The “Father of Golf Architecture” and the “Engineer” designed The Creek, so it’s unsurprising that the formidable duo of Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor conspired to create a classic. The course opened in 1923 and The Creek was immediately dubbed “The Million Dollar Club” due to its exclusive membership, which included the likes of J. P. Morgan.
The property is set near Locust Valley on a high bluff that tumbles down to the Long Island Sound coastline. The vistas across the Sound to Greenwich and Stamford must be seen to be believed.
After a slow start, The Creek really comes alive from the moment you step onto the 6th tee box “Sound View” which sits on a high bluff. It's an all-world 480-yard par four that plunges downhill to a punchbowl green which slopes markedly from front left to back right.
From here on golfers are indulged in a stellar twelve-hole stretch that serves up a veritable cornucopia of template holes from a “Reverse Redan” at the 8th, a “Leven” at the 10th and an audacious “Biarritz” at the 11th, which can be even more intimidating depending on the tide. It’s not called “Island” for nothing, where the green must be accessed via a rickety wooden footbridge at high water.
With a lovely combination of links-like and park-like characteristics, The Creek is quite unique where the Long Island winds make for a tough test, even though the overall yardage these days is modest.
Gil Hanse (with input from C.B. Macdonald expert the late George Bahto) breathed new life into the old classic, completing a restoration in 2011. Hanse has since completed additional bunkering work and continues as club consultant.
Occupying one the highest pieces of land on Long Island, The Creek was built on a special 130 acres that were formerly the estate of Paul D. Cravath, a partner at the white-shoe law firm (at the time, the largest law firm in the world) that today exists as Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
Similar to arriving at the National Golf Links and at Sebonack, both further east on Long Island, the arrival at The Creek is grand. You drive through a set of old brick gates guarding the entrance and through an impressive allée of linden trees. At the far end of the road you turn into a circular entry drive. The first building in the circle is the old Cravath estate horse stable, which has been converted into the locker room and pro shop. At the far end of the circle is the handsome classic clubhouse, built of Indiana limestone in the Georgian Greek Renaissance style.
The golf course itself is a tale of three cities. Holes one through five occupy the flat, higher elevation part of the property and are the least interesting. Holes seven through fourteen occupy the flat beach/links part of the property, while holes six through eight and fifteen through eighteen are on a broad hill. Each of the three parts has a distinctive feel. The lower portion of the course is closer to Long Island Sound and is thus more impacted by the winds.
The par three eleventh hole is a stern test of golf, particularly if the wind is blowing. Its 200-yards demand a precise tee shot to hit the island green that the golfer reaches and departs from via wooden bridges. Making it even more of a challenge, the memorable hole features an 80-yard long Biarritz-style green with a large swale running through it. Teeing it up on a fine summer day at The Creek is one of the game's great pleasures.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs