The back nine at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton is one of the most scenic walks in golf. So says Jerry Wood, who has had the rare privilege of playing at that most exclusive club. But he also loves the vistas at Crab Meadow, a municipal course in Northport.
Wood, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley and current head golf coach at Manhattan College, drove out to Riverhead to play Friar's Head, a most "private" private club, which he called "unbelievable . . . absolutely gorgeous." One morning, he and some buddies took the same roads out to Calverton Links, an unassuming daily fee course that has since closed.
"We had a 5:40 starting time," the Huntington native and 6 handicap said. "We were driving home and I said, 'Why is there all this traffic?' Then I realized it was rush hour. We had played 18 holes before rush hour."
He has stories like that from every hill and swale around here because, by the end of this month, Wood will have played every course on Long Island. "People say, 'How long did it take?' I tell them, 'My whole life,' " said the golfer who was honored for the feat on his 60th birthday last December.
It was a tad premature because he still has yet to play Inwood Country Club, which has geographical and historical resonance. It is right on the Queens border and it was where Bobby Jones first won the U.S. Open in 1923. Wood has been saving that for the last of his 140 courses. But rest assured, he plans to play there soon.
That will conclude a personal challenge that gained steam when he took early retirement in 2005 -- before a friend became head of Morgan Stanley and insisted he return for a few years. "I had always tried to play 10 new courses a year. I decided, why not play all of them?" he said the other day, having returned from Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where his Jaspers placed fourth in the MAAC championship, only four shots out of first and one out of second.
Wood had heard about captains of finance who set out to play the top 100 courses in the country but figured that would be unfair to his wife, Monica, who went back for her doctorate in math at Columbia after having raised three children. So he chose to complete the Long Island circuit he had begun when he played at Mill River, Brentwood and other clubs as a high school golfer for Holy Family.
"At least I'd be home for dinner every night," he said.
He got on ultra-private courses through business contacts, golf acquaintances (he is a member at Huntington Country Club, where he once caddied, and Garden City Golf Club) or by registering for charity outings. The executive who serves on the boards of various charities also paid his fee and waited in line to play all five courses at Bethpage and all three at Eisenhower Park.
Island Hills in Sayville was a revelation to him as an A.W. Tillinghast gem. He saw the fog roll in at Timber Point and it reminded him of the classic courses of Scotland. He revisited Shinnecock Hills. His best round of 2013 was the 59 he shot at the par-60 Greens at Half Hollow, a residential-community course that he called "pristine" and a "great concept."
"Collectively, people wanted to be really helpful. Someone would say, 'Have you played Rock Hill or Port Jefferson? I can get you on,' " he said. "There is a full spectrum of golf on Long Island and there are so many ways to enjoy it."
He just is not sure which boundaries to tackle next. Wood said, "I've played the courses in Queens and Brooklyn, too."
The Texting Awareness Foundation, devoted to warning about the dangers of texting while driving, will hold its outing Monday at North Shore Country Club, Glen Head. Visit TextingAwareness.org . . . The Rev. Msgr. Thaddeus Rooney Memorial Golf Outing held by Saints Cyril & Methodius Church, Deer Park, will be at Timber Point Golf Club, Great River, June 5. Call 631-667-4044 ext. 110.