Improvements, new mini-golf course planned for Sandy Pond in Riverhead under new owners

A beloved local nine-hole golf course that’s been serving Riverhead for more than a half century is about to get some TLC.

Sandy Pond golf course on Roanoke Avenue is currently closed for renovations and is expected to reopen as “Sandy Pond Links” on March 1 under the new ownership of local businessmen Brian Stark and Earl Truland.

The new owners said they aim to retain the existing clientele and attract new players with significant renovations they hope will take the course to the next level, including a new 18-hole miniature golf course and a new clubhouse located on the northern side of the ninth hole. 

“To me, the fun part is tweaking the golf course and bringing in maybe some better conditioning, making the greens a little more challenging,” Mr. Stark said. “You want to bring in new people who find it challenging to play, but you want to keep the old vibe [for] the guys who’ve played it for the last 30 to 40 years. You want to make it challenging, but fun.”

The plan is for the new clubhouse to consist of a pro shop and golf simulator and patio area where light fare like beer, wine and ice cream could be served. 

“I don’t see a full service kitchen at this point,” he said. “But I’d love to have a food truck come up there.”

On plans to add the mini-golf course, Mr. Stark said “everybody in town loves it because — if you have little kids ­— [parents are] desperate for things like that.”

Mr. Stark, who grew up in Riverhead and has memories of both playing and working at the Sandy Pond course, said he’s looking forward to refurbishing the course.

He hailed the previous operators of Sandy Pond for building a “great business” that he hopes to expand upon. “They have a clientele, it has some members and it’s public — it’s less than $20 to play.”

Each of Sandy Pond’s nine holes is a par-3, so the course is much shorter than a typical 18-hole track, and is considered approachable, and challenging, for both beginners and experienced golfers alike.

The existing clubhouse, a former horse stable, has been “brushed up” for the upcoming March 1 re-opening, while plans for the new, larger clubhouse and the 18-hole mini-golf course are currently under review by Riverhead Town.

Sandy Pond isn’t Mr. Stark’s first foray into golf courses. He was part of the initial team that opened the Long Island National Golf Course on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead in 1999.

So far this winter, crews have been working to demolish old storage buildings on the Sandy Pond property, which was originally part of the Riverhead Cement Block company.

The golf course was built out of an old sand quarry after mining operations ceased.

Mr. Stark is currently in contract to purchase the property, and in the meantime is leasing the property from the estate of Brice Bucholz, who died in September. Mr. Bucholz’s family operated the cement business for decades.

Though Mr. Stark intends to retain approximately 15,000 square feet of contractor and trade storage buildings on the property, he said that those structures will be situated away from the golfing area, which will be consolidated on the north side of the property.

Plans for the proposed facility are expected to be discussed at a future Planning Board meeting.

In a phone interview this week, Mr. Stark was optimistic. 

“I decided to take the plunge,” he said. “I’ve played golf all my life … and I think it’s going to be an asset to the town.”