There are so many classic examples of Golden Age architecture on Long Island that even quality entries from Seth Raynor can be overlooked. Westhampton Country Club is one such example. It features several of the classic MacRaynor templates.
No. 9 is a stiff version of the “Bottle” template, playing more than 440 yards from the back tees. The riskier target from the tee, the thinner, rightward fairway, is also blocked at the front by a burn that flows across the fairway. And, despite the course playing a relatively short 6,350 yards, the Biarritz at No. 17 plays the full 205 yards to its up-and-down putting surface.
There are certainly, as at the majority of Raynor courses, a handful of original concepts that deserve equal attention. No. 9 is on, which seems to imitate the No. 14 hole at the Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Wissahickon course, with a flying-vee of bunkers pointing away from the green, and challenging players who choose to lay up short of the bunkers that tighten the fairway.
The club does a quality job of feeling wide open despite being fit into a very tight piece of property along the Atlantic coast. Gil Hanse conducted a restoration during 2009.
This course gets a lot of well-deserved high praise subsequent to the most recent restoration by Gil Hanse in 2009. It is one of Raynor’s first efforts from 1915 and could easily be on the short list of favourites on Long Island.
The opening tee shot has somewhat of an intimate feeling to it being immediately adjacent to the clubhouse and surrounded by hedges. While the first two holes are short on paper, the location of the cross-bunkers will gobble up any tee shot that does not pay them enough respect.
The ‘punchbowl’ comes as the par 3 3rd hole, which was beautifully presented with mowing lines to die for and bunkers put back in at the back of the green by Hanse. We don’t often get the punchbowl as a par 3 (The Everglades Club in Palm Beach is another example), but when we do, it just adds to the excitement at what is my personal favourite template rendition.
Once you step on the par 4 4th tee box, the course takes on a ruthless personality for the rest of the opening half and beyond. With a stiff breeze, I faced a merciless string of long par 4s into unsympathetic greens that were gorgeous to look at but will break your heart at the flick of a switch. With one par 5 on the front side along with the Punchbowl and a tough Redan, the six par 4s on the outward nine will bring you to your knees when the wind blows. I loved the challenge and felt that I was on a serious golf course.
The back nine opens with a 470-yard par 4 which played into the wind for me that took all my might to reach in regulation. I was informed that a couple of the longer holes at Westhampton were converted from par 5s to par 4s. While “par’ is just a concept, it’s more the psychological impact it has on you knowing how many shots it takes to get the ball in the hole without making bogey.
The short par 3 is called “Island” rather than the typical “short” reference due to its location at the bay and is really the only point where you get close to the coast. Choose your club wisely on the 11th tee as the surrounding bunkers will ruin your afternoon. It is a common architectural characteristic for Raynor’s bunkers to be sunken below the elevated greens and wrap themselves around the putting surfaces almost like a horseshoe.
The journey you navigate on the back nine offers more opportunities to score, but with such firm greens that sometimes don’t hold the ball, the challenge with your approach shots on a windy day multiplies greatly. I frequently was in awe of the playing conditions and the sheer challenge that a 6,400-yard course throws at you. The fairway bunkers are perfectly placed depending on which way the wind blows, but I would say the bigger challenge is knowing where to land your approach shots. It’s a shot-makers paradise and we all walked off the 18th green wanting more. You can’t put a price on local-knowledge, but you can count the number of shots you wish you had back.
Westhampton CC is a truly wonderful layout with plenty of fun for good measure. Once again, Seth Raynor produced a brilliant golf course that members of esteemed clubs all over the region worship with high respect.