Maidstone is routed across the Gardiner Peninsula, which is one of the finest parcels of golfing ground in the world. The Maidstone Club dates back to 1891 and we think William Tucker originally designed a basic nine-hole course. But Maidstone really came of age in the Roaring Twenties when new sandy land became available and the course was extended to 18 holes.
Willie Park Junior was the architect responsible for refashioning Maidstone and it’s a masterpiece, which is probably Park’s finest architectural ensemble. The holes to the southern end of the peninsula are ringed around by dunes, which protect the course from the Atlantic Ocean beyond. It’s a magical and almost theatrical setting.
The ground at Maidstone is often firm and fast, which can turn the 6,400-yard layout into a relatively short course. But the greens are small and tough to find and they too are firm and fast. Only the best players will wrestle par from Maidstone’s tight grip.
If you are fortunate enough to receive an invite to play Maidstone, we advise you accept. You will enjoy the game on a beautifully conditioned course which we are sure would please Willie Park Jnr if he was alive today, especially following the 2012 Coore & Crenshaw restoration, which has returned the course to its former glory. It's sheer delight.
The main West Course at Maidstone opened in 1925. (There is also a nine hole Members Course.) Scotsman Willie Park, Jr., along with younger brother John, are credited with the West Course design. John had been involved with Maidstone since 1898 and was the club professional starting in 1915. No major changes had been made to the West Course since 1925.
I had the pleasure of playing Maidstone a few times in the 1980s and 1990s. The course has always been fairly highly rated, but for me it occasioned the same sentiments as Seminole: a solid but somewhat overrated course. But yet again, Coore & Crenshaw have performed their restoration magic here. Starting with the very first hole I sensed a much more interesting course. It used to be a straightforward downsloping tee shot to a bland approach. Forty yards have been added to the tee shot and there are now attractive bunkers at the green. Also there is attractive flowing tall fescue grass in the far rough, a feature that exists in many parts of the course.
The total restoration involved extensive removal of trees, shrubbery, and overgrown vegetation in order to open up vistas. This is especially attractive on the links like sand dune holes (some bordering the Atlantic Ocean, where you can see and hear crashing waves). Coore & Crenshaw uncovered some “lost bunkers,” rebuilt some, and added others (total now 131). Greens were restored to original size to increase pin position possibilities. The back tees now measure 6,726 yards, a 200-yard increase. The course plays a lot longer with the ever-present strong ocean winds whipping over the exposed property.
Similar to the Coore & Crenshaw work at Pinehurst #2 and Seminole, it is really amazing how ripping out acres of unattractive vegetation can reveal such beautiful and exciting characteristics that are now visible at Maidstone. The visuals here have been improved by 200%. The playing conditions have also been improved to much more firm and fast, so many links-type options are now present. Maidstone is a course you would enjoy playing daily.
Maidstone Club is a country club located in East Hampton on Long Island. The club dates from 1891 and includes an active beach club, and grass tennis courts. The club also started introducing golf holes from 1898, but it wasn't until 1922 that they got serious and employed legendary Scottish golfer Willie Park Jnr. It was then that the Maidstone course we know emerged.
In recent years Coore + Crenshaw were employed to 'tidy up' the course, which had largely remained unchanged from Willie Parks' day. Coore + Crenshaw cleaned up the rough in play off the tee and framing fairways, reducing the number of carries over long grass to speed up play, and bringing the lovely red fescue in the rough to the fore. They also shaved the green surrounds...which definitely slows play down! With a number of elevated greens, some with steep drop offs, there is nothing to stop the rolling ball!
Maidstone has a bit of a split personality. A number of holes play through and around the wetlands. These holes are easy walking, and very pretty. Holes 1-5, 7 and 16 & 17 cover this terrain, and there are some really interesting holes. The course heads into some lovely dunesland after the seventh hole and 8, 9, 10 & 14 are memorable.
Notable holes include:
- The par 3 fourth hole with an all water carry- it's is a strong hole.
- The short par 4 fifth hole with promontory green requires an accurate short iron- anything long is wet!
- The par 4 seventh hole is a 'Cape' hole and requires a brave tee shot to assure a short iron to a dangerous green.
- The par 3 eighth hole is the first of the holes in the bigger dunes near the beach. It requires a "blind" short iron to be hit over the dunes to a wonderful green encircled by bunkers.
- The par 4 ninth runs parallel to the beach. The green is quite elevated with steep drop offs and requires a very accurate mid iron to stay on the green. Anything short or straying from centre green will eventually trickle into cavernous bunkers, so it is a tough hole.
- Hole 10 is a longer par 4 with another trying green complex. It requires two very solid strikes to get home in regulation.
- The final dunes hole is the short par 3 fourteenth hole, set in classic linksland near the coast. The wind is in play, and you must be up. Perfect!
- The par 5 sixteenth again tests your mettle with a tee shot over us much water as you are game to take on...
