The Bridge is one of golf’s more unusual clubs. It’s casually chic rather than traditionally stuffy thanks to its maverick owner Robert Rubin, a former commodities trader. The club occupies some 300 acres with fine views of Sag Harbor. The property was once home to the great, old Bridgehampton Motor Racing Circuit. The theme is very much in the spirit of the automobile.
An article in the New York Times headlined the Bridge as “The Untucked Country Club” and describes the clubhouse as “glassy and aggressively futuristic — looks more like a contemporary art museum in Berlin”. As for the Rees Jones designed course, it “gets the arty, post-modern treatment: ruins of the old racetrack, including guardrails and flag stations, pop up around the lush fairways. Discarded tyres line the cart paths”.
You can forget about blazers and the collar and tie at the Bridge where membership reputably costs $600,000. Here “backward ball caps, jeans and even tattoos or face piercings (typically on guests in the music business) attract no steely stares”.
David Patrick Columbia, the editor of Newyorksocialdiary.com, said the Bridge fills a need in the Hamptons as a sexier and slightly more conspicuous alternative to traditional clubs. “The thing about the Maidstone is that you can have all the money in the world, and it won’t help you,” Mr. Columbia said. “They care about your last name. The Bridge is different. Bob Rubin is an eccentric kind of guy. The Bridge is an eccentric golf course. The comparison I would make is, it’s the thinking man’s Ferrari.”
Co-designed by Bryce Swanson and the late Keith Evans (whose other notable work includes Huntsville and Cascata), The Bridge has some dramatic elevation changes coupled with an appealing variation of uphill, downhill and level holes. Rees Jones Inc. completed a bunker renovation in 2014 whereby all existing fairway bunkers and greenside bunkers were rebuilt. Fairways and tees were also adjusted to offer more strategic options.
The east end of Long Island was settled by New Englanders and still retains a number of New England characteristics. The Bridge features artistic drinking fountains on a number of tees, but I suspect no one uses the New England nomenclature (“wattah bubbluh”) to describe them.
They could have called it Triangle Golf Club. The first three holes form a triangle with the third coming back to the clubhouse. And though successive hole triplets don’t always return to the clubhouse (as they do at Mimosa Springs), the triangle routing continues through most of the course. This is a good thing, as it assures that the golfer will encounter the South Fork winds in a variety of directions.
The views from the clubhouse are quite spectacular with Peconic Bay and Shelter Island Sound in view and the Connecticut shore in the distance. But most of the holes are on lower pats of the property and separated by forest. As is often the case in such configurations, I had a difficult time recalling some of the holes even a few hours after playing. The holes I did recall were quite good. I found many risk/reward tee shots and the same challenge on three of the four par fives. Many of the approaches accepted either a running or an aerial shot and some greens had interesting contours. My favorite—the sixth—is also the newest.
The Bridge has the ill fortune to be located among a large contingent of deservedly famous golf courses. In another location, it would be more renowned.
The Bridge is the counter culture club of the Hamptons. It is purely about golf, not how many generations have passed on their legacy membership. As such, nobody should be surprised that it was built atop an old race track that the locals could not wait to shut down. I was told that its paramount is the second highest point on Long Island and thus offers some wonderful views.
The first hole is hardly welcoming, a long par four. Fairway bunker short right and two left and the green is protected by four bunkers. The 2nd is a long uphill par three. The third is a long uphill par four and is deservedly the number one handicap hole. The 4th is another long par four albeit downhill with a couple of fairway bunkers left. The 5th is a mid-length par three. The 6th is uphill and leans a bit to the right. There is small bowl in the center of the green. The 7th is an interesting hole. A long par five, however, if you can clear the bunker in the middle of the fairway it will catch the downslope and get inside 200 yards. If not, play it as a three shotter. The 8th is an uphill par four. Favor the right side to avoid the long fairway bunker left that ate my lunch. Take an extra club on the approach. The front ends with a slightly uphill par five. Favor the left side off the tee to avoid the three fairway bunkers right. The left bunker is about 115 yards out, so either lay up or come in from the right.
