For all of New York City’s bright lights and eye-popping sights, the Big Apple’s golf offerings sorely lack for drama. Sure, the Babe used to peg it at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, and yeah, Dyker Beach over in Brooklyn offers Verrazano Bridge views, but for a city as electrifying as New York, it’s golf courses are kind of, well, fuggedible. (Sorry, Liberty National, site of this week's Presidents Cup, doesn't count—it's on Gov. Christie's land.)
Which got us golf nerds thinking: If we could build a hole anywhere in the five boroughs, with no restrictions—construction, financial, zoning or otherwise—to which neighborhood would we dispatch the GOLF.com bulldozers and motor graders? Naturally, we couldn’t just stop at one hole yet didn't dare designing a full 18 for fear of pushing Malcolm Gladwell over his tipping point. So we split the difference and with the help of veteran designer and Photoshop-whiz Paul Crawford, created an exhilarating par-37, 3,058-yard nine-hole loop that we’re calling the NYC9. Pete Dye, eat your heart out.
No. 1: "Bambino" — par 4, 242 yards
Named for the greatest Yankee, the drivable par-4 opener looks gentle on paper until you realize you must play the elevated tee shot into swirling winds and in front of 54,000 screaming fans who are pissed off that they just spent $17 on a beer. The safe play is a short- or mid-iron to the heart of the fairway. Feeling courageous? You can attack the green, but beware: Block your tee shot and you’ll be forced to play your second in front of the notoriously rowdy fans in the right-field bleachers. You da man? More like, "You suck, a--hole!!!"
No. 2: "XXX" — par 4, 453 yards
What you see is what you get on this long straightaway par 4. And by "what you see" we mean hundreds of blinking, blinding billboards, thousands of selfie-stick-toting tourists mindlessly walking through your line, and one life-sized Elmo tending the flagstick (yes, he/she expects a tip). Times Square has been sanitized since its grimy heyday but the name of this hole pays homage to the neighborhood’s glorious past.
Nos. 3-5: "The Beasties"
No. 3: "Mike D" — par 5, 622 yards
No. 4: "MDA" — par 3, 191 yards
No. 5: "Ad-Rock" — par 4, 309 yards
New York magazine recently valued Central Park at $528 trillion, so the NYC9 team felt good about scooping up this verdant swath of the property for a cool 100 tril. (Did we mention Bob Parsons is an investor?) Named for one of Gotham’s most beloved musical trios, this taxing stretch has been known to sabotage its share of scorecards. The 3rd, a true three-shot par 5, is followed by a meaty par 3 with a green that is protected by the treacherous Brass Monkey Bunker. The 5th is a short par 4 but the long tee shot over water is all you want. You’ll have to—you guessed it—fight for your right to maaaaaake par.
No. 6: "33" — par 5, 565 yards
On this diabolical par 5 that values precision over power, you must hopscotch across midtown with three perfectly struck shots or else risk facing the Jon Rahm-like wrath of the taxi driver 50 stories below whose windshield you just took out. The hole culminates on the roof of Madison Square Garden, where golf-loving Knicks and Rangers have been known to work on their short games. Patrick Ewing wasn’t much of a golfer but he was the greatest Knick, thus the hole bares his number.
No. 7: "Grimaldi" — par 4, 345 yards
The NYC9 doesn’t quite dip into Brooklyn but it does encompass the famed Brooklyn Bridge. The tee shot calls for a bullet down the main span but this is without doubt a second-shot hole. The tiny crowned green accepts nothing less than an impeccable wedge shot. The hike to the putting surface, should you ever land a ball there, is strenuous but captivating. Simply finishing this hole is an accomplishment. Should you succeed, celebrate with a couple of mouth-watering slices at Grimaldi’s pizzeria, on the Brooklyn side of the bridge.
No. 8: "Bugle" — par 3, 120 yards
After the menacing 7th, the 8th offers some respite in the form of a short par 3 that plays to a slightly elevated green set atop the iconic Flatiron Building. Don’t be fooled by the name—this tee shot actually calls for a soft, arching iron. Virtually any ball that finds the green will leave a good look at birdie and perhaps some pigeons, too. Fans of the Spider-Man films will know that this building is where Peter Parker reports to work as a photographer for the Daily Bugle.
No. 9: "Bartholdi" — par 5, 211 yards
Critics call this hole "tricked up." To which we say, "Oh, shut up — have you seen the location?!" Playing around the base of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s masterwork, this arresting design is a slicer’s worst nightmare. The hole demands that you move the ball right-to-left, and it’s easily reachable in two with a well-positioned tee ball. Should you have a chance for a 3, don’t take the putt lightly. There’s something poetic about making an eagle at the feet of Lady Liberty.