Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is an old club with old traditions and Scottish professional Willie Davis, aided by 150 Indians from the neighbouring Shinnecock Reservation, can take credit for what was probably the inaugural authentic US golf course design which dates back to 1891 when Davis laid out the first twelve holes. Head professional Willie Dunn added a further six holes by 1894.
When new land became available during the Great War, Charles B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor added six new holes and overhauled the course. The design firm of Howard Toomey and William Flynn built twelve new holes and altered Macdonald's design from 1929 to 1931. Some historians believe Dick Wilson should also be given some credit.
Not only was Shinnecock Hills Golf Club one of the five founding members of the USGA but also it was where one of the first specifically designed golf clubhouses was built. Stanford White designed the clubhouse in the shingled style of the region and it sits majestically on the highest point of the property. A few steps away from the white columned building is the first tee box from where you can see Peconic Bay shimmering in the distance and, in the foreground, lies the open, 300-acre expansive golf course which tumbles away from the clubhouse.
“Shinnecock Hills fully utilises the outstanding features of the area – the strong prevailing winds off the Atlantic to the southwest, the sandy and rolling terrain and the thick, reed-like grasses that border the fairways.” Wrote Charles Price in the New World Atlas of Golf. “While not truly linksland – the grass of the fairways and greens is more of an inland texture – the ambience and windy bleakness of Shinnecock Hills on an average day evoke feelings of the British seaside links.”
Ben Hogan was a fan of Shinnecock Hills and in a letter to a Shinnecock club member he once wrote: “Each hole is different and requires a great amount of skill to play properly. Each hole has complete definition. You know exactly where to shoot. All in all, I think it is one of the finest courses I have ever played.”
James Foulis won the first U.S. Open to be staged at Shinnecock Hills in 1896, but it was another 90 years before the club would host another. Raymond Floyd prevailed in 1986 and Corey Pavin in 1995. In 2004, Retief Goosen claimed his second U.S. Open title, beating Phil Mickelson by two shots in a controversial event. The tournament returned to Southampton for the fifth time in 2018 when (amid further controversy) Brooks Koepka successfully defended the title he won at Erin Hills in 2017.
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Long Island-born Seth Raynor ran a successful surveying business before being hired by Charles Blair Macdonald in 1908 to inspect the property that would become The National Golf Links of America.