LONG ISLAND'S OVERLOOKED & OVERSHADOWED GOLF COURSES
Depending on what your favorite band is, you may be familiar with the misperception that it’s a one-hit wonder. The group is lucky enough to gain popularity for that one song on every station...and unlucky enough that people will only ever know them for that song, even if they’ve got tons of singles on more genre-oriented radio. “Oh you like Soundgarden? ‘Black Hole Sun’ man!” Yup, that’s a popular one. “You’re a Blur fan? I love that ‘woo-hoo’ song!” Yes, that’s a song they play.
If you’re a golf course enthusiast on Long Island, you live this every time you travel. “Do you know anyone who can get me on Shinnecock?” or “Wait, so you’re saying there are four other courses at Bethpage?”
Long Island is, essentially, The Rolling Stones of golf. Everyone knows the hits but some people are on the next level...knowing all the unreleased B-Sides and diving deep into obscure demos.
You know the hits on Long Island...but do you realize just how deep the region’s discography goes? We’re going to check out some underrated Long Island tracks, which you would know way better if they were located almost anywhere else.
So next time you hang out with your course-obsessed buddies, you can dominate the conversation for once.
LONG ISLAND'S BEST DEEP TRACK GOLF COURSES
Sebonack Golf Club (Southampton)
Is it fair to suggest that Sebonack, a golf club that Golf Digest ranks as No. 80 in the world, is actually underrated? As usual, it comes down to location, location, location. Southampton is Long Island’s golf scene concentrated to an absurd degree. First there’s regular U.S. Open host Shinnecock Hills, then there’s the National Golf Links of America — both Top 10 in the world — right next to each other. And then there’s lil’ ol’ Sebonack Golf Club, only ranked No. 80.
The nextdoor neighbors are stiff competition but Sebonack’s management came prepared, hiring both Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus to bring their respective outlooks on golf course design to the table. The result is rolling greens, big bunkers, and beautiful looks out to Long Island Sound. Members must be prepared to pay if they want to keep up with the best: The club has the highest initiation fee on Long Island.
St. George’s Golf and Country Club (Setauket)
Kendrick Lamar stirred up controversy when the L.A. rapper declared himself “King of New York,” piddling on the city’s deep hip-hop heritage. Choosing a golf course architect for that same title can be just as controversial. The C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor partnership has a world-class collection, and A.W. Tillinghast absolutely dominates Westchester County. But you can impress your friends by tossing out Devereaux Emmet’s name as a sleeper pick.
Emmet contributed to more designs on Long Island and in the New York City area than any other architect, and we’re not talking about architectural afterthoughts. Macdonald designed NGLA as his personal golf haven, and Emmet did the same with St. George’s Golf and Country Club. A restoration from Gil Hanse brought the beauty back to Emmet’s playplace, with the architect’s signature bunker style making fairways look more zippered than the coat rack at a thrash concert.
Southampton Golf Club (Southampton)
Remember how we were just feeling bad for Sebonack, living in the shadow of its illustrious neighbors? Alright, now imagine there was a fourth course that was part of that same block, and it was even more slept upon. That course would be Southampton Golf Club. It takes a lot for a course from Seth Raynor to fall out of the popular consciousness but if there’s a place where it can happen, it’s Long Island.
When it comes to the MacRaynor “template” hole system, few argue that any course does it better than NGLA. But don’t forget to check out the examples that Raynor laid out down the road when he got done constructing NGLA for his boss, Macdonald. The most popular par three templates are all in attendance at Southampton: a Short (No. 2), a Redan (No. 7), an Eden (No. 10), and the ever-conversational Biarritz at No. 14.
Atlantic Golf Club (Bridgehampton)
It’s tough enough for Golden Age of Architecture icons to make an impact on Long Island (even Donald Ross could only find one project east of New York City), so imagine how tough it is for modern architects to make an impact. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw made a huge footprint, metaphorically, when they built the naturalistic Friar’s Head Golf Club, which quickly rose to among the top 25 in the world rankings. Don’t forget about Rees Jones, however.
The “Open Doctor” might be most famous for his renovative work at Bethpage Black, but he’s also got a pair of prize member clubs out on the island, one of which is the resplendent Atlantic Golf Club. There’s no true linksland on Long Island but Jones does his best, creating a visually-impressive, 7,000-yard championship layout, well-cushioned from nearby housing for a more pure round. The largest sand hazards along the route could convince you that you’re at a more olde-world locale, however.
East Hampton Golf Club (East Hampton)
Here’s some golf trivia for you: What cardinal direction does not have a “Hampton” golf club named for it on Long Island? (Answer: North). And of those that do, which was not designed by Seth Raynor? That would be East Hampton Golf Club, which was actually the first design from Coore and Crenshaw in Suffolk County. But, as with many architects in this blog post, their lesser — but still great — project gets lost in the shadow of their masterpiece.
Like its more famous sibling, much of East Hampton traverses what was once potato farms, offering a faux-links experience and an opportunity for the design duo to create immense hazards. This includes the waste bunker at No. 5, a par five that serves as the club’s signature hole. The second half of the course traverses through forested area that has brought it comparisons to Pine Valley Golf Club, another world-class club...albeit not one in New York.
Sands Point Golf Club (Sands Point)
Tillinghast has a virtual greatest hits collection on the north side of New York City, and of course he’s got numerous entries at the Bethpage complex. But a few more Tillies are hiding around Nassau County for those who know somebody. One is Sands Point, located right across the street from the Guggenheim estate, Hempstead House. It doesn’t get as much attention as Tillinghast’s major championship hosts in Westchester and that’s largely by design.
Sands Point deserves attention from Tillinghast fanatics because it’s one of several that have been restored by Keith Foster, who’s hailed by many as the go-to when doing rehab work on Tillie’s best. Among the other Tillinghast properties he’s restored are the Philadelphia Cricket Club, Baltimore Country Club, and Brook Hollow Country Club....which puts Sands Point in very good company when it comes to promising an authentic Tillie experience for its members.
Nassau Country Club (Glen Cove)
We realize that most people aren’t trying to get super prickly about the subtle nuances of golf course design...that’s why they stock up on trivia in order to impress the local course architecture nerds. If that’s the case, then Nassau Country Club has you covered in spades.
For one, the famous “Nassau” bet was actually invented at (and named after) this club. More notably, this was the location where Bobby Jones first met his infamous mistress...the straight-shooting putter Calamity Jane. He was competing in an Open qualifier when he borrowed Jane from a local pro. He’d go on to win the U.S. Open and didn’t see fit to give the club back.
History aside, Nassau packs a great course as well, which has been touched by Emmet, Raynor, and Herbert Strong.
North Fork Country Club (Cutchogue)
If you’re looking to play every golf course by an architect, there are few more appealing names than Donald Ross...not only was he one of the greatest course designers of all time, he also left behind a lengthy list of properties to visit. In other words, he’ll keep you busy golfing! As we mentioned above, however, he only left one in the wonderland that is Long Island.
It also happens to be one of the most casual private clubs on Long Island. Sitting on the northern shore of Long Island Sound, the course’s signature holes play along salt marshes, with views for miles.
So how did Ross get this one, begotten commission on Long Island? The founder, Charles Hudson, had his second home in Pinehurst, NC...and let’s just say Ross’s talent was hard to miss for those who lived in that area of North Carolina.
So what do you make of this list? Do you think these courses get the love they deserve, or are rightly on our list of overlooked gems? Either way, let us know in the comments!