- And the short par 4 seventeenth is a curiousity. It is almost driveable for the big hitter, but mere mortals will need to once more choose a line over the water and commit. A successful tee shot will leave a short approach to an elevated green adjacent to a road intersection. It's weird, but it works!
Maidstone might have a split personality but it works wonderfully well. With the sun shining and the waves crashing in the background it is a beautiful place to be.
I really enjoyed the variety of holes, and the fact that I could genuinely play all sort of shots around the greens- bump'n'run, flop shot, putt- you choose. This is the sort of course you could play every day for the rest of your life. No wonder it is considered one of the top 100 courses on the planet..
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
How can you not like Maidstone? Fun holes, not too challenging, it's always in good condition (it's supposed to be a little brown, dry and rough), the routing is excellent and the setting and views couldn't be better. It's a course on the ocean, in the Hamptons, that takes you around a massive brackish water pond. The setting reminds you of national but it's on the Ocean, not the sound. Maidstone also offers some unique slopey greens with tightly cut run offs that create a variety of shot options. The course is always in the top 100 but I don't understand why it's not in the top 25. I assume some take points away for 1) resistance to scoring, 2) the fairly flat land and 3) the condition but in my opinion - 1) Try playing it dry and windy 2) It's the best land in NY and the dunes do offer some good hills and ridges and 3) You're probably wrong. The condition offers a taste of rough links-style golf in the US and at Maistone the dryer and faster the more fun. There are no shortage of good holes here, but it's hard to compete with 8, 9, 10, 14, 15 & the driveable 17th. The Short course is pretty fun too.
In 2011 before my hand surgery I hosted a very nice couple from Maidstone at my home course Golf Club Argentino and since then I have been in touch with them, mainly the very nice lady called Marie. Since then she has been extremely helpful and opened the doors of some great private courses in the USA but I had never been to Maidstone. We were close in 2013 but as she arranged a round at Shinnecock Hills for us, we just met there for a drink before play.
This year on the trip to NY it was time to go there and after the Gil Hanse restoring and having read the course was in its best condition ever, it was time to go so with 4 friends we drove over 2hs (each way!) to go play this diamond.
One of the nice touches was that when we arrived we found we were going to be caddied by some young argentine pros/Amateurs who use to do the summer season there to make some money and good contacts for the future. So we got caddies who knew the course and spoke our language, couldn’t ask for more!
As for the course, I only had some images of it but didn’t know it well as you can know many of the famous ones even withouth having played them (like Augusta National GC) so every hole was a very nice surprise and each of them one better than the previous one.
The general impression is a very well mantained course, greens at a very good speed, very tight fairways, usually in windy conditions and with many very demanding shots. A course which is not long but with the wind and difficulties it is one where a good score may come but most likely not the very first time.
Warming up can be done in the short course which is usually even better if you have the time. Club House is very charming, not as great as maybe Oakmont or Winged Foot due to not having hosted big events but it is great and with very good taste, with a terrace facing the ocean which will be in the top 20 views from a Golf Club House.
As for the Golf course … beauty es everywhere: sand dunes, ocean, water hazards, manicured bunkers, very challenging greens, everything! Here some highlights:
- Par 3 4th: it played straight into the wind, extreme back pin position and with a decent 5 iron I only carried 165yds to leave me a 30mts putt, great bogey!
- Par 4 5th: short one into a strong crosswind with water all around the right side of the green, very demanding tee shot.
- Par 4 7th: one of the best, a tight hole with water all over the right side and a mandatory carry over it for the tee shot … WOW!!
- Par 4 9th: very tight tee shot with the beach all over the right side, I pushed tee shot way right and played from there like Walter Hagen in “The Legend of Bagger Vance”
- Par 3 14th: again playing towards the ocean, into the wind, wild sorroundings like 3rd at Spyglass Hill, just amazing.
The day ended on that terrace before the drive back home, what a fantastic experience. It is one of those courses many golfers won’t even read about and one of those we who have the luck of playing them will feel like we visited the perfect place to enjoy our passion.
When members of elite clubs in the United States, including those of Long Island, openly say that if they had one round of golf to play before they ascend up to heaven “it would be Maidstone”, that alone begins to describe the mouth-watering quality of this classic layout.
The need for Coore/Crenshaw to renovate the course in 2012 was influenced by how much the vegetation had overgrown, and a number of bunkers needed to be fixed, installed or re-shaped. The “fairway bunkers” were not in the fairway anymore; rather they were in shin-high vegetation. Coore/Crenshaw gave this place a massive hair-cut by exposing lost bunkers, revealing beautiful natural undulations which no living member has seen since childhood and expanded almost every green to their original size, giving birth to dozens of new pin positions.
The head green-keeper at Maidstone is in his 7th year, and I couldn’t think of better greens to putt on from a conditioning perspective. The course’s current state is a sight to behold, and the iconic Coore/Crenshaw bunkering is prevalent in every direction.
