No giggles please from Cockney readers... the East End of Long Island has a fashionable area called the Hamptons. Wealthy New Yorkers head here to escape the city heat and to enjoy the cooling seaside breeze. There are a limited number of top-notch golf courses in the Hamptons, but the Atlantic Golf Club is the proud owner of one of them.
The Atlantic is a private members club and Rees Jones laid out the course in 1992 on land that was originally earmarked for housing. The Atlantic course was built with both eyes on the environment and it is still the natural habitat of the amphibious Tiger Salamander and the Northern Harrier, the only North American member of the hawk family known as harriers.
It’s hard to classify the Atlantic course but links-like is probably as close as we can get. This is not links land but the fairways have a lovely undulating seaside style with swales and bumps, hollows and long wispy fescue rough shimmering in the wind. With a freshening breeze whipping in off the Atlantic, the Atlantic Golf Club is a challenging layout which calls for skilful shot making.
The shingle clubhouse is designed in the traditional Long Island style and it provides simple comfort for the Atlantic Golf Club members and their guests.
I played Atlantic yesterday (10/14/19) and thought it was a gem of a golf course. I note that Golf Digest has it as the 17th best golf course in New York which feels about right given the quality of the courses above it. More importantly it reaffirms what I have always said: "the home of golf in the USA is Long Island" as well as "New York has the best golf in the USA."
There is a marvelous clubhouse and pro shop and excellent practice facilities but the course is definitely the star. One could criticize the routing since the original first hole is now the 14th and it would be a long walk to get from the 13th green to the 14th tee. I understand why they switched as the 14th seems more daunting as one's first tee shot of the day versus the current first hole, a par five.
There is a lot of land with really good spacing between the holes. I played with three assistant pros who can hit the ball really far. The nice thing about playing with these long hitters versus me as a medium length hitter was that I could see them make decisions about which fairway bunkers to fly and which doglegs to cut, whether with a driver, 3 metal, or even a 5 iron. I was also able to ask them what how they would play the tee shot from those back tees. Only one time would they have tried to hit through a dogleg from those back tees, so I consider that a well designed course for the tee shot.
We played the Blue tees at 6591 yards with a rating of 72.6/134 versus the back tees at 7084 yards with a rating of 74.7/140. We had good weather and very little wind which I am sure would have influenced our shots more had there been wind given the openness of the golf course.
There are excellent views over the golf course, particularly at the 11th tee where you basically can see the entire golf course. It is a special view as you can take in the scale of the property as well as the magnificent clubhouse. The best view of the clubhouse, of course is coming up eighteen.
This is a golf course that one could play everyday and never get tired of it. The holes never felt exactly the same to me although I think some of them did play the same for me, although they did not for the longer players.
One of the par 3's, the short 11th was excellent at only 130 yards to an elevated green sloped back to front and right to left. You can't miss the green here, especially left. It is a very attractive hole from the tee and has that very tricky and speedy green as its final defense. As mentioned, it also has the best view on the golf course from the tee.
The 18th is likely the best hole on the golf course. From the back tee it is 611 yards and from our tee it plays 560. It is slightly uphill all the way and requires a 180 carry with the tee shot from our tees into a canyon like effect for both shots. Two of the assistants hit driver for their second and came close to making the green in two. I hit driver, 3 metal and 5 metal to the front. It has a fabulous green at the end of this slight dogleg left. From the tee you see the clubhouse and green to the left and it looks like it is 750 yards away. As your arrive at your tee shot in the middle of the fairway, you see the clubhouse the rest of the way in. It is one of the best finishing par five holes I have ever played. It doesn't have the Pacific Ocean like Pebble Beach, but it is really good.
One other par 3, the longer 200-220 yard fourth hole has a huge bunker from the center all the way down the right side. There is an opening to the left of this bunker but it leaves a very long and slippery putt. Landing your ball above the pin will leave a slippery downhill put.
The other two par 3's were good, but in the same class. The first is a downhill par 3 that played 165 yards for us and is well bunkered on the left and has a ridge line at the backside so you cannot go long. This is the seventh hole. The 15th hole plays either 180 or 165 (listed at 153 but it is uphill) and has a lovely green and a roll off area on the right prior the right side bunker.
There is a good mixture of long par 4's with the longest being 485/460 and the shortest being the 332/294 driveable seventeenth hole which is nice given the length of 18.
