The east end of Long Island is very well known for its ultra exclusive private golf clubs such as National Golf Links and Shinnecock Hills that have been staples on the magazine Top 100 lists for many, many years. What is not as well known is that amongst the area’s exclusive private clubs are a number of public options. While these courses may not be Top 100 some are pretty good courses and most importantly accessible to everyone.
The epic golf trip that I was lucky enough to be a part of last fall consisted of playing National Golf Links the day we arrived, Maidstone the next day, then Sebonack and Shinnecock Hills on the final day. Since we were playing Maidstone in the afternoon I started to work on finding a good option to play in the morning that day so that we would have a full 36 hole day. It’s just not a proper golf trip if you don’t get in 36 holes a day . . . at least that’s what I always say. Since I was really only familiar with the private courses in the area I inquired with a few well traveled golf friends and Tallgrass was one of the recommended courses. When I looked it up and discovered that Gil Hanse was the architect it suddenly became a very easy decision. For those who don’t know, Gil Hanse is one of the hottest golf course architects du jour and has been awarded some pretty significant projects such as the Olympic Course in Rio, the new municipal course in Bandon, Oregon and the reworking of the newest pony in Donald Trump’s golf stable, TPC Doral’s Blue Monster . . . or whatever name Trump is going to put on it. Maybe Trump Monster. Anyway, the bottom line is that Gil Hanse is a hot commodity and a very busy guy these days.
With a 7am tee time we were up at the crack of dawn and hit the road for a 20 minute drive to the course. When we arrived there weren’t many people around and we quickly checked in and went directly to the 1st tee. Right away I was able to figure out where the name Tallgrass had come from. The sides of each hole, beyond the rough, were lined with native fescue which made hitting a ball off line a little bit of a challenge. Fortunately, balls were findable much of the time which was nice . . . especially with the way our group was spraying it on the first few holes.
In addition to the tall grass the second thing I noticed is that Hanse had used the rugged unkempt style of bunkering. I personally like this aesthetic and think that it goes well with the wild and unkempt look of a course like this. The photo below shows the edge of a long fairway bunker that leads up to the 3rd green.
Below is a photo of the 4th hole which is a mid length par 3. This was a cool hole and had some pretty deep bunkers around the green.
Check out the size of this bunker on the 8th hole. There was definitely a lot of sand throughout the course and much of it played as waste areas as evidenced by all the footprints.
Here is another look at the ragged bunker edges that Hanse used.
The 14th green was my favorite on the course. There was tons of internal movement and the hole location was such that a well positioned tee shot would feed right down to the hole and leave a kick short birdie putt. The photo below was taken from the right side of the green.
Once we finished up we hightailed it out of there so that we would have time to grab lunch and make our afternoon tee time at Maidstone Club which was about an hour away. My overall impression of Tallgrass was a very good one. The course is on basically flat land, and Gil Hanse did a great job of creating some really interesting holes without having a whole lot of terrain to work with. The overall aesthetic of the course is really great with the rough and scruffy look as well. If I had to make one complaint with the course it is that it was really very wet and it hadn’t been raining before we were there. My friend who recommended the course warned me that the course is usually very wet, so it wasn’t a big surprise. One of the guys in our group is a golf course superintendent and the level of moisture in the turf was the first comment he made about the course somewhere in the middle of the 2nd fairway. I think it they could get this course dried up just a little bit it would open up a lot more options for playing the holes and allow for more links style shots along the ground. Either way Tallgrass is worth a play and a great course to add to a trip to Long Island if you are not playing one of the area’s private courses.