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.
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.