An In-Depth Update on The Links at Perry Cabin

By Erik Matuszewski

One of the most notable course openings for 2018 is a mulligan of sorts for one of the most famous families in golf architecture.

Call it a rebirth on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

When the Links at Perry Cabin opens in late May along the Chesapeake Bay, it will deliver a championship layout crafted by Pete Dye and his family that features an island green 17th hole, another par three with a Biarritz green, and plenty of railroad ties.

It will also be one of the most exclusive courses in the area, open only to members as well as guests who stay at the luxurious Inn at Perry Cabin, which is a short drive down the road in St. Michaels.

“The expectation from our membership, ownership, and the Dyes, in no uncertain terms, is that this has to be one of the most fine golf experiences on the east coast,” says Michael Hoffman, who joined the intimate waterfront property as general manager last year. Hoffman has worked at resorts in Asia, Arizona, and California, and most recently was managing director of the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

If you haven’t heard of the Inn at Perry Cabin, chances are you still might have seen it.

Voted the No. 1 Mid-Atlantic resort by Conde Nast Traveler readers last year, the quintessential Eastern Shore property was featured in the movie Wedding Crashers. The Inn is about a 90-minute drive from both Washington D.C. and Baltimore, and approximately 2 ½ hours from the Philadelphia area.

The Links at Perry Cabin currently has 55 members, most of whom live within five hours of the property and own a second home in the vicinity, visiting on weekends or on and off throughout the season. The club’s membership will be capped at 200. But for non-members looking to tee it up at one of the few new U.S. courses opening this year, it simply requires a stay at the nearby Inn. Guest green fees are expected to be about $300, Hoffman says.

The property is planning to build a 100-room lodge that will be located just beyond the 18th green and will boast 20-mile unobstructed views of the Chesapeake Bay.

“There will also be bungalows on the water’s edge where you could throw stones into the bay from the front porch,” Hoffman says. “Even if you don’t play golf, it’s going to be a great complement to what we’re doing at the Inn. It will be very comfortable and accommodating, with more a lodge feel than an estate feel. You’ll be able to walk out of your room, across the street, and you’ll be at the club.”

As for the golf course itself, it represented a second chance for the Dyes, who’ve gone so far as to describe the project as their family mulligan. Pete worked on a design at the same site back in the 1960s with his late brother, Roy Andy Dye, before the developer went bankrupt. The Links at Perry Cabin is a top-to-bottom rebuild of the former course that was on the property, incorporating design elements from Pete, his wife Alice, and their son P.B. Dye. Despite the Links moniker, much of the course has a parkland feel.

The par-three 7th hole borrows from the famous “Biarritz” 9th hole at Yale, with a deep saddle in the middle of the green. “It’s definitely not a hole that you see on the Eastern Shore,” says P.B. “So it’s going to stand out.”

Holes 10 through 15 run through mature trees. But it’s the final three holes golfers are most sure to remember, with a finish that the Dyes call a “Good Night Kiss,” comprised of a short risk-reward par four, a replica of Pete’s island green from TPC Sawgrass, then a strong closing hole at No. 18 that starts with a drive over a lake and continues with water all the way up the right side. The course tips out at just over 7,000 yards.

“The character of the golf course is something you’d see in the Carolina lowcountry,” says course superintendent Jim Bollinger, who came to the Links at Perry Cabin last year after 11 years working at a Pete Dye course on the Caribbean island of Curacao.

“The property was relatively flat, probably two to three meters above sea level, and a lot of the features are built up and out of the ground,” adds Bollinger, who has worked for the Dye family for 34 years. “The Dyes brought in all of their nuances, including the railroad ties, the island green at 17, short drivable par fours and long par fivess that will be tough to reach in two.”

If you’re going to take a mulligan, this is the way to do it.

Winter Park: A Look at Golf’s Future?

By Graylyn Loomis

Recent issues of LINKS have explored golf’s future, asking, in particular, what form course architecture will take if the game is to thrive. Over and over, the answer has included short courses, nine-hole layouts, and community golf, all of which can go a long way in welcoming new players into the game while rekindling veterans’ love for the sport.

