When people talk about the greatest golf destinations in America the conversation often turns to locales like Pebble Beach, Kiawah Island, Bandon Dunes and Whistling Straits which are without question the most famous and among the best golf resorts in the U.S. That said, there are a few other destinations that are just as good and sometimes better, but may not be as well known because they are not accessible to the public. One of those locations is Long Island, New York and specifically the east end of Long Island. The 35 mile stretch between Riverhead and East Hampton is where Friar’s Head, Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America, Sebonack and Maidstone all can be found . . . and all five of them are rated in the Top 100. Not a bad little neighborhood to spend some time in.
I had the good fortune of playing Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links and Sebonack early on in my quest to play the Top 100 and ever since then I have been trying to get back to Long Island to play the Maidstone Club. Luckily, an opportunity came up for me to make a trip to the area that would grant me the chance to revisit a few of the places I had already played AND would include my first visit to Maidstone.
Maidstone Club is was founded in 1891 and was the summer retreat of New York City’s most wealthy and socially connected families. Still today the club is considered to be the most elite, prestigious and difficult to get into of all the clubs in “The Hamptons”. Originally founded as a tennis and beach club, Maidstone added golf to its offerings in 1894 with a very basic 3 hole course. A couple of years later a 9 hole course was laid out and then in 1899 an 18 hole course was designed out by one of the club’s members with the assistance of Willie Park Jr. The club members played that 18 hole course until 1922 when the club acquired an additional 80 acre plot of land and turned to Willie Park Jr. to redesign the course. Park built 12 new holes on the recently acquired dune-land and used the original three starting and finishing holes to complete the 18 hole layout.
Park’s design from the 1920s remained virtually untouched through the years, but the maintenance practices on the course had gradually changed over time and corrupted the integrity of the original design. In 2012 the club hired the services of Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw to restore the course and bring it back to it’s original glory. I had never seen the course before Coore & Crenshaw’s work, but it is my understanding that they basically gave the course a facelift by added or enlarging a few bunkers, removing overgrown brush to reclaim the sand dunes look and expanding mowing patterns to bring more of the original links vibe back to the course. I’d been hearing about the work they were doing there for nearly the last year, so I was excited to get out there and see what all the buzz was about.
We were scheduled to play in the afternoon so after a warm up round in the morning we made our way to East Hampton. Once we arrived at the club we did the usual locker room routine and then headed outside to meet our caddies. Below is a photo of the amazing Maidstone clubhouse.
After hitting a few balls on the practice tee and rolling a few putts on the practice green it was our turn to tee off. We decided to play from the back tees which measure 6,560 yards and play to a par of 72.
Hole 1 – 424 Yards – Par 4
The 1st hole is a fairly straight forward affair with a tee shot that plays downhill. There is a bunker on the right, but there is also a bunker on the left side between the 1st and 18th hole than cannot be seen from the 1st tee. Something down the middle will work the best here.
A look at the approach shot into the 1st green. Note the good looking house in the background here. There was amazing real estate visible from all around this course.
Hole 2 – 537 Yards – Par 5
After the 1st hole we walked across the road to get to the 2nd hole which is kind of off by itself. This is a nice par 5 that probably is not going to be reachable in two for most players unless there is a helping wind.
A look into the green from about 150 yards out. There are plenty of bunkers on the left side to catch errant layup shots.
Here is a look at the interesting bunker on the left side of the green. The islands were there before the Coore & Crenshaw restoration.
Hole 3 – 408 Yards – Par 4
Back across the road again to reach the 3rd tee. This hole is a stout par 4 with numerous fairway bunkers on both sides of the short grass.
A look into the 3rd green.
Hole 4 – 176 Yards – Par 3
Here we come to our first one shot hole on the course. It plays just a bit uphill so a little extra club here is not a bad idea. The green is huge and players who miss it will likely find their ball in one of the very large bunkers on either side.
Hole 5 – 325 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a short par 4 that give the option of playing it safe with a 200 yard shot or bombing it as far down as possible with the driver. There are bunkers out there so players who choose to bomb it will want to make sure they are also hitting it pretty straight.
The very short approach into the green.
Here is a view of some of the real estate across Hook Pond from the course. Apparently these houses RARELY come on the market as they are kept in families for generations. One the rare occasions they are listed for sale a cool $10 million or more is all you need to call one of these places home.
And here is a classic dutch colonial home that is so popular through the Hamptons. Not a bad little homestead.
