With more than 140 golf courses across Long Island’s 118 Miles, the Hamptons is home to 15 of those courses two of which rank numbers 4 and 7 in the top 100 Golf Courses in the world. They say Long Island’s water makes for the best bagels, so it must be something in this soil that makes these famous greens.
In Southampton, Shinnecock Hills Golf Course runs side by side with National Golf Links of America. SHGC ranks number 4 worldwide, with NGLA following just behind at 7. Both courses have a history that’s as rich as its greens. SHGC and NGLA are what they call links courses, 1 of the six different types of courses in the game of golf. So what does that mean? Links style courses derive from the Old English term hlinc, translating to rising ground. These courses are designed to embrace the preexisting natural landscape, creating an obstacle-style course, usually found on sandy soil near coastlines, forcing golfers to battle the elements of rolling dunes and undulating hills. Some argue that sandy soil drains far nicer than a green found inland, making for a firm playing field.
National Golf Links of America was designed by golfer Charles B. Macdonald, who played in the second US Open in 1896 and is known for co-designing the original Shinnecock Hills Golf Club as well as 20 other courses across the United States and the world. After being sent at the age of 16 to St. Andrews University in Scotland, Macdonald fell in love with the then-novel game of golf. Many of the holes that he went on to design reflect the Scottish courses that he first played on in his youth. Macdonald even designed ‘template holes’ for other course architects to follow.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is nestled in 80 acres of sandhills between the Long Island Rail Road and the Shinnecock Canal. Those 80 acres were originally illegally taken from the Shinnecock Indian Nation by ‘settlers’ in or around 1859, to which American Businessmen Edward Meade and Duncan Cryder purchased the land from developers for about $2,500 in 1891.
Today, the initial membership fee to join SHGC is steep, amounting to a whopping half a million dollars. NGLA comes in at a little over $150,000, ensuring that only those in the top percentages of wealth can clinch a spot on their lists. Bordered by the Peconic and Bull Heads, NGLA guarantees water views from around 12 holes, and almost half the holes have views of that iconic windmill.
If you ever have the pleasure of playing a round on either course, look for the hints of Charles B. Macdonald that are still embedded in those greens. From his name plaque on the NGLA Windmill to the updates he spent the rest of his life adding to both courses– those unapologetic bunkers and bluffs have Macdonald’s name written all over them.