A perfect example of what the game needs and what some smart folks are doing is the nine-hole Winter Park Golf Course just outside of Orlando. A century after opening in 1914, Winter Park was a mostly uninteresting layout fighting turf disease and choked by trees. A few years ago, the City of Winter Park—which owns the course—asked for redesign proposals, eventually hiring architects Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb who submitted a joint proposal.

What they did, with the city’s buy-in, should serve as a model to struggling courses everywhere. They redesigned the course, as requested, and installed a new, efficient irrigation system. But their work started with the philosophy that simple is better. They proposed to cut out anything unnecessary and pour all time, effort, and money into the course.

“Rather than complicate Winter Park with non-essential products and features, we kept it very simple and leaned on the architecture to do the talking,” explains Johns. “We knew tax payers would be watching with a keen eye so we ensured that everything we did was no more, and no less, than was absolutely necessary. At the end of the day, all the additional frills that can be added to a golf course don’t mean anything unless the architecture is sound. The soul of any golf course is in its architecture, everything else is just window dressing.”

The bulk of the effort went into the greens and surrounds, where the team created nine undulating and beautifully bunkered green complexes with traditional elements like a Raynor-style Lion’s Mouth, where a horseshoe-shaped green wraps around a central bunker (on a drivable par four to boot). Rhebb and Johns, who’ve worked for the likes of Tom Doak, Bill Coore, and Ben Crenshaw, treated Winter Park the way they would a world-class track, transforming the flat landscape into a challenging, fun, and memorable walk.

As soon as the course reopened in 2016, many patrons said it reminded them of courses in Scotland, not necessarily the design but its closeness to the surrounding community. Just as the Old Course at St. Andrews or Gullane Golf Club feels part of its town, so does Winter Park, which was no accident. Johns says the feeling of connection was a key reason he and Rhebb were chosen for the job. “I think what separated our proposal from other proposals was our insights and intuitive feelings regarding what the golf course actually was. We saw it as a city park with flags, a community hub with a golfing component, an inclusive recreation and leisure activity for residents to enjoy.” Besides playing golf over the course, locals walk their dogs there and run the perimeter for exercise.

Representatives from the City of Winter Park were involved throughout the process. “We knew the city was going out on a limb with regards to pumping capital into a failing golf course, something many perceived as a misallocation of taxpayer money,” says Johns. The architects said that by doing much of the work themselves, instead of hiring contractors, they could stay within budget. All told, the project cost the city $1.2 million, well within the budget. The National Golf Foundation says the average course renovation in the U.S. costs $3 million. And while Winter Park may be only nine holes, what it received wasn’t a renovation but a “down-to-the-dirt” redesign plus a new irrigation system.

Rounds at Winter Park range from $13–19, barely above pre-renovation prices and most players walk the course with a pull cart (another $3). Since the course reopened, it has gone from losing money to revenue positive while membership sales, rounds played, and facility rental for private parties and groups have all doubled.

Thinking that a recent Thursday morning at Winter Park would be wide open, I called the night before to make a tee time. Sorry, I was told, the morning was booked solid for a weekly neighborhood group outing. For $16, I teed off at 11 a.m., played two balls around the nine holes in under two hours, and loved every minute.

Classic Course: Quaker Ridge

By Thomas Dunne

Quaker Ridge
Photo by Evan Schiller

 

With its gently rolling terrain, stately trees, and intimate playing environment, Quaker Ridge epitomizes Westchester County parkland golf. The course’s routing is Muirfield-esque—the holes of the front nine run counter-clockwise around the club’s perimeter, embracing the clockwise homeward nine—allowing for a highly satisfying exploration of the property.

Jimmy Demaret once said that Quaker Ridge could host any tournament, including the U.S. Open. One might only disagree from the point of view of modern tournament logistics—certainly not the golf itself—but to date the club has mostly preferred to focus on high-level sectional events such as Met Opens and PGAs, as well as its own prestigious, 82-year-old amateur event, the Hochster Memorial. Until the 2018 Curtis Cup, the 1997 Walker Cup was its lone foray into the international spotlight. During the run-up to that event, Rees Jones reworked bunkers and added back tees.

Following a restoration project by Gil Hanse earlier this decade, Quaker Ridge once again sings with Tillinghast character. Perhaps the most famous of the vintage features Hanse restored is Tilly’s “Great Hazard” at the par-five 14th. This 20-bunker salute, designed to scare golfers off to the right side of the fairway—much lengthening the hole in the process—was nowhere to be found as recently as late 2010.

Quaker Ridge combines traits seen on other great Tillinghast designs yet remains entirely distinctive. It has long and strong two-shot holes to rival its major-hosting neighbor, Winged Foot. The 6th and 7th, in particular, are a pair of deadly doglegs-right that play even longer than their scorecard yardages (478 and 437 yards, respectively). The 456-yard 18th features a perspective-skewing fairway bunker some 85 yards short of a green that tilts from back to front.

And like Tillinghast’s early-career classic Somerset Hills, Quaker Ridge also incorporates a batch of compelling shorter holes. The front nine ends with a split-fairway par four that’s nearly drivable and a gorgeous, petite par three with a green that retreats on the diagonal. The 17th is a first-rate drive-and-pitch hole with a green Hanse returned to its original, diminutive shape. With a pair of tough fairway bunkers suggesting that players take something less than driver off the tee, this is the kind of hole where anything can happen.

This well-struck balance between might and finesse goes a long way toward locating the particular brand of genius that Tillinghast brought to Quaker Ridge. Thanks to Hanse’s deft touch, the club is in perfect position to pass along one of Tilly’s greatest works for the enjoyment of future generations.

Coul Links: Scotland’s Next Championship Links?

By Adam Schupak

Mike Keiser Coul Links
Mike Keiser and Bill Coore at the Coul Links site (Photo credit: Matthew Harris)

 

Editor’s note: In June 2018, Coul Links received approval to enter the construction phase of the project. This article, written in fall 2017, provides useful background on what will be the newest course in the Scottish Highlands.

Ever since he first played Royal Dornoch 40 years ago, developer Mike Keiser has searched for a piece of property to build a course in Scotland.

His dream could soon turn to reality in the Scottish Highlands. Keiser is teaming with business entrepreneur Todd Warnock, landowner Edward Abel Smith, and the Embo Trust to build a seaside layout less than two miles north of Royal Dornoch, which will bear the distinctive name Coul Links. Why Coul Links?

“That’s the way it appears on a map,” Keiser says. “In gaelic, ‘coul’ means ‘beach.’ So you could say it’s ‘beachland.’”

The project is still in the planning and permitting stage, but took an important major step forward on September 29, 2017 when the developers submitted a planning document to the Highland Council proposing the construction of the 18-hole course in the town of Embo.

Coul Links
Coul Links, Embo

 

Keiser’s planning documents, two years in the making, address United Kingdom restrictions pertaining to sensitive duneland and the concerns of environmentalists. This included altering the design of the course to reduce the impact on the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest at Coul Links.

“The UK is rightly concerned about the preservation of the sensitive duneland,” Keiser said. “Any development on their beautiful dunes are subject to a bit of scrutiny.”

Scottish Natural Heritage, the national statutory body for environmental oversight, raised two specific objections: dune habitats and a more thorough recreation and access management plan.

“We have already begun work in this respect,” Warnock says. “The narrowness of the objections now allows us to focus on the actions required in order to move forward.”

The SNH response follows public meetings held in October in Dornoch and Embo, which showed widespread support for the project. More than 220 people attended the meetings with only seven opposed. At Embo, more than 100 people attended with not one expressing opposition.

Local golf clubs—including Brora, Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Golspie, Royal Dornoch, Skibo, Wick, Bonar Bridge, and Tain—also have expressed their support of the project. The owners of the Royal Golf Hotel, beside Royal Dornoch golf course, backed the Coul Links proposals and announced plans for a £1 million hotel extension as a result.

Coul Links
Coul Links, Embo

 

One of the bedrock principles of Keiser’s success has been the belief that two courses represent a golf destination. However, Keiser concedes there is only land for one in Embo. But as the front page of the Coul Links web site so boldly proclaims, the course is conceived with “the goal of breathing life into a beautiful part of the world.”

“Right now, traveling golfers visit Dornoch on day trips while usually not even staying long enough for lunch,” Keiser says. “The hope is Coul Links will add to the region and give tourists a reason to stay overnight and propel the local economy.”

Add Castle Stuart in Inverness and Trump International Golf Links Scotland in Aberdeen, which have second courses in the planning stages, and northern Scotland could thrive as a popular destination all its own.

Approval likely will come down to a mid-January 2018 Highland Council planning meeting. Any discussion of a date for groundbreaking is premature, Keiser says.

Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, who have done several Keiser courses, including Bandon Trails and Cabot Cliffs, are waiting in the wings to transform raw, tumbling coastland into world-class, seaside links golf.

“Both of them are cautiously jumping for joy for the chance to build something great and memorable,” Keiser says. “It’s saying something when Bill Coore calls it ‘The best site we’ve ever had.’”

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Would the addition of a Coore & Crenshaw design in the Scottish Highlands make you want to go even more? Let us know in the comments below!

Fifth Time’s the Charm at Shinnecock Hills

By Jeff Silverman

9th Hole (Photo Credit: USGA/John Mummert)

 

When the latest edition of the U.S. Open rolls across the fields of Shinnecock Hills in June, canny assessors of architectural handicraft should notice a variety of amendments since the USGA last brought its carnival to town in 2004. You remember 2004: That was the year the fairways were about as wide as a couple of drivers laid end to end and the 7th green, on Sunday in particular, played swell for shuffleboard but not so hot for golf. No one was especially happy.

That was then.

“I look at this as a great opportunity for us to get back up on the horse again,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis. “What happened that Sunday took away from the grandeur of one of our greatest golf courses. We made mistakes. We learned. The world of golf hasn’t seen Shinnecock for 13 years.”

The truth is, the world hasn’t seen Shinnecock for ages.

While its 2004 bones may have been superb as ever, in the decades since William Flynn reconceived what Willie Davis, Willie Dunn, C.B. Macdonald, and Seth Raynor had been intent on coaxing from the landscape since 1891, the coat had developed mange. Flynn’s 1931 masterpiece—the ne plus ultra in a revered design portfolio—was a strategic marvel on an open space with panoramic vistas. Few trees. Vast fairways. Epic greens with surrounds full of options. The bunkering was beautiful. It looked heroic and played that way. To Herbert Warren Wind, Shinnecock was “an unbroken succession of superior holes.”

Of course, when the first Open came to Shinnecock—in 1896—none of that was there yet, and when the caravan next returned to the south fork of Long Island’s fishtail 90 years later, much of it was gone. Trees had intruded, greens had receded, and Flynn’s sophisticated lines of play had evanesced. It wasn’t until after the Open’s third visitation, in 1995, that Shinnecock resolved that enough was enough. “The club decided it wanted to go back to its roots,” says Davis. “It’s been going through a pretty thoughtful process to do that.”

Under the aegis of longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson, much had been done by 2004. The forests clogging the route were replanted around the perimeter. Scrub was hacked away. And while the ancient vistas and enormity of scale had been invited back, there was still much to do. Greens and fairways remained fractions of what once was. Indeed, the fairways had so withdrawn from Flynn’s artfully placed bunkers that even search dogs missed them, though given how the game had changed since 1931, most of those hazards were of no concern to the championship contingent anyway.

Had the game bypassed Flynn’s virtuosity? Shinnecock’s leadership—and Davis—were convinced the answer was no.

3rd Hole (Photo Credit: USGA/John Mummert)

 

Not long after Shinnecock was re-anointed as Open-worthy in 2011, the club, working hand in hand with the USGA, tapped Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to come in for a look-see. Originally, their brief was to transform the jungle on the right edge of the 6th hole back into the sandy blowout that Flynn inscribed onto the plan that hangs on the second floor of Stanford White’s iconic clubhouse. As they toured the layout, opportunities presented themselves. “We studied each hole individually and each green site individually,” says Coore. “What we did doesn’t remotely compare to how much we did at Pinehurst,” he insists, but the impact is unmistakable nonetheless.

They widened and realigned fairways to reach the bunkers Flynn intended them to and began expanding greens to their original shapes. Superintendent Jon Jennings enlarged them even further. “They look better aesthetically,” says Davis, “play better architecturally, and give us a lot more hole locations.”

The way Flynn intended.

