06/17/2013

A couple of weeks ago my family took a vacation to New York City. The Big Apple! While we had a terrific time, we also had a great reason for choosing New York City for our vacation. Last summer, in a dance competition, my daughter won a scholarship to a dance studio on Broadway. 15 hours of top-notch instruction. I am so proud of her!

So we went off to NYC to watch her dance and see the sights. Now, I’d sit and watch my daughter dance all day, but her brother – not so much. So, for those classes where her mother stayed with her, my son and I needed something to do. Something that the girls wouldn’t mind missing. Thus I decided we would explore golfing in Manhattan. And no better place to start than with the local First Tee chapter.

I contacted Barry McLaughlin, the Executive Director of The First Tee of Metropolitan New York. He agreed to meet us at their chapter headquarters at Mosholu golf course in the Bronx. So on a crisp, clear Tuesday morning my son I got on the”4″ train and headed out of Manhattan all the way to this subway train’s terminal location at Woodlawn station. There Barry met us with a golf cart and drove us to Mosholu Golf Course!

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Mosholu is a nice little 9 hole track next to, perhaps the more famous, Van Cortlandt Park golf course. As I was learning about his chapter, I asked Barry about the challenges of golfing in New York City. He gave me the standard answer: plan ahead to make tee times and expect long rounds, especially on the weekend. That was the answer I expected (but hearing it in person made me appreciate the flexibility I enjoy at home). What he shared next, though, made my jaw drop. I know land in NYC is so valuable that building up is the only solution. Certainly, in Manhattan, no golf courses exist and even schools might lack a traditional playground. But in the Bronx!?  Well, when the city needed a new water filtration plant, it selected Mosholu.  However, rather than building it on the course, the city is building it below ground. When they are finished they will cover the entire facility with a green roof to be used as a driving range. Barry said it will be the largest green roof in North America. Check out their website at Croton Water Treatment Plant. Fascinating. So in NYC when it comes to golf, space decisions are very important even if that means building below ground as well.

The First Tee of New York also offers programming in lower Manhattan at a private facility called The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers.  The chapter uses this facility to mostly reach inner city children. It is located at Pier 59 on the Hudson River, oddly enough the final destination pier for the Titanic! The chapter’s programming director at Chelsea Piers, Josh Sanchez, hosted us on Wednesday morning. Chelsea Piers is a multi-story driving range which also provides full-service golf instruction.  Here again, land is too valuable for golf. So you actually hit onto a netted platform sitting on the Hudson River! My son and I had a chance to do this for about 20 minutes. Awesome! They also make use of an indoor bunker for classroom work. I’ve never seen an indoor sand trap. You can check out their website at The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers. If you are ever in Manhattan, go give it a try.

On this trip I learned that golfers will find a way to play their game no matter what the circumstances.  Even if it means playing on top of buildings or out onto the river!  A special thanks to Barry and Josh of The First Tee of New York for their warm hospitality!  These are two amazing individuals dedicated to serving our nation’s youth.  They run a large and impressive First Tee chapter and were kind enough to share some ideas I can use here in South Dakota!

Have you played golf in New York?  Or maybe you have some even better stories?  Share them!  Or you can always contact me at steve@usgolftv.com.

Steve Zahn