A new tee added 40 yards back has toughened up the opening hole and additional fairway bunkers right in the landing zone have been installed. The haircut to the course makes it feel like they’ve added over a hundred bunkers and exposed acres of gorgeous sand-scrub, but it just goes to show the quality of the skeleton that had been lost over time.
The magical touch of Coore/Crenshaw, combined with the passionate vision of the Golf Committee has produced a layout that can easily rival anything in the country. The excellence of the conditioning and the architectural brilliance of Maidstone is only second to the outstanding people that put their names to the club. Right from the second you get out of your car, you are made feel like you are part of an East Hampton family. This was a telling representation of how much they care for their underrated blockbuster golf course.
The enlarged greens at Maidstone have yielded but one new pin position on the entire course (on hole #7). Rather than produce more pin positions, the primary effect of the greens enlargement, which in some instances extends well beyond original size, has been to enhance the liklihood of balls gathering in greenside bunkers (or newly fashioned run-off areas), many of which have been cut closer to the (new) edges of greens. (Green 'collars' were removed in their entirety.).....Hence, in practical effect, although much larger in terms of square footage, the greens now 'play' much smaller and offer materially less greenside proximate safe-haven.....C&C have been superb, and I appreciate all the other observations which are spot-on, particularly those relating to the conditioning improvements (courtesy of the green superintendent and his staff) and the club's overall ambience.
I could play Maidstone every day for the rest of my life. Having played Maidstone now in a variety of conditions, I have really come to appreciate that no two consecutive holes play in the same direction. The course plays along the Atlantic Ocean along two ridges of sand dunes. As fantastic as the golf course is at Maidstone, the overall environment of the club is even better. Jay Gatsby would be right at home if he drove up Old Beach Lane today in a Pierce Arrow Runabout. The scene around the putting green is reminiscent of a who’s who in world of power brokers. And everyone is perfectly coiffed and tailored. The locker room is enticing and because the club is set on the ocean there is the beach club extraordinaire. Maidstone pulls off what many other clubs can't: understated elegance and a sense of timelessness.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
An interesting fact I learned about Maidstone is that you can see water from every single hole, even though it’s not in play on every hole. It certainly enhances the journey from an aesthetic point of view. I found the beginning of the routing a little surprising as after the first hole, which is an excellent short par 4 offering a gentle start to your round, you have to cross a quite busy road to play a tricky par 5 playing into a cross wind along this same road only to cross back over the road again for the 3rd hole a long tough par 4. The 4th hole is a par 3 playing over water directly into the wind (on our day) and it starts an excellent run of links like (possibly even classifiable as true links) holes running out into and through the dunes. There are so many highlights in this wonderful routing that it’s very difficult to pick out favorites.
On the day I played the wind was up, which it often is on the East end of Long Island. That made the challenge all the more fun. Maidstone was most certainly a course designed with matchplay in mind, though on my day I would have been better off playing against the course rather than my opponent who reeled off 5 birdies in that wind and was equally as impressive with his game as his knowledge of the course.
The par 4, 5th hole challenges you off the tee to bite off as much as you can chew in order to decrease the difficulty of the approach to a green that is tucked into water on 3 sides. Into a cross wind a nerve-racking approach from an excellent hole.
The par 3 8th is a great short par 3 that challenges you visually as only about 1/3 of the green is visible from the tee. It’s a hole that requires a lot of faith to throw up a short iron into the wind and judge the ball flight correctly when you can’t see the green.
The par 4 9th plays from an elevated tee with a wonderful view of the Atlantic. The hole requires a carefully judged tee shot and leaves a very challenging approach to a green perched on top of a dune that is very deceptive and falls hard to the right resulting in a sure run off to one of the deepest and largest bunkers you will ever want to experience.
The all world par 3 14th plays straight out to the ocean and affords you with one of the most spectacular views on the course. This is a short and aesthetically pleasing hole but with the wind howling it presents a tough test. Missing the green means trouble, everywhere, however this green if you hit it rewards you with gathering balls as opposed to repelling them.
The end stretch reconfirms what an excellent matchplay course Maidstone really is. The reachable par 5 16th confronts you with a true risk reward tee shot over water to a fairway that doglegs to the right. The green is receptive to an approach on the ground making it a perfect hole to birdie. The short par 4 17th dogleg left presents another great risk reward hole. The daring drive leaves a very tricky short chip to a green sloping severely front to back protected by a bunker in front and road which is OB surrounding the green. Miss that pitch long and the slope of the green could well knock your ball straight over the road. More than one match has been decided in the closing moments on these great holes.
The closing par 4 plays back up to the clubhouse and the green provides one last beautiful view of the Atlantic to leave you wanting more. Maidstone has always been one of the world’s best golf courses however with the recent renovation from Coore and Crenshaw it most certainly deserves a much higher position among the world’s greats!
Some detractors of the course point to the fact that it is only 6,400 yards, but when the wind is blowing, they are 6,400 challenging yards. Larry Berle.