Brookville CC goes deep with its bunkers

Brookville Country Club member Mike Buccolo poses for Brookville Country Club member Mike Buccolo poses for a portrait in a bunker on the second hole of the club's golf course. (July 25, 2012) Photo Credit: James Escher

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Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since ...

For courses to keep up with modern golf, it isn't just a matter of adding distance. It is a matter of adding depth, in more ways than one. Brookville Country Club has completely redone all of its 105 bunkers, which involved digging -- into the ground and into its own history.

The club can attest that bunkers do more than penalize inaccurate shots. Bunkers give a course atmosphere and give each hole its definition, telling a golfer where not to hit the ball.

"It makes the player think, especially the better player, because there is always an ideal avenue to approach the hole location," said Mike Keohan, who became superintendent at the club in Glen Head six years ago after having opened courses in Westchester and Vermont.

Bunkers are the signature of Seth Raynor, the iconic architect who designed Brookville 90 years ago. The steep faces on the bunkers, newly sodded with Turf Type II tall fescue, and the texture of Grade 1 sand mix have helped Brookville return to its roots. The project, which cost $250,000 and was part of a bigger capital improvements push, also helped the club remain relevant in a competitive market at a time when technology has golfers hitting farther than ever.

"Six years ago, what people would probably say about the club was: Great club, great guys, good camaraderie . . . very average golf course," said Mike Buccolo, the vice president and greens chairman. "Now we've got people knocking on our doors, wanting to get in."

Buccolo, who is a top amateur player, said the hardest part was persuading his fellow members to invest in the upgrade. But he says now they are happy they did, what with 80 percent in a recent survey saying they want club funds to be pumped into the course.

"Which we've done," he said. "We have people who are trying very hard to complain about something, and they just can't." On a tour around the back nine this week, a caddie told him, "This is the best I've seen it in 30 years."

Almost no clubs have the space and resources to keep adding yardage, the way Augusta National has. Instead, they are taking different routes to keep their layouts challenging. There is no challenge quite like a good old fashioned sand trap (witnessed by Tiger Woods Sunday at the British Open). Glen Head Country Club recently also completed a massive bunker project, which has been well received by members.

Of course, golfers want to avoid sand altogether. What's more, Keohan said, "The better players like firmer sand and the higher handicap tends to like a little more of a fluffier sand." To accommodate both, his staff mixed mountains of Tuckahoe and Quartzite sand in the parking lot.

At Brookville, it is homage to Raynor, the Southampton engineer who was hired by C.B. Macdonald to build the National Golf Links and became one of golf's godfathers.

"What the strength of this golf course is, as with any Raynor course, is its bunkering," Keohan said. "My love for Raynor and Macdonald is that they've always incorporated that in the designs, there's always a strategy. It's not just 'get up and hit it' . . . They don't build them like this anymore. They just don't."

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