The Montauk Downs State Park course lies at the tip of Long Island, 120 miles to the east of downtown New York city. Golf was played here for at least forty years before Robert Trent Jones Sr. and his son Rees redesigned the layout in 1968.
Rees Jones returned to Montauk Downs in 2008 with Bryce Swanson to restore bunkers and tees on the par three holes.
I have been playing the course, on and off, for over 40 years. Getting to the facility is no easy task as you must traverse the length of Long Island and the stretch commencing from Shinnecock Canal to the area can be a long crawl -- especially during summer months.
The course was updated by Rees Jones and he was able to add a bit more strategic calculation into the mix following his Dad's effort.
The land is rolling but sadly is not kept in the firmest of conditioning which would be a real plus. You also have greens that are often full of grass but necessitate a shoulder turn from six feet and closer.
I am a fan of the long par-3 12th -- always plays into the summer prevailing wind and it's not a stretch to say for many golfers it's a full bore driver to reach the putting surface.
The ending stretch is a series of four par-4's to conclude the round and they are all quality holes.
Montauk Downs would gain immeasurably with more details for the greens and adjacent area. Too many of the greens are just vanilla and a bit of contouring and grass cuts off the side areas would promote more of a thinking dimension to what exists now.
For those who believe Montauk Downs is right behind the likes of Bethpage Black I strongly urge you to put down the Kool-Aid glass you're drinking. Montauk Downs has been improved over the years but those improvements have been in areas not tied to upgrades on what the design can be. It would be very interesting to see how matters would go if the State ever opted to bring in an architect more attuned to the classical elements. No doubt those who play the course don't have any real quality option when you venture out to the lower fork of Long Island.
Montauk Downs is good -- it could and should be even better.
M. James Ward