The back starts with the shortest par five. A valley hole, favor the right side off the tee. Reachable in two and a birdie hole, but favor the right side. The 11th is a long downhill par four that bends left. Whatever you do, do not hook it into the left fairway bunker. The 12th is a shorter par four that leans left. Once again, try to avoid the left fairway bunker. I had the hooks bad….The 13th bends left and is downhill. One of my favorite holes as I was actually able to avoid a fairway bunker, hit the green in reg and sink a putt. The 14th is a par three that is eerily familiar to the 5th. The long uphill par 4 15th ate my lunch. It is the number two handicap hole. Once again, I found myself in the fairway bunker left to set up my triple. The 16th is the longest par three. The 17th is the shortest par four and big hitters can reach it. However, it is well protected and multi-tiered green. Fun hole. The 18th is the longest par five. Favor right of center off the tee and then left of center for your second shot. This should set up an attack wedge to the green.
A fun course that I would definitely play again.
As far as golf neighborhoods go, the Hamptons is as good as it gets. Thus, sometimes very good courses get overlooked because comparisons to their neighbors like Shinnecock, Maidstone and the National Golf Links is pretty tough. Case in point, the Bridge, which sits inland, near the town of Sag Harbor. Although not directly on the water, the course is blessed with being built on a high piece of ground and the course routing takes advantage of the terrain. Because of the elevation, you also get views of the beautiful blue waters of Noyack Bay and Little Peconic Bay while playing. The fact that the course was built on an old race track gets a lot of attention, as does the modern clubhouse. Overlooked in all that press is the fact that the golf course is very good. I haven’t played too many Rees Jones original designs (he does a lot of renovations), but based on what I’ve seen at the Bridge, he knows his stuff. In particular, he seems to have a knack for locating green sights in natural positions such as hollows, on the sides of hills, or in elevated positions, which makes for a delightful round of golf because it is both esthetically pleasing and fun. The Bridge is an overlooked place to tee it up.
In the preamble to my review -- I completely concur about the genesis and pedigree of The Bridge. It is not what is generally found on the east end of the lower fork of Long Island. The atmosphere of the club is clearly more elastic than what exists elsewhere. With that said, the quality of the architecture is what matters most to me and readers and I do see the Rees Jones layout as being one of his better designs.
The former site of the Bridgehampton Racetrack is a sprawling piece of terrain and the golf design, at different times through the routing, has land movements that are clearly on the heave and ho variety.
The practice area is one of the best you will encounter with spectacular vistas of the nearby of Noyack Bay and the Little Peconic Bay. You may even be temped just to hang there instead of playing. Don't make that mistake though.
The Bridge is a demanding test and your driver had best be working well. The course introduces itself strongly with the opening hole -- a 460-yard par-4. The key is not only having sufficient length but the wherewithal to place tee shots on the correct side of the fairway. The uphill par-3 2nd at 208 yards is a difficult challenge because many will simply not hit sufficient club to get to the target. The uphill 3rd is a brute - you encounter the terrain rising along with the prevailing headwind. The green is also well-protected so that nothing less than two exceptionally played shots get to the green.
The outward half continues with a holes switching between uphill and downhill.
The inward set of holes is somewhat less in terms of overall variety. The two par-5's -- the 10th and 18th - run parallel to one another but in different directions. The best par-3 on the back side comes at the long par-3 16th -- 250 yards in length -- but dropping down considerably to a nicely angled putting surface protected on the right by a solitary bunker. The uphill par-4's -- at the 15th and 17th -- are both solid holes.
Among the missing issues at The Bridge is a quality short par-4 that can tempt and bedevil players. The bunkering style is also clearly shaped by man and looks less natural in its appearance. A quick visit to Friar's Head nearby can show what works especially well on that front. The other element of concern deals with many of the putting surfaces -- they are done well but there's little in terms of shapes, configurations that go beyond a perfunctory capacity.
The Bridge will not get the love from classic architecture proponents but that should not deter those able to wiggle an invitation to play from enjoying a testing layout. Be sure to think seriously about getting a power cart because the terrain -- especially on a warm humid summer day -- can be a real trek for those not in decent shape.
When you have a course that sports a near 78 course rating -- that should tell you loud and clear that The Bridge is not going to be an easy one to cross. In my mind, respect is what The Bridge engenders -- but sheer love is left for nearby neighbors such as Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links and Friar's Head.
by M. James Ward