk complete with deck games and miniature golf are the attractions. If you simply must take a few swings, Jones Beach ($7; 516-785-1600, nysparks.state.ny.us/golf) and Robert Moses State Park ($11; 631-669-0470, nysparks.state.ny.us/golf) in Babylon both have dandy seaside links-like par-3 courses. Both rent clubs and even balls.

\nIf you want to play the ponies, trot over to historic Belmont Park ($2 admission; 516-488-6000, nyra.com), where the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of racing's Triple Crown, was run on June 6. Baseball fans aren't that far from a Mets game at Citi Field, but a much cheaper alternative — and likely every bit as fun — is the minor league action at Citibank Park in Central Islip, where 10 bucks will get you into a Long Island Ducks game (631-940-TIXX, liducks.com).

\nBEST RAINY-DAY ACTIVITY
\nYour traffic-choked car trip might seem awfully pedestrian compared with the transportation marvels on display at the Cradle of Aviation Museum ($9; 516-572-4111, cradleofaviation.org) in Garden City. During World War II, Long Island factories built 46% of America's fighter planes, and today the museum celebrates this heritage with everything from 100-year-old biplanes to Lunar Landing Modules. An on-site IMAX theater and the gigantic Roosevelt Field mall around the corner are additional options.

\nBEST PLACE TO STAY
\nChain hotels and motels dominate, mostly concentrated near the MacArthur Airport area and along the L.I.E. Pick an Embassy Suites, La Quinta Inn, Holiday Inn Express or Radisson — they're all interchangeably decent and convenient. For a step up, the Garden City Hotel (516-747-3000, gardencityhotel.com; rooms from $260) stands above the rest. A short 20 minutes west of Bethpage, the Garden City has tended to the needs of Vanderbilts, Clintons and semi-Regular Joes since 1874. If you gravitate toward dark wood, plush fabrics and Gilded Age chandeliers, the dining experience at the hotel's Polo restaurant is not to be missed. It's booked solid during U.S. Open week, but cancellations could certainly happen in this economy.

\nBEST TRAFFIC ADVICE
\n"You're out of your mind to try and drive in from the city," warns one Bethpage regular. Generally in summer, it's best to bypass the L.I.E., but if you do brave it, the good news is you'll be going against the traffic most of the time. Even so, expect a glacial pace. Free parking is available at Jones Beach, followed by a bus ride (optimistically, 25 minutes; realistically, 35). Whatever you do, avoid the 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday crush of Wall Streeters and Sex and the City types heading east to the Hamptons.

\nMore sensible is to take the train. The Long Island Railroad's Ronkonkoma Branch ($14-$15.50; 718-217-5477, mta.info/lirr) takes you 32 miles from Manhattan's Penn Station to the Farmingdale stop in less than an hour. From there it's roughly a mile to the tournament via shuttle bus.

\nBEST DAY TO ATTEND THE U.S. OPEN
\nThe People's Open 2.0 will be chock-full of festive, vocal New Yorkers, so any day will be a truly memorable experience. It'll be a zoo. But the best day will be Sunday — Father's Day. Take your dad, buy him a beer and root against everybody except your pick in the office pool.

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