William Kissam Vanderbilt II commissioned Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor to lay out the original Deepdale golf course at his Lake Success summer estate on Long Island in 1924.
All was well for thirty years until the routing of the new Long Island Expressway through part of the course forced the club to relocate. It was at this point that Dick Wilson was called in to carve out 18 holes on a nearby hilly, forested site.
The tree-lined fairways at Deepdale Golf Club – many of them tight and sharply doglegged – lead to famously fast, heavily contoured greens. Prominent holes include the 415-yard 8th, the 450-yard 11th and 425-yard 15th, all of which play to raised greens that are heavily protected by sand.
Tom Doak commented on Deepdale in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses: “You never see it in the rankings of great courses, because if you’re on one of those panels, they’ll ask the members not to bring you out. Too bad – it’s one of Dick Wilson’s best courses, although there are too many sharp doglegs to put it among America’s best. Conditioning is routinely compared to Augusta National, because there are a few greens with such a steep back-to-front slope that you can easily putt off them. Legend has it that when one guest questioned whether the greens were really that fast, his host called up a jet and flew the guest down to Augusta the same afternoon, just to prove him wrong!”
One can only wonder matters would have turned out if the original Charles Blair Macdonald, Seth Raynor and Charles Banks original 18 would have been received if still in existence today. Much of Long Island lore is tied to the memory of the original Lido Club -- but the original layout at Deepdale surely merits no less attention given its benefactor William K. Vanderbilt II desire to have the finest of golf clubs for his property. The original 18 opened in 1926 but its existence would sadly have to be cut short.
With the coming of the Long Island Expressway matters changed abruptly and with that came a new effort from Dick Wilson.
It amazes me how much attention is paid to other Wilson designs such as Laurel Valley and Cog Hill #4 which I view as being both overrated. -- ditto Doral Blue. Interestingly, two of his most noteworthy designs exist on Long Island -- with Deepdale and the Meadow Brook Club which has since been updated.
As is fitting for a Wilson design there are plenty of dog-leg holes -- eleven (11) in total. The property is blessed with sufficient movement and working the ball into the proper position is an ongoing affair when playing the layout. The critical dimension is being adept in keeping one's ball on the short grass. Having a bad driving day can mean constant adjustments in working around a series of pesky woods that are most eager to inflict physical and mental anguish.
Among the more noteworthy holes is the par-4 8th. The hole commands one's total attention. The hole turns left in the drive zone and requires a well-executed shot to the elevated target.
The inward half is the stronger of the two sides but not in any lopsided manner. The par-4 15th is another of the strong two-shot holes. Again, the hole moves to the left and then one climbs to the hilltop green which is well protected. The final hole is a superb closer -- once again turning left for the drive and rising to a landing area before crossing the club's entrance road with the green beckoning and which is fiercely protected by a front bunker and one to the immediate left side.
Wilson excelled in the routing because Deepdale never presents sameness in hole direction. If any weakness can be cited it's the plethora of dog-leg holes encountered as some may argue they are over represented in the final layout.
Turf conditions are generally of the first order. The fairways are cut as tight as many courses prepare their greens. The speed of the green is also testing -- failure to have command of one's approach for the duration of the round can mean a battle to avoid three-putts or even more. The tilt of the greens is also an attribute that bears keen awareness. Missing long or to the sides will clearly test the skillset of one's short game.
As a par-70 layout there are only two par-5 holes faced. The main defense is the tenacity of the two-shot holes throughout the round. The quartet of par-3s are also good mixture -- both in direction and overall length.
Deepdale is quite private and while it has hosted a few key regional tournaments it has preferred, as is its prerogative, to remain in the shadows -- no pun intended with all the trees encountered. On Long Island so much attention is rightly paid to the famed clubs inhabiting the far eastern area. However, one should not forget the quality of a number of exemplary layouts located in Nassau County -- with Deepdale -- clearly making a strong statement for inclusion among the top five. Those able to wrestle an invitation should see firsthand the quality effort Wilson fashioned.
M. James Ward
When Deepdale was formed it had a small, exclusive membership and was built in Nassau County, relatively close to New York City. Its proximity to the city made it an ideal "alternative" course that allowed its elite members to play during the week without making the longer trek out to Suffolk County to play at Shinnecock Hills or The National Golf Links of America.
Located on the Hempstead Plains, the terrain of the course is ideal for golf, with sandy soil and rolling hills. The golf course of today is in great condition; while tee to green the course is fair and imminently playable, I found the tilted greens to be especially tricky and challenging. This is the only course I have ever played where I was on a par three in regulation and walked off with a double-bogey (and a head of steam).
A par of seventy, the course only has two par fives: one on each nine. I found the length of the holes to be good, a nice mix of long and short par fours, although the two par threes on the front play roughly the same distance as do the two on the back (at least from the middle tees).
If Deepdale ever wanted to look for a new name for the club, it could appropriately be called "The Dog-Leg Left Golf Club." Charles Blair Macdonald was a famous slicer of the ball and when he designed courses, he is said to have favored designs with dog-leg right holes, which didn't penalize the slicer as much. Deepdale is the opposite. I don't know if Dick Wilson was a hooker of the ball, but he certainly appears to have liked dog-leg left par-4 holes. The first hole is a dogleg left par four, as is the third. The most acute examples are the seventh and eighth holes. The seventh is a 365-yard dogleg left par four. The eighth is a 415-yard par four. To give a sense of the severity of the dog-legs. The eighth green returns the golfer back to the seventh tee; thus, you play in a complete 360-degree loop in the space of two holes.
The ninth hole is a dogleg left par four as well, finishing off a sequence of three back-to-back dog-leg left holes. Holes fourteen and fifteen are also back-to-back dogleg left par fours. Eighteen is a dogleg left, and, you guessed it, a par four. Not that there is anything wrong with a par-4 dogleg left hole, it just seems that the course has an over-abundance of them. I'm not criticizing, just observing. When I think about Merion, Pine Valley, and the National Golf Links just to name a few of my favorite courses, each has two or three dogleg left holes, so, for me it was clearly noticeable how many lefties there were at Deepdale. The other thing to explain in more detail is that the doglegs are not subtle, little benders to the left, they are almost all pretty sharp left turns.
Deepdale's two more defining characteristics are its proximity to Manhattan and the exclusiveness of its members. Today it remains a club dominated by New York's movers and shakers. It is reputed to have more billionaire members than any other golf course in the United States. Looking at the handicap list hanging in the locker room, it was indeed a list of tycoons, media personalities, and financiers; the creme-de-la-creme of New York's media, fashion, and finance industries. No need to Google the names on the membership list, many are recognizable at first blush. The club also has its own helipad to make it more convenient for members who so desire to take a chopper out to chase around the little white ball. Considering the traffic and roadways in Nassau County and Queens, it is no wonder they would want to do so. The historic, rambling clubhouse itself is spectacular, as is the bar area, locker room, and outdoor patio.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs