National Golf Links is the low key next door neighbor to Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, NY. It has historically been the domain of Wall Street financiers and was founded by the heads of several large financial institutions. Our caddy did tell us that mixed in among the well heeled Wall Streeters was Roger Waters, founding member of Pink Floyd. He said that Waters likes to come out late in the afternoon once the caddies finish their loops for the day and play with them. I’m sure that would make for a fun round.
A good friend was able to make arrangements for me and two others to play at National. Unfortunately my friend moved to New Orleans for awhile and was unable to join us for the round as expected so we ended up going out as a 3 ball with one caddy taking all of our clubs in an electric golf cart. The day was a bit overcast, but for the Fall I don’t think you could ask for better weather and while the wind was enough to be a little bit of a factor, it wasn’t so much that it made us miserable. Apparently we wouldn’t have been so lucky a few days earlier.
The 1st hole is a short par 4 and my drive landed me with the below blind approach shot. You really have the place the ball well with your drive in order to have a view of the green. This was the first of many blind shots of the day.
I’m actually glad my approach shot on the 1st hole was blind because if I had seen the green and the hole location (pictured below, although it does not do it justice) I might have packed up my clubs and drove straight back home. The 1st green at National is about as undulating as they come. Below is a photo, though it is a little fuzzy.
Fortunately the greens flattened out a bit after the 1st hole. I did notice that the greens were that dense grass that I found at Rockaway Hunting Club earlier this summer. Our caddy said they were a mix of bent grass and poa annua. Again the ball marks were virtually non existent, even with a wedge shot.
The 3rd hole is called Alps and like many of the holes at National it is designed after iconic golf holes at courses throughout Scotland. The approach shot looks like you are hitting the ball straight up a mountain. In the photo below you can just barely see the flag peaking out in the middle. Amazingly the caddy only added 10 yards of club for this huge incline.
Once we were up on the green I saw that Justin was dead on with only a 10 yard adjustment for the incline – my ball lay just 5 yards off the green. If I hadn’t hit the approach shot fat it would have hit the green and run right on down towards the hole. I missed the up and down and took a bogey. Justin rang the bell in the bell tower below to signal that we were clear of the green and the group behind us (even though there was no group behind us) could hit their approaches to the green.
As I mentioned before many of the holes at National are designed based on holes at courses in Scotland. The 7th hole is called St. Andrews as it is modeled after The Old Course’s “Road Hole”. Check out the bunker below. Fortunately none of us landed in it, but we had to send Bob down for a photo op.
Below is the green complex for at the 8th hole where you really cannot be short without being in one of those bunkers. This photo does not really show how deep the bunkers were. It is not a simple pitch out of these.
After I birdied the 9th hole (my only one of the day) we head back home on the inward nine. The outward nine played with the wind, the inward against it. It was pretty stiff on this day and I was a little worried about hitting into that wind on 10th, 11th and 12th which play 420, 418 and 427 respectively.
As I mentioned before National is next door neighbors with Shinnecock Hills. The 10th hole borders the 3rd hole at Shinnecock Hills. I now realize that the guy I saw buried deep in the woods as I walked up to the 3rd green at Shinnecock earlier this summer was hacking a sliced tee shot out of the woods and back onto National property. There are no out of bounds at the National. If you click on the photo below you you can just barely see the Shinnecock clubhouse through the gap in the trees.
Below is the 12th green, the last of the 400+ yard into the wind holes that kick off the inward nine at National. Check out the slope on that putting surface! If the pin is at the back you had better not be long or you don’t have a chance!
Below is the famous “punchbowl” green at the 16th. It is sunken down so you cannot even see the green until you are right up on it. The large flag in the background is the directional flag to help line up your approach shot. This was a fun green. I ended up just off the green on the right side. Justin said “Give it a good rap up the hill and it will roll right back down. I did just as he said and the ball rolled up the hill and back down looking like it was going to go right in the cup. It just caught the edge, turned to the right and left me with a 3 footer. It was a really fun green.
The last two holes at National are straight down and then right back up. The view from the 17th tee box is a fantastic one. The tee shot is straight down hill, but you have to be careful of the Liz Taylor bunker on 17 which I managed to narrowly escape.
What would a round at National be if there was no mention of the windmill. The photo below was taken from the 18th fairway which is a short par 5 that plays straight uphill and longer than the card indicates. This photo is not exactly a close up of the windmill, but I like having the clubhouse and windmill together in the same photo. Justin told us a story that an early member of National had complained that the course was too bland looking and needed something to spice it up insisting that a windmill would do the trick. The club finally broke down and ordered the windmill. The next time the member showed up he was promptly presented with an invoice for $10,000 for “his” windmill.
The views at National are spectacular. Depending on where you are on the course you feel like you can see miles of golf or miles of water. We had a great weather day for the Fall and managed to get around the course with one caddy for the three of us in exactly 4 hours. One note about our caddy Justin . . . I have never received as good of reads as he gave me. This guy was a machine. Thanks for a great round Justin!