As for features, Coore and Crenshaw sought to highlight what was already there: internal movement. For example, on the 5th hole, a par five, the bunker left of the green—not one Flynn imagined—was dispatched in favor of what Coore calls the “baby dune ridge” it sat on, thus reopening the green to a ground attack. “The contours are so beautiful throughout this course and can be very influential on play,” he says. “This one, in particular, was more interesting to Ben and myself than the bunker that had replaced it.”

All of which the members cheer, and the professionals would likely lick their lips over, if that alone described the golf course the Open will be contested on. But that’s not it exactly. Ten new tees add almost 450 yards to the old 6,996-yard championship journey with a third of that allocated to just two holes, the 519-yard par-four 14th and the 616-yard par-five 16th. “We weren’t interested in distance for distance sake,” insists Davis. “We kept asking, what was Flynn’s intention? How can we accomplish that?”

14th Hole (Photo Credit: Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

 

The answer arrived in the way new tees were built to emphasize original angles and strategies. Take the 8th hole, a 445-yard par four. Flynn’s favored line off the tee was as far left as possible over an angled series of bunkers, invisible today, certainly, to the game’s best. Length and width put them back into view.

But players can’t just grip and rip—here’s the course-within-the-course part—since drive zones have been reconceived to collapse in the bombs-away landing areas. After assessing play at Erin Hills last summer, the USGA returned in the fall to pinch-in Shinnecock’s fairways even further, down to about 35 yards wide on average, but that’s still about 10 yards wider than in Opens past.

“Now we can get a true test of the Flynn design,” says Davis, “and still be true to the USGA test of golf.”

Without making the membership pay for the privilege once the USGA is gone.

“What’s been done,” says Jennings, “will not only show the true architectural genius of Flynn. It will also show that you can host a U.S. Open without punishing daily member play.”

Because, in the end, as Coore marvels, “Shinnecock’s true character was still there.” Patiently waiting to be revealed again.

Shinnecock Hills U.S. Open Preview

By Adam Schupak

The 18th Hole (Photo by USGA/John Mummert)

 

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — As soon as the great, rambling white-and-brown gabled structure that is Shinnecock Hills Golf Club pops into view, hearts pump for golfers as if on a first date with a beautiful woman. Golf’s original clubhouse, a Stanford White design, dominates the surrounding landscape on the south shore of eastern Long Island like the crown on the head of a queen.

Indeed, Shinnecock Hills glows with a feminine mystique. She requires thought and finesse, not brute strength. One of golf’s crown jewels, Shinnecock dates to 1891 and is one of the USGA’s five founding members. This is a museum piece that hosted the second U.S. Open in 1896, but one still very much in vogue and beginning June 15, home to the 118th U.S. Open.

When last a national champion was crowned here—South Africa’s dead-eyed putter Retief Goosen in 2004—it marked the last U.S. Open site to be played at less than 7,000 yards. This time, the par-70 layout will measure 7,440 yards. That includes adding 74 yards to the 616-yard par five 16th hole so that the fairway bunkers off the tee and cross bunkers for the layup shot factor into the decision-making process. There seems no stopping the trend of stretching our finest courses like a rubber band.

“Shinnecock never did get updated for the modern game,” USGA CEO Mike Davis says.

Architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw led an effort that began in 2012 to restore the course to the original intent of architect William Flynn using aerial photos from 1938. Coore-Crenshaw removed hundreds of trees, cleared scrub brush, added 10 new tee boxes, enlarged greens, and widened fairways.

But after Brooks Koepka manhandled Erin Hills last year, hitting 88 percent of fairways wider than the Grand Canyon and tying the U.S. Open 72-hole scoring record, set by Rory McIlroy in 2011, with an aggregate of 16-under 272, Davis pivoted and narrowed Shinnecock’s fairways. Swaths of fescue grass were trucked in during September to reduce the average width of the fairways to 41 yards. Still they will be the widest fairways at any of the previous Opens here, but to drive indifferently is to court unending struggle for the remainder of a hole.

The 3rd Hole (Photo by USGA/John Mummert)

 

“I’m excited to see a proper U.S. Open again,” Golf Channel’s David Duval says. “I think it’s lost its bearings a little bit the last couple of years.”

Voicing an opinion shared by many, four-time U.S. Open champion Jack Nicklaus says, “I always thought the U.S Open was the narrowest fairways, highest rough, hardest greens, fastest greens, and it was the ultimate test of every club in your bag. I’m not for making it like every other golf tournament.”

