Sebonack Golf Club opened its tees for play in May 2006 and is the result of collaboration between Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus. Sebonack is carved through 300 prime acres of ultra-exclusive terrain in the Hamptons area of Southampton, New York.
According to Bloomberg: “The newest golf course in the Hamptons may already be No. 1 in at least one category: price. Sebonack Golf Club costs what might be a world- highest $650,000 for a membership that ensures accommodations at one of 15 four-bedroom ‘cottages’ being built around the course. It's $500,000 just for golf. The new club sits between 95-year-old National Golf Links of America and four-time U.S. Open host Shinnecock Hills Golf Club at the eastern end of Long Island. Other neighbours include Atlantic Golf Club and The Bridge, both in Bridgehampton. Membership in those clubs – by invitation only – tops out at $575,000.”
Naturally you’ll need to befriend one of Sebonack’s wealthy members to tee it up here where you’ll find holes with panoramic views of Long Island’s Great Peconic Bay and Cold Spring Pond. In classic Doak style, Sebonack fits the undulating land like a glove, where the fairways sweep past huge bunkers and waste dunes.
Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak have vastly differing design styles and we wonder how these two great architects managed to produce such a natural and unique golf course.
In 2013, Sebonack Golf Club hosted the US Women's Open, the first time the Major was played on Long Island. It resulted in a South Korean one, two, three, with Inbee Park claiming her third Major of the 2013 season. I.K. Kim finished four shots behind with So Yeon Ryu three shots further adrift. Only these three Koreans managed to better the tournament par.
Sebonack is a golf course that both lives up to the potential of this unique site and the pedigree of its designers. Although it is a new course, having opened in 2006, I believe it instantly has one of the best starts in golf; rivaling Merion and Prestwick with opening holes that get the juices flowing. Like these two grande dames, the first hole at Sebonack is a very short par four, at 337 yards. Like at Merion, it is a dog-leg right and it is set so that as you walk toward the green, the bay starts to become visible in front of you. I personally like a short starting hole, which gives the opportunity to start your round with a birdie or par. Don't be fooled by the short yardage on the card into thinking it is a complete lay-up hole, however. The real fun starts when you take out the flat stick. The first green is wild and crazy with wicked undulations. Walking up to putt on the first green is like getting hit in the face with a wet dish rag. It hurts. Never-the-less, the green shocks you into the round and unmistakably lets you know that you are in for a unique round of golf.
The second hole is the best on the course in my view, and one of the best in the world. It is the number one handicap hole and plays 414 yards with an uphill second shot. The prevailing wind is in your face, so it plays longer than the card. You have to hit your tee shot through two large American elms that frame the fairway about 100 yards off the tee box. The shot plays down a hill into a valley that is covered with sand and bunkers. It requires a well struck ball to find the middle of the fairway, but the hole has classic risk-reward characteristics that rewards a well-played shot hit between the bunkers with a favorable kick forward.
The fifth hole is noteworthy as a short, down-hill par four with great risk-reward characteristics. It reminds me of the world-class seventeenth at The National. According to our host, this was a hole Nicklaus was responsible for and Jack feels it is similar to the 12th hole at The Old Course at St. Andrews. The hole is only 360 yards and plays downhill, with a pot bunker in the middle of the fairway, so you have to choose to either lay-up or go left or right and are duly penalized or rewarded.
The routing at Sebonack is interesting. The whole property gently slopes downhill toward the bay. The first three holes play near the water, then the character of the course changes as you go in-land into a forested area. Several holes are then in a sandy/scrubby area. Once you get back to the green at the eleventh hole you are back near the water for two holes, then the course goes back in-land. There is a great vista that unfolds before you when you are finished playing the 17th hole. You walk through a clearing out onto a high bluff overlooking Peconic bay. The 18th plays immediately next to the bay on your left the entire way home.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs