Laid out on a confined parcel of land at East Setauket, New York, in 1917 by Devereux Emmet, the course at St George’s Golf & Country Club extends to a mere 6,200 yards, indicating that hardly a thing has changed here in a century, apart from a sympathetic Gil Hanse restoration at the start of the new millennium.
St. George's came about in part as a response to C.B. Macdonald building the National Golf Links of America. Devereux Emmet and Macdonald were good friends who hunted, travelled, and worked together on golf course designs and when NGLA opened in 1911, Emmet was one of the founding members.
Emmet and Macdonald were not only good friends, they were friendly competitors, so Emmet set out to build his own special home course near his sprawling estate in St. James, gathering a group of wealthy businessmen in 1915 to discuss building a layout that would become his home course.
Almost a hundred years later, Gil Hanse was called in to advise on a master plan which would restore the course back to its original design intents. This resulted in a process of tree and cart path removal, along with fairway and green expansion, all of which helped to display the charm and character of the course that would have been in play when Emmet was alive.
If Long Island were a State by itself it would easily be among the 2-3 best in America given the considerable depth of private courses that are scattered about Nassau and Suffolk Counties respectively.
St. Georges made a major move in getting Gil Hanse to come on board and to bring back to full fruition what Devereux Emmett created.
Silly trees that were planted over the years needed to be removed. They were. Greens were restored back to their original dimensions. Another plus. The land forms Emmet accentuated were something that needed to be exposed and Hanse did a stellar job in doing so.
There's little question few people outside the immediate area really speak about St. George's. Part of that stems from how the course faded from view and how much of an exposure other key courses on Long Island receive.
I found it interesting how Fergal stated without equivocation that St. George's is "easily in the top 10-12 courses on Long Island. I did a bit of homework and have concluded the following courses are superior: Shinnecock Hills, NGLA, Bethpage Black, Friar's Head, Sebonack, Maidstone, The Creek and Garden City. That's a total of eight. For the remaining four spots for the top dozen you also have the following layouts worthy of inclusion: Engineers, Deepdale, Meadow Brook, North Shore, Piping Rock, Atlantic, East Hampton, The Bridge and Huntington. When one adds St. George's to that list -- you have a total of ten (10) courses battling for the final four spots. It's a close call and I don't know if Fergal has played all the others listed -- several of which have gone through major updating in the recent years. I would certainly say St. George's is a clear candidate for such a high position.
St. George's is a visual treat and to the club's immense credit they did not feel the compulsion to add numerous back tees simply to gain additional yardage. The combination of holes is done well and the routing maximizes the natural attributes of the property.
Long Island is a golfing gem and St. George's clearly merits attention for those who relish what the Golden Age of Architecture created.
M. James Ward
Devereux Emmet was a close friend of CB Macdonald and the influence of this friendship is hugely evident in Emmet’s work at St. George’s, especially with the mind-blowing throwback green shapes and bunker designs.
The club was established in 1917, and in 2008, the club embarked on a multi-year project to bring the course back to its Golden Age roots. Glorious aerial photos are on display in the clubhouse showing the property with no trees and incredible bunker shapes. More than 8,000 trees were removed in recent years, bunkers that were lost were restored, fairways were joined as a result of massive rough removal – and with the help of Gil Hanse, this course is easily in the top 10 or 12 courses on Long Island (stand back and appreciate what that statement actually means given the competition within a 50-mile stretch).
I was hugely impressed with this remarkable layout that flies tremendously under the radar and quickly gives you a glimpse of what golf courses looked like at the start of the last century.