The Seawane Country Club is a Devereux Emmet and Alfred Tull collaboration sitting along the Hewlett Bay on the near side of Long Island. Featuring an out-and-back layout, players will content with the former architect’s well-defined tendency toward ill-defined bunkering style.
The highlight of which is No. 7, a longer par four along the route that calls for a player to decide from the tee how far along to challenge the large set of bunkers that cross the fairway diagonally. Once across, they’ll contend with a cape of no less than 25 bunkers built into the inside of the approach.
Two holes down the line, players face a potentially more intimidating shot, as a long hand of a bunker (with very short fingers) reaches for the front of the green on this par three. Players not knowing better may believe they have contended with a Tillinghast while playing these two holes. Still, the scariest shot on the course may not come until No. 16.
Although a short par four, the second shot will leave no choice but to make a wide carry cross the mouth of Auerbach Channel, by which residents can bring their boats in and out of the bay.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do with any golf club/course is comprehending the path you're on and then realizing one needs to go 180 degrees in the other direction to see meaningful progress.
When such matters are decided can cause major internal conflicts between those preferring what is and those seeking something else. By no means does that mean a sound outcome is likely to happen.
The Seawane Club did what many clubs had done over a period of years -- carry out ill-informed decisions that minimized the original character of the course. Devereux Emmet is often forgotten by many but his work in the New York metro area clearly left some lasting layouts. Much of the attention from his Long Island efforts gravitates to his star creation at Garden City Golf Club.
In recent times, there's been a renewed interest in other efforts he created -- most notably -- St. George's. Unquestionably, the East Setauket layout is a fine one and worthy of such attention. The Seawane Club is cloistered away in Nassau County and if one did not have a GPS locator finding the club would be no small feat of accomplishment.
The course is significantly impacted by daily winds coming off Hewlett Bay and the nearby Atlantic Ocean. The main anchor hanging around the club's neck was the placement of trees over the years. Instead of the course's true character being elevated the inclusion of trees only meant a clear obfuscation of what Emmet intended. Long overdue work was needed in the role bunkers play throughout the round and how bulkheads were in need of repair since the course crosses the Cauerbach Canal at different times during the round.
Architect Stephen Kay's involvement in the late 1980s clearly changed the direction. To the club's credit the staying power to carry out the numerous upgrades was no small feat and led to a far deeper appreciation of what Emmet originally created.
The most impactful element when playing Seawane is the continuous nature of the experience. Once you start at the clubhouse you don't return until the 18th. The character of the land is essentially flat but the routing and hole diversity is thoroughly engaging.
The opener is fairly simple -- getting players to stretch the muscles for what lies ahead. Matters intensify when reaching the long par-4 2nd that play far longer when encountering heavy south winds off the Atlantic. Interestingly, while the 2nd is a tough one the more fascinating and strategic holes come with the 3rd and 4th respectively. This is where the aforementioned Canal enters the scene.
The 3rd is 375 yards and is ably defended by flanking bunkers in the drive zone. Strong players may elect to use the prevailing wind to their advantage but doing so requires pinpoint accuracy as the fairway tapers once past the bunkers. There's also the possibility you'll encounter a frontal pin placed deviously just over a menacing pond. The 4th plays the opposite way and the teeing area is literally just off the previous green. The hole plays just 291 yards but like the 2nd can play into the prevailing wind. The green is also located just off the canal and there's a pesky small center-placed bunker which must be accounted for when teeing off. The temptation to try for the green can be utterly seductive but also foolhardy because the slightest miss to the right is a quick donation into the adjoining canal.
The par-3 5th that follows often features a crosswind and being able to finish on the green is no small feat.
Once you leave the 5th you see the fullness of the property. The par-5 6th is protected by fairway bunkers but at 490 yards and given the gains made by technology for clubs and balls it would be finer hole as a long par-4. The par-4 7th is a stout two-shot hole that goes in the opposite direction. The par-3 8th features a "U" shaped frontal bunker and is both elegant and maddening to land a ball softly on the putting surface.
The par-5 9th closes out the inward half and you encounter a series of cross bunkers which can be easily carried from the tee. There are also a series of smaller bunkers that dot the terrain on the right side as you near the green. Like the 6th -- the 9th could easily be played as more demanding long par-4.
The 10th is a dazzling short par-4 hole. Here you have to decide -- is it worth hitting a driver into the narrowing landing area which is protected by bunkers on either side. The green is no less equal to the challenge as it is beautifully protected by an inviting frontal bunker. The 10th shows the merits of a hole that values placement rather than sheer brawn.
The par-3 11th works in opposite direction from the 10th and Emmet brilliantly include a sea of sand to avoid as it hugs the left side of the green. When the pin is cut to the far left it takes a wizard-like shot to gain the target.
The short par-4 12th goes in a reverse direction and it too is a fine hole. The key before you reach the 13th is have your score in good order because the intensity meter clearly escalates when you arrive here. The 421-yard par-4 runs parallel to Thixton Creek and heaven help anyone losing their tee shot to the far left and seeing one's ball disappear forever. There's a well-placed fairway bunker to the right and the space between the bunker and the creek is rather intimidating. The green is also well-placed and when a pin is cut to the far left the same creek encountered on the tee shot is waiting for the hapless approach to be forever claimed.
The par-3 14th is a bit of letdown architecturally but at 214 yards it is anything but simple.
The long par-5 15th goes in reverse direction it's important to get into the fairway because you will then need to deal with two smaller-placed internal fairway bunkers. At the 16th you once again tango with Cauerbach Canal. Any drive missed left will be wet and the green is smartly positioned so that any pin placement set deep into the green will require a jeweler's touch with the approach to land safely on the green. It's hard to find a mid-length par-4 of such character and the 16th does so admirably.
The par-5 17th provides an opportunity to secure a birdie and when played downwind with the prevailing wind off the ocean is clearly in play. The par-4 18th follows the same direction as the 17th and takes you back to the clubhouse. There's a long fairway bunker on the left to avoid and the 440-yard hole concludes with a green well-defended by flanking "L" shaped bunkers towards the front and single bunker in the rear.
Seawane presents itself so well and to the club's credit the desire to return to its original character has undoubtedly raised its overall profile. The toughest part has been to secure attention because the overall depth of golf in Nassau County as well as all of Long Island can be a long slog to climb. For those who admire the work of Emmet a round at Seawane should clearly be on the agenda. It's one to certainly savor.
M. James Ward