Rest assured, Jack, it won’t be. Shinnecock is a course where none other than Tiger Woods says, “You can’t fake it.” To single out a hole for praise seems unfair to the others, but it can be argued that Shinnecock features the best collection of par threes in all of golf. All four holes are fickle, rewarding brilliant play and showing utter disdain for imperfection. The 2nd will play up to 260 yards to an undulating green. The 7th, a Redan hole playing 189 yards, garnered the headlines at the 2004 U.S. Open when its green—sloping front right to back left—became impossible to hold and the USGA had no choice but to hand-water the putting surface during play. It wasn’t the USGA’s finest moment. “It was either a disgraceful comic mockery of a great sport or a test of such stupendous difficulty that it was the very apotheosis of the best in the game,” The Washington Post‘s Tom Boswell wrote at the time.

All these years later, Davis, who at the time worked under chief course setup-man Tom Meeks, concedes, “It was certainly a bogey last time. In fact, maybe even a double bogey.”

But the truth is the 7th requires precision any time you play it. The 159-yard 11th plays uphill to a small, infinity green sloping from the back left to the front right, and has wrecked countless hopes of a good card. Deep, gaping bunkers protect the right side. Pros will take three and run. The 17th is another medium-length par three at 175 yards and the tee shot is no less exacting. Here the direct shot to the green flirts with a deep bunker on the left that can destroy any chance of par. The 9th and 18th, which both play back to the clubhouse, and 10th are among a sturdy collection of par-four holes that will leave many competitors folded into the fetal position after the round.

For all of the USGA’s efforts to provide “golf’s ultimate test,” competitors still will be at the mercy of the wind. And like most courses by the water—Peconic Bay to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south—there is rarely a day when the wind is completely absent. That alone should guarantee a stern test and so several players hope the USGA doesn’t overthink the setup.

“I think that the USGA thinks that we’re better than we actually are,” McIlroy, 2011 U.S. Open champion, says. “I don’t think it should be as much of an exact science to set up a golf course as it is. I mean, get the fairways sort of firm, grow the rough, put the pins in some tough locations, but fair, and go let us play.”

And let the carnage begin. The 118th U.S. Open can’t start soon enough.

The 14th Hole (Photo by USGA/John Mummert)

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What are you most excited to watch for during the U.S. Open? Let us know in the comments!

Playing Shinnecock Before the U.S. Open

By Ian Critser

The author on the 1st tee (Photo by Andrew Young)

 

Through a welcome twist of fate, I recently found myself sitting on the porch at Shinnecock Hills after walking 27 holes, a mere month before the 2018 U.S. Open.

Driving up Tuckahoe Road, the iconic Stanford White clubhouse dramatically reveals itself as you crest a hill. Stepping inside, it feels as if nothing has changed since the turn of the century, from the wicker chairs and dark wood flooring to the yellow walls adorned with priceless golf artifacts. We changed shoes in the low-key locker room and warmed up in a light rain before making our way to the first tee.

What’s it like for a high single-digit handicapper to play a big, brawny U.S. Open course just weeks before it hosts the hardest golf tournament in the world? I enjoyed every minute, but I took a beating.

The rough is thick and intimidating, some greens are heavily undulating while others are subtle, and there are some spots around the greens that are impossible up-and-downs, even for the pros. The difference is that the pros know exactly where not to miss, and even with the help of a caddie I seemed to find all of those deadly spots.

Although my tee shots found some lesser-visited parts of the course, I did manage to hit a handful of fairways, even after the USGA narrowed them for the tournament. The fairways are still relatively wide compared to other classic course hosts, and most importantly the USGA did a fantastic job of keeping the original lines of play intact. Those lines—along with the genius routing—are the heart of the course.

With the exception of the tee shot on the 1st and the approach on the 9th, which play up and down the hill where the clubhouse sits, the front nine is relatively flat, especially compared to the roller coaster back nine. Even so, the front possesses some of my favorite holes on the course. The par-five 5th and the long par-four 6th holes were a few of my favorites and great examples of those lines of play. Both offer risky lines off the tee that are rewarded with an easier approach and different benign lines off the tee that leave a tougher approach. These strategic holes will be the ones to watch during the tournament. The famous Redan 7th will also get a lot of airtime during the U.S. Open for its severe green that’s extremely difficult to hold (prepare to pity the players that miss it right, as well).