Hole 6 – 403 Yards – Par 4
This hole is another good sized par 4 that gives the longer hitter an opportunity to bite off a larger chunk of the hole and have a shorter approach into the green. The further right a player aims the longer the drive must be to clear the bunker. This begins the stretch of holes that are set amidst the sandy dunes.
The green on this hole is the trickiest on the course yet. It slopes from the back left to the right front and has some not to subtle undulations in it as well.
Here is a closer look, although this photo does not do it justice.
Hole 7 – 341 Yards – Par 4
This short par 4 features a similar option on the tee that the previous hole does where players can choose to shorten the approach shot by taking a more aggressive line with their drive. The green is just to the right of the group standing on the next tee on the right side of the photo. Players must calculate this shot carefully in order to avoid hitting through the fairway and into the scrub brush on the dune at the far end of the fairway.
The very short approach shot into the green. Note the browned out fairway here. Maidstone Club does not have an irrigation system for their fairways which means that the course looks and plays like an authentic links golf course.
Hole 8 – 151 Yards – Par 3
This is one of the cooler one shot holes that I have seen. The putting surface that is visible in the photo below is just the left side of the green. There is more green and today’s hole location hidden behind the dune.
Here is a look at the entire green from a little closer.
Hole 9 – 415 Yards – Par 4
Wow, what a view from this tee box. This lengthy par 4 definitely has a links look to it.
The approach shot into the green.
Here is a look from the halfway hut back towards the 9th green.
Hole 10 – 387 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a fairly straightforward par 4. The bunker on the right is in play from the tee.
The approach shot to the 10th green. Missing right or left will mean playing the next shot from the sandy dune area which could also mean playing it from the scrubby brush vegetation that is part of the dune-scape.
Hole 11 – 464 Yards – Par 4
With this very lengthy par 4 the course takes us away from the dunes. As can be seen in the photo below there are numerous bunkers in play on the tee shot.
A view into the green. Note that like many of the holes at Maidstone Club the front of the green is open and balls can be bounced into the green which is a particularly nice feature coupled with the links-like playing surfaces.
Hole 12 – 181 Yards – Par 3
This one shot hole plays just a bit uphill and the likelihood of balls that miss the green ending up in sand is extremely high.
Hole 13 – 500 Yards – Par 5
This shortish par 5 carrys us back out to the dunes for a couple more holes. The bunkers can be in play from the tee so something down the middle will be preferable.
A look at the 13th green.
Hole 14 – 152 Yards – Par 3
This is about as nifty of a one shot hole as there is. Short, with a smallish green and playing dead into the ocean wind.
Hole 15 – 493 Yards – Par 5
The tee shot here is the last look that we will get of the dunes. This short par 5 is the first of two consecutive three shot holes on the homeward stretch. The tee box is just steps from the beach and the ocean can be heard crashing in the background while teeing off.
The open front of of this green will make going for the green in two on this short hole very enticing for many players.
Hole 16 – 485 Yards – Par 5
An even shorter par 5 than the last players who aim further right and take a bold line with their drive will certainly have a look at reaching this green in two.
A look into the green.
Hole 17 – 328 Yards – Par 4
The two short par 5s are followed by a short par 4 where again the player is tempted to be aggressive with their tee shot. The green is located just to the right of the red patch in the distance below. A simple little 200 yard shot will leave a wedge to the green, but players who want to get more aggressive can hit driver and try to get as close to the green as possible.
A view of the approach shot into the 17th green.
Hole 18 – 390 Yards – Par 4
The course ends with a medium length par 4 that plays up hill. The bunker on the left is in play from the tee. Note that this is the hidden bunker that is in play from the 1st tee.
A look at the 18th green from about 75 yards out.
Once we finished playing we headed into the locker room where we hung out for a while and enjoyed a few Southsides which is the local drink of choice in the Hamptons. In rehashing the round I must say that I’m more than a little surprised by the low ranking of Maidstone Club on Golf Digest’s Top 100 list. I thought the course was great and the holes that played along the dunes were particularly fantastic. I even found the starting and finishing holes to be interesting, as a number of them offered scoring opportunities for players who opt to take a more aggressive approach to playing the holes. I’m really quite stunned that this course is not ranked higher and wonder if it is a matter of Golf Digest raters not having an appreciation for the links style conditions or downgrading the course because it is short by modern standards. Either way I don’t get it. I thought Maidstone was fantastic and would go back to play it again in a heartbeat.