200 Tuckahoe Road,
New York (NY) 11968,
- +1 631 283 3525
2 miles W of Southampton
Members and their guests only
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.
As we stood on the 12th fairway, Bobby said, “See that big mound on the left side of the green? You’ll never see a pin over there, because there’s a horse buried under there and it’s sacred to the Indians.” The course sits on the Shinnecock Indian reservation. When the club was founded in 1891, it signed a 100-year lease with the tribe. When I first played there in 1998, its renewal was still unresolved…
When we were done with the round, Bobby and I headed back to the 10th tee and played 10, 11 and 12 again. Shinnecock Hills is a wonderful place and playing it alone was a truly magical experience. Imagine having one of the world’s greatest golf courses all to yourself for a few hours. Larry Berle.
The course itself often resembles what you might find on a Scottish links even though conditioning is quite different. When I played it was a touch on the lush side although still fairly firm, of course not to be compared to hard and fast fairways found at most UK links. What Shinnecock does boast is some of the finest architecture and one of the all time great routings. No two holes alike and an amazing mix of short and long holes all moving in different directions with respect to the wind. As to wind there is plenty of it out on the east end of Long Island. On our day the average wind was about 25 mph (40 kmh). This added to the great challenge Shinnecock presents. My favorite part of the course came after the turn, the stretch of holes across the road were simply awesome. 10 offers up a blind drive and a tough approach in the wind to a narrow raised green with run-offs all around. Miss the green and you’re sure to find trouble. The par 3 11th better known as the shortest par 5 in golf presents you with an uphill tee shot into a cross wind to a raised green surrounded by run offs and huge bunkers. The green is about 10 paces wide and slopes back to front providing the smallest of chances to stop the perfectly struck tee shot. This hole would be worth spending a day watching players endure the great tragedy it presents. It ranks up there with the best par 3’s I’ve ever played.
Make no mistake, Shinnecock is a players course and extremely tough test of golf, it’s also one of the few routings that exist where it would be extremely difficult to imagine improving, the only suggestion I could make would be that I would love to see it playing as firm as a UK links. Truly one of the great masterpieces and an experience I will never forget!
The next days until the trip were so slow I maybe played the course 100 times in my mind (always breaking par, of course!). But this long wait I was sure it was going to be paid by a fantastic round of golf. After 6 days in Myrtle Beach, we flew to Newark and drove to Philadelphia to play Pine Valley and Merion, and then drove again to The Hamptons for one last night. It was the last night of the trip and we were really looking forward to it. Although we were supposed to get to the Club at 12pm, we did a little bit earlier (10.30am!) and we did a lot more than we had imagined: we were toured around the entire Club House (quite small and charming), we were showed trophies, photos, scorecards and plenty of the history of the Club. Then, around 11.30am we walked and took pictures of plenty of the holes around the Club House and what was really astonishing was the shape in which the course was, simply perfect! Towards noon we used the practice range for not more than 30 minutes, with very strong wind in our faces and then we smashed the ProShop buying everything we could: bag tags, shirts, sweaters, a flag, a golf bag, balls, it was a lot of money!! 20 minutes to 1pm our host arrived and we went directly to 10th tee (originally 1st) and started to play.
We had a small chat with Bob in which he told us the late news on the course, future plans for 2018 and that Rory McIlroy had scored 64 from the very back tees 2 days ago. He said the course was in its best shape ever, and believe me it was, greens rolling at 11 feet, fairways as carpets, the rough deep and dense and we were added a very strong wind in our face on 16th and 18th. Every hole has something special, although there are some that can be added some details: - 10th has a very deep downhill after the right side crossbunker, then up again, it is better not to get to the bottom as approach shot is very small (I did!). - 11th green is VERY small and tough. - 16th is one of the best par 5s I have played, with a very long green. - 18th if you go and stand on where Pavin hit that 4 wood, you will really see how tough the shot was. - 2nd played downwind 225yds and they expect to put a tee up to 250yds ... cruel!! - 6th is the nicest and toughest on the course, that hazard can eat balls. - 7th (REDAN) looks simple but that putting surface is diabolic. I had a 20ft for birdie and had to aim it 8 feet to the right of the hole. - 9th and that upright second shot are soo good! Into the wind the hole must be really yough, as the green is something like 15ft above from the fairway level.
It was a great round of golf, I scored a decent 78 from the tips but I remained virgin as it was 8 bogeys and 10 pars, no birdies at all. But we enjoyed it so much that I will be very greatful to the lady who made the call to make us play. If you sometime get the chance to play, just enjoy and try to get as much history of the course as you can from the Member, it really pays. One more: the folloing day Luke Donald played there (he tweeted some pics), how close we were of meeting him and Rory!! Click here to read Javier's article in full.