The 7th, “Redan” (Photo by Ian Critser)

 

As with so many courses that appear on TV, the U.S. Open broadcast likely won’t do justice to the dramatic contours at Shinnecock, many of which are found on the back nine. The false front on the 10th green might be the most menacing I’ve seen. The par-three 11th is no easier, with a small green that slopes severely back to front. Missing long on the 11th leaves far and away the toughest recovery shot on the course, and I naturally hit it right there during our round. “That’s the hardest shot at Shinnecock Hills by far” said our host member. “It’s impossible… unless you’re Greg Norman.” The member told us that he witnessed The Shark hit a recovery shot from behind the green with a long iron. Norman played the shot dead into the bank from where it shot straight up and landed softly on the green, trickling to a few feet from the hole. I was not as successful with my lob wedge.

Twelve through 18 is one of the best stretches in American golf. Navigating the hills after which the course is named, golfers are confronted with bold features like the severely downhill tee shot on the 15th, but also with more nuanced areas, like the crumpled, rolling 12th fairway that’s more akin to Scotland than Long Island. It’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite hole out of the bunch, but I side with Ben Crenshaw, who says the 14th is his favorite hole at Shinnecock. We finished the round by playing the famous 18th from the U.S. Open tees, where my closing bogey felt like a phenomenal birdie.

“You guys up for another nine?” our host quipped after a fantastic lunch in the clubhouse. “I ordered us drinks to go!”

Sure, twist my arm.

The 9th Hole and clubhouse (Photo by Ian Critser)

 

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Have you played a course that’s hosted the U.S. Open? Tell us about it in the comments!

Southern Florida Embodied at Tiburón Golf Club

By Graylyn Loomis

Tiburón Gold Course

 

After my second visit to Naples, Fla., I’m starting to see what all the fuss is about—perfect weather, two rounds of golf at Tiburón Golf Club, and cocktails by the sea. What’s not to like?!

I went to Naples to visit Tiburón Golf Club and see the renovation work on their two golf courses—the Gold and Black. The Greg Norman designs were built in 1998 and 2001 and have remained popular choices for golf in the area ever since.

The property was elevated to a new level in 2016, though, when Troon Golf was hired to manage Tiburón Golf Club. The management company brought in a new general manager, superintendent, and support staff before quickly announcing that both the Gold and Black courses would be renovated—or “remastered” as they called it. Since Troon’s involvement and the renovation of both courses, Tiburón has shot up the southern Florida golf rankings.

Tiburón Black Course

 

The renovation work on both courses was carried out by Greg Norman Design and included new bunkers, new grass nearly everywhere, new family tees (that create a 4,000-yard version of the Black course), and reshaping some of the green surrounds to allow for more running play. The most noticeable change is the bunkering on the Gold Course, all of which has been changed to stacked-sod bunkers made from artificial turf that greatly reduces maintenance costs. The bunkers create a links-golf feel on the course and even from a few feet away, you’d never know they were synthetic turf.

The Gold and Black courses are differentiated by their look and the style of play they require. The Gold Course is more forgiving with wider playing corridors and was my preference between the two. The Gold also hosts both the LPGA Tour’s CME Group Tour Championship and the PGA Tour’s QBE Shootout. The Black Course is much tighter with more forced carries, and while it’s shorter than the Gold, it’s the harder of the two. The Black Course doesn’t have the synthetic stacked-sod bunkers and instead has traditional American-style bunkers with faces that were lowered during the renovation to make the course more playable.

The neighboring Ritz-Carlton, where I was fortunate enough to stay, is as luxurious as you’d expect and only a three-minute walk to Tiburón’s first tees. My favorite part of the hotel is a semi-circle of fire pits on the back porch that overlooks the finishing holes of the Gold Course. It feels like an extension of the clubhouse and is the perfect place for drinks, cigars, and reflecting on your round.

Access to Tiburón used to be available only to members and guests at the Ritz-Carlton Naples; however, the course is now open to outside play. If you make it down to Tiburón anytime soon, keep an eye out for me on that back porch.

