Approximately 100 miles east of downtown New York City tucked between Greenport and Sag Harbor sits a humble, unassuming 9 hole track you’ve most likely never heard of. Or at least, I hadn’t until I had the good luck of stumbling into their clubhouse looking for a drink on a warm May afternoon.
I happened to be spending a weekend out in Greenport, NY with my fiancé and some of our friends last year. As my memory serves me, we had just checked into our Airbnb, cracked our first beers of the weekend, and started formulating a game plan for the day ahead of us. As discussions commenced, the idea of taking a ferry over to Shelter Island and renting bikes was thrown around. Seeing as it was an unusually warm and sunny day for early spring in New York, this seemed like the best plan so off to the ferry we went.
Upon arriving to Shelter Island and getting our bikes, we began cruising around and taking in all the sights the island had to offer. As the day went on and the sun continued to beat down on us, it became obvious that we needed to find a place to stop at and grab drinks. Thanks to my friends quick thinking and “bars near me” google search, we found ourselves walking our bikes up a gravel driveway next to what appeared to be a golf course with fairways consisting of weeds and crabgrass with little patches of fescue here and there. As we neared the top of the hill and found a place to park our bikes, we made our way into the clubhouse/restaurant.
Before we could even find a place to sit down, we were greeted from the other side of the bar by an amiable man with a large smile stretched across his face. As he welcomed us to the Flying Goat Restaurant at Shelter Island Country Club, he glanced at our group and recommended we start off by ordering a couple of their “double mulligan” specials (bucket of ice consisting of two pounders). As time passed and our conversations continued, the bartender we had befriended began giving us a history lesson on the club. He went on to tell us The Shelter Island Country Club, or more commonly known as "Goat Hill" by the locals is a public nine hole golf course that was established in 1901. The course covers 2,512 yards of widely varying terrain which he plays every day prior to his shift at the bar. He also went on to mention the club is situated on one of the highest points on the island and invited us to go outside and stand on the first tee box where we would be able to see scenic views of the Peconic Bay & Dering Harbor.
With the sun setting on our day, we jumped back on our bikes and rode downhill past the final group of golfers finishing their tee shots on hole 9. While taking the ferry back to Greenport, I couldn’t stop thinking about how we just so happened to have stumbled upon this hidden gem of a course out of pure luck. From the casual, laid back atmosphere in the Flying Goat Restaurant to the unassuming yet enjoyable 9 hole course, everything about this place keeps me itching to go back.
Living in New York City and playing most of my rounds on Long Island, I’m no stranger to all the world class golf courses the area boasts. However, with all the publicity comes the ugly reality of overbooked / overplayed courses and the dreaded 5-hour rounds. While at Shelter Island, it felt as if I had escaped this reality as I didn’t feel any of this. So with this in mind, please keep Goat Hill a secret.