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Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple with these Golf Options

By Shawn Nicholls, Contributor

NEW YORK CITY, NY - A few years ago, during the first year of the American Express sponsored World Golf Championships, the popular credit card company came out with a brilliant commercial starring none other than Tiger Woods.

With a chart-topping song by Moby blaring in the background, Woods and trusty caddie Steve Williams lumbered around the crowded streets of Manhattan. He blasted a driver from Park Avenue, and then followed that up with two shots from Central Park and busy Wall Street, before draining a putt on the Brooklyn Bridge and flashing his signature grin.

Despite the commercial's lack of any relevance to the product it was supposedly peddling, the 60-second spot was quite successful at generating a large amount of envy for all those New York City dwelling golf addicts.

Unfortunately, for mere mortals not named Eldrick, taking to the streets with a driver and putter would only result in fines and a possible night in jail. But fear not, golf deprived residents of the Big Apple.

TravelGolf.com has put together a list of some of inexpensive locations (no more than a subway or bus ride away, mind you) perfect for a little golf when the crowded streets, obnoxious horns, and lack of greenery gets you down.

Luckily, one of the best options, the Golf Club at Chelsea Piers (212-336-6400) is also the closest, meaning that a quick jaunt during your lunch hour or on the ride home from work is definitely a possibility. Located at 23rd street and the Hudson River, the golf club (which coincidentally is sponsored by American Express) features four levels of heated, weather protected driving range stalls, complete with an automatic ball tee-up system.

And it gets better. Adjacent to the 200-yard turf range is a state-of-the art, 2000-square-foot Golf Academy, home to the complete lineup of golf training equipment and 15 PGA Professionals. Clinics, as well as private and semi-private lessons are available, and the entire club is open year round, meaning your golf game does not have to suffer when the streets turn white.

While Randall's Island Golf Practice Center (212-427-5689) is not as centrally located, it does offer a more spacious setting. In addition to the 100 lighted tee boxes, there is also a 36 hole miniature course that is a sure fire way to play a few holes without traveling too far from the city.

What's most impressive about the venue is that, weather permitting, it is open 24 hours a day, just another example that New York City really never sleeps. The trip to Randall Island isn't too taxing, just a subway to 125th street and then a short bus ride.

Where Chelsea Piers offers a great location and Randall's Island is perfect for the nocturnal, the Flushing Meadows Pitch and Putt (718-271-8182) in the heart of Queens makes the list because it is easy on the wallet. At ten bucks and only a 20 to 30 minute subway ride from Grand Central Station, the pitch and putt may be the attraction of choice at Flushing Meadows with the baseball strike halting Mets games.

Most of the holes are well under 100 yards, so consider just grabbing a few wedges and a putter to ease the load on the walk to the subway. And while the track may not test your length, accuracy should be a main concern. Several of the greens are protected by bunkers and the occasional water hazard, while trees are scattered around the property.

The course is well kept, and perhaps the only negative is that the combination of a lot of business and less than experienced golfers creates some waiting time at some of the tees, but nothing more than you would get on a Saturday morning at the country club.

Practicing is great, and it is good way to play a little golf without sacrificing five hours. But every now and then, you just have to get out on the course. The answer to this craving in Bronx is the Pelham Bay Park (719-885-1258)

A manageable train ride from the center of the Big Apple, the park features two 18-hole courses, Pelham and Split Rock, with the former being widely recognized as the better of the two.

Funded and controlled by the New York City park service, Split Rock is a combination of hilly, tree lined fairways and tricky greens. The last three holes are generally referred to the toughest stretch of public golf in the area, and are conveniently coined as New York City's "Amen Corner."

Pelham veers away from the tight fairways that have become the trademark at Split Rock, and instead offers golfers wide open fairways perfect for unleashing the big stick.

Greens fees hit $30 on the weekend, but drop down to $21 during the week, and New York City residents receive a six dollar discount.

Like the Pitch and Putt, the up keep of the course is great, but, given that it is a public course run by the city, the pace of play is sometimes unbearable. That being said, try for a late afternoon trip during the week.

Finally, visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island aren't the only reasons to hop on the ferry from downtown Manhattan to Staten Island.

Three courses, South Shore (718-356-0428), La Tourette (718-551-2889), and Silver Lake (718-447-5640) are easily accessible via the ferry and a subsequent bus ride, and can also be reached by a short drive over the Staten Island Expressway.

South Shore is a tree-lined and heavily bunkered par-72 track complete with an 18th hole that leads up to a beautiful clubhouse. Silver Lake is the shortest of the three, but, ironically, is home to the toughest par-3 on the island, the 230 yard third.

And although a fire destroyed much of the historic clubhouse at LaTourette Golf Club last year, the track continues to churn out great golf. Home to the New York City Amateur tournament and the Nike Golf Learning Center, the course is a fairly wide open par-72.

Shawn Nicholls, Contributor

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