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What’s your favorite course in Southern Florida? Let us know in the comments below!

First Peek: Stoatin Brae

By Graylyn Loomis

The newest course at a Michigan resort is a coming-out party for a team of up-and-coming designers

When Jon Scott, owner of Gull Lake View Resort in Augusta, Mich., wanted to add a sixth golf course to his family’s property, he turned to Tom Doak, who lives about three hours north in Traverse City. Doak was busy with another project, but recommended a group of guys who’d never built a design on their own: his associates—Erik Iverson, Don Placek, Brian Schneider, and Brian Slawnik—who, working collectively as Renaissance Golf Design, took on Stoatin Brae as both a blank canvas and an opportunity to step out of their boss’s shadow.

The course is laid out on a relatively flat and treeless hilltop that provides long views of the surrounding countryside and is very exposed to strong winds. Combining the openness with firm conditions and low-cut green surrounds encourages a links-like style of play, exaggerated by undulating greens that offer different sets of challenges depending on the angles of approach from the wide fairways.

On the front nine, the team uses bunkers, angles, and raised greens to create interest and impact. The more rolling back nine is the more impressive: Holes 10–15 are the best on the course, with two par threes—the 11th and 14th—that play across and down the most dramatic parts of the landscape. Both stand with the best one-shotters in the state.

Doak left his guys alone, visiting the site only once before Stoatin Brae officially opened last year. His verdict? “It wouldn’t have been any better had I been involved.”

Stoatin Brae
Augusta, Mich.

Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort
Opened: 2017
Architect: Renaissance Golf Design
Yardage: 6,742
Par: 71

Classic Course: Somerset Hills Country Club

By Tom Ierubino

The Redan 2nd Hole (Photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

 

Hidden away in Bernardsville, N.J., seven miles from the USGA’s headquarters in Far Hills, Somerset Hills is a place where time seems to stand still—but in a good way. There are no cart paths, and most of the golfers walk. The understated clubhouse is more about utility than grandeur. The same goes for the locker room, which is compact and intimate. And the course? Timeless.

The Duke of Windsor visited in the 1940s and was particularly taken with the 15th hole, a 404-yard downhill dogleg right named Happy Valley that boasts the course’s largest green set behind a meandering creek with a cascading waterfall to the left. According to club lore, the Duke was so taken with the setting that he recreated it on one of his French estates. That same green figured mightily in the 1990 Curtis Cup, the U.S. team winning four matches there, including the one that clinched a 14–4 victory over Great Britain and Ireland.

The two nines offer sharp contrast: The front, laid out over a former racetrack, is open; the back is hillier and wooded. And while 262 yards have been added over the last quarter-century, the course remains short by modern standards at less than 6,800 yards. But it remains special thanks to A. W. Tillinghast’s creativity in providing a variety of challenges, particularly on the greens, 17 of which are original. Only the 10th green has changed, having been moved in the 1940s when the hole grew from a par four to five.

“As far as I’ve seen, the greens at Somerset Hills are the most bold and varied set of putting surfaces Tillinghast ever built,” says Tom Doak.

To wit, the 205-yard 2nd hole has a classic Redan green, while the one at the 376-yard 3rd features an elevated false front. At the 350-yard 5th, a hump bisects the green making the short approach shot more exacting. At the 413-yard 11th, the putting surface is severely sloped toward the front, while the 415-yard 13th ends on a Biarritz green.

While all the par threes are eye-catching, the most picturesque is the 150-yard 12th. Named Despair, its green sits on a peninsula that extends into the pond on the left.

Doak’s design firm worked at Somerset Hills in 2010 and ’13, and along with course superintendent Ryan Tuxhorn removed trees, restored natural areas and made them more playable, added width to the fairways to provide more options, and expanded the greens to recapture lost hole locations. Over the next five years, the bunkers will be redone.

The club’s website sums it up well: “In a rapidly changing technological world, we hope to pass on to future generations the traditions of simple elegance that is Somerset Hills Country Club.”

Somerset Hills Country Club
Bernardsville, N.J.

Opened: 1918
Architects: A.W. Tillinghast, William Gordon,
Hal Purdy, Tom Doak
Yardage: 6,784    Par 71
Accessibility: 4
Welcome: 9
Value: 8
Fun Factor: 10