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.
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