Golfing in the Hamptons is very special. Perhaps most special when golfing at two of the most prestigious golf clubs not only in the Hamptons, but in the world. These two clubs are also among the most difficult to get into in the world. They are the Maidstone Club founded in 1899 and the National Golf Links of America which opened in 1911.
Maidstone was once listed as the 67th best Golf Course in the world by Golf Magazine whereas they have listed National at number 15th. I have sampled Maidstone twice participating in charity events for Guild Hall. I drive through National daily on my way to my sailboat.
To play regularly on either of these courses is something money alone cannot buy. That adds to their mystique. Amazingly there is one bond between these two clubs, the design work of Seth Raynor back in the 1920s. In 1921 he drew up the redesign plans for the Maidstone Club golf course. Willie Dunn laid down Maidstone in 1894 as a seven-hole course, it was expanded to 18 holes in 1899. Mr. Raynor also supervised the construction of the plans of Charles B. Macdonald for National when it was constructed a decade earlier.
The present 27-hole layout of Maidstone is a by-product of the Hurricane of 1938. Prior to that storm Maidstone actually had two 18-hole courses designed by Willie Park Jr. and his brother Jack Park around 1924. Now it consists of an 18 hole course along with a nine-hole course.
Charles Macdonald who studied at St. Andrews in Scotland in the 1870s designed the holes at National almost identically to ones he played at St. Andrews. However, when comparing the two courses Mr. Macdonald said, “There are no more beautiful golfing vistas than those from the National Golf Club.” Of course, he was biased.
One wonderful legend of National is about its windmill. It seems Mr. Macdonald was playing with an epically wealthy member who on one hole hit his ball right in front of a water barrel. He then said to Macdonald, “This spot would be a wonderful location for a windmill.”
On Macdonald’s next trip to Europe, he purchased a new windmill and had it crated and shipped to National to be reassembled. And yes he sent the bill to that epically rich golfer who paid it gladly.
An east-end golfer who is a member of neither but who has played both had this to say about a comparison of playing both courses as a guest. He asked to remain anonymous in his quotes to ensure he can be invited back. He said, “Maidstone and National are two very special pieces of property. It is always such a treat to play either top 100 courses in the world. And the feeling you have after spending a day on either property is a buzz that only other fellow golf enthusiasts can relate to. How to compare both is a great question. I love the everyday of Maidstone and find National a bit frustrating with the beginning holes of everything blind. but I guess that would change the more you play it”
A favorite hole for many at National is hole # 15 called the “Narrows.” Many believe it is the most beautiful on the course and it also features numerous bunkers. Others love the Par 4, 16th hole, called the “Punchbowl.” It too has quite an astonishing array of bunkers.
Maidstone has a collection of beautiful and difficult holes. I have played two charity events at Maidstone. My favorite at Maidstone is the par 3, 14th hole a 151-yard par 3 right off the ocean surrounded by bunkers. It is a dartboard green. However, our anonymous golfer disagrees, He said, “As for Maidstone, I would have to go with #9 that runs along the ocean with the tee box tucked away up in the dune.”
As for ambiance, my two charity events at Maidstone included a brunch on the porch of the ocean before the golf and a formal dining room dinner afterward. Both were most memorable. The ocean is right there.
Our anonymous golfer said this, “Having lunch at National is an experience in itself as soon as you sit down at your table a server in an old fashion red tuxedo drops a 1.25 lb. lobster on your plate. As far as halfway houses go, both (clubs) are classic but there is something so cool about eating ginger snaps dipped in peanut butter with the shadow of Shinnecock right behind you.”
The martinis served at Maidstone after my rounds there were needed because I spent most of the two rounds in tall grass searching for my ball. One of the times I asked my caddie about tics and he said this, ‘there are no tics at Maidstone, they are not allowed!”
In closing our anonymous golfer said this, “#18 at National is one of the best finishing holes there is. It is a Par 5 up the hill racing the sun. The best part is you know there is a National “south side” waiting for you on the patio. Each club prides themselves on their signature cocktail and they all have their own version of the south side. National has the best one around.”