There are some enormous swales on parts of the green such as the par five sixth hole, which can cause a ball to roll down off the green. There are good tilts to the greens which can generate a lot of speed.
What I particularly liked was the chance of recovery with the option of using a putter if you were up to 20 yards off the green, whether climbing a steep hill or had a flatter approach.
The bunkers are well placed in the fairway and green side.
The first is a long hole from the back tees at 577 but only 512 from the blue tees. It plays down and then up to a well defended and tilted green. It is a very good starting hole.
The second hole is the number one index so I wondered whether it came too early in the round. It plays 437/407 and has a tree somewhat defending a drive to the left side to the uphill green well defended with a large and deep bunker fronting the green.
The third hole is a shorter par 4 at 359/347 holes pretty straight forward.
The fourth is the longer par three already discussed.
The firth is a longer par 4 of 451/421 that is the 5 index but has a more difficult green than the #1 index. You drive has to carry the dogleg which has bunkers at the far end. I liked the shape of the hole and it has another good green.
The sixth is the second par five on the course and is medium length at 523/515 yards and plays downhill to a very tilted green that both a bowl like effect as well as a swale on the front right
The seventh is the downhill par 3 already discussed.
The eighth is another short par 4 and is pretty simple if you avoid the fairway bunkers. The green has a shelf like effect to it.
The ninth is a long par 4 of 418/419 playing out to a corner of the property, downhill then up to another good green.
The tenth is the lovely, short par 3 which I thought was a real highlight of the golf course.
The eleventh is short, downhill, then uphill sharp dogleg left where the longer hitters try to either drive the green or cut off as much as they can while considering the bunkers nearer to the them. It is short at 379/355 but if you cut the dogleg it plays much shorter. The longer hitters hit hybrid, 5 metal, and a 5 iron with the 5 iron having the perfect placement as he carried the bunkers but stayed on the left side of the fairway nearer the hole.
The thirteenth is a long par 5 of 565/511 that has a 180 yard carry from the member tees over a chasm. The fairway tilts left and has mounds all down the right side. The green is raised and well defended. It's a lovely par five especially if you walk over the lengthy elevated, but tree lined bridge to get from tee to the fairway.
The fourteenth is the original starting hole and is a sharp dogleg right with bunkers and waste area to carry. It is one of the more simple greens but maybe that was due to the pin position.
The fifteenth is the last par 3.
The sixteenth is a long par 4 of 458/427 that didn't quite look the same as the other longer holes, but played the same although the green is different due to the substantial run-off to the right side of the green.
The only reason I can see that this is not considered to be in the same league as Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links, Maidstone, The Bridge, Sebonack, etc. is that the fairways are very wide. The longer hitters missed a few of them but from those blue tees always had a chance to reach the green. I hit a couple of tee shots I did not like but still found the fairway. But we did play the course in the absence of wind.
The conditioning is impeccable. I have heard only Glen Oaks can rival the conditioning to Atlantic on Long Island. It was pristine from tee to green.
The members are blessed here. Atlantic is fun, enjoyable, requires decision making, has excellent greens and likely plays different every time you play it. You could play it over and over and enjoy it every time. I am sure it can play more difficult than we experience. By the way, I had perhaps the best caddie I have ever had as he saved me at least seven shots. Only the President of Paraparaumu Beach who accompanied me as my caddie was perhaps his equal.
The main issue impacting Atlantic is the neighborhood the course is situated. The bar for architectural greatness is all-world with layouts such as Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America, Friar's Head, Maidstone and a host of others just below that caliber nearby.
The layout is done well but it's more about the top tier course conditions than the nature of the holes themselves. Say the word "mint condition" and you will certainly see Atlantic rightly cited. However, while the holes are certainly testing the inherent versatility and insightful creations are lacking and not especially noteworthy. In sum, the layout looks superimposed on the land and the merging of man's hand and Mother Nature is often forced together rather than artfully merged.
Atlantic is a testing course and the quartet of par-3's is among the best attributes of the course. Each is uniquely different and the shotmaking challenges presented are done well.
When one plays Atlantic there's respect for the test of golf it offers. But there's little real rapture engendering a profound sense of long lasting memorability and fondness. Place Atlantic in another location and it may stand apart -- however -- in this neighborhood it simply resides in the shadows.
by M. James Ward
The land is undulating and the routing is certainly varied. World class conditioning and heroic tee shots await you at this premier Long Island club. Anyone is lucky to play here!