National Golf Links of America – Played July 2017
- Rankings: Golf Digest #11, Golf Magazine #8
- Location: 149 Sebonac Inlet Road, Southampton, New York
- Year: 1911
- Original Architect: C.B. Macdonald
- Additional Work By: Seth Raynor, Perry Maxwell, and Robert Trent Jones
- Course Access: Private
- Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available
Score Card Information:
- Championship: 6,935 yards, Par 72 , 73.9 Rating/136 Slope
- Regular: 6,505 yards, Par 72, 71.9 Rating/130 Slope (Men’s), 77.0 Rating/142 Slope (Women’s)
- Short: 5,771 yards, Par 72, 68.1 Rating/123 Slope (Men’s), 72.7 Rating/133 Slope (Women’s)
Some days on the golf course are just better than others. This was destined to be one of those days. To say I was excited as I was driving up to NGLA would be an understatement. My heart was racing as the clubhouse and iconic windmill below came into view.
There has been a ton written on the history of National, but I will hit the highlights. The club was started by C.B. Macdonald, widely know as one of the fathers of American golf. Due to his affluence and heritage he spent time in Scotland as a young man and learned a great deal about golf architecture. Upon returning from Scotland, he wanted something more out of American golf. So he created Chicago Golf Club and was instrumental in creating the USGA. What a run. For further reading, check out Bahto’s Scotland’s Gift: Golf and Evangelist of Golf: The Story of Charles Blair Macdonald.
He wanted more and decided to create a course that drew inspiration from the greats of the British Isles. He settled on the land where NGLA currently sits. He designed and constructed the course with the help of Seth Raynor. Talk about a duo! The course features many famous template holes and all are named. The course is a master class in strategy and course architecture. I am privileged to have played it, even with my feeble knowledge of architecture.
I got to play this magical place through the generosity of a good friend who has helped me along on my quest. We were paired up a great member who made us feel at ease. The area it pretty sweet with Shinnecock and Sebonack next door.
Once we got into the clubhouse, we changed our shoes in the locker room. It was quite understated as was the pro shop. This is a golf club first. I can’t wait, let’s get into it! All yardages are from the regular tees. Additionally, all the holes are named.
Hole 1 – 315 yards – Par 4 – Valley
The strategy and challenge starts on the first hole. If you go too far left you will likely lose a ball in high grass. If you go along the correct line you have numerous options on club selection. The carry on the left side is much longer than the right.
Decisions will be the theme of the day. A bold line is up the left with driver over the bunkers to get to the green. Shorter shots to the right are less difficult and should yield par.
I somehow didn’t get a picture of the hole’s namesake bunker, but it is a brute. I’ll chalk it up to being so distracted by the course :). The fairway slopes toward the green that is open in front for running shots. Long is the worst miss here for sure, trust me.
This one is a tough test. It plays long and uphill. The fairway moves to the right and the bunkers/tall grass are in play.
Redan is one of the most famous terms in golf. It is a brutal hole. You cannot miss left and expect any better than 4. The slope repels the ball from the green.
You get no rest on the fifth. The large cross bunker is the main obstacle on the tee shot. The slope will propel balls severely here.
This one is named Short, but it is not a pushover. The front is ringed with a large swath of sand. Some more is on the left.
Named after the Home of Golf, this is a tribute to the Road Hole. The tee shot it obscured by the topography. You have to carry a waste area.
I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the Bottle template. The options here are to take the straight tee shot or go up the left side. The left has bunkers, but a much better angle for the approach. Your tee shot crosses over the road here.
I didn’t get a shot of them, but there are some nasty bunkers that guard the center of the fairway. This angle from the left shows the slight elevation change up to the green. There is plenty of sand up there as well.
What’s in a name? Only the longest hole on the course. Plenty of sand is out there and the fairway plays narrower due to the sand just past the left side of the short grass.
The first hole on the back is named for NGLA’s famous neighbor Shinnecock Hills. You can see it from this hole, which is pretty cool. This hole needs your attention though as it is plenty challenging. The fairway is pretty wide, but hidden bunkers await.
The tee shot is blind here. The proper play is to avoid the left side. From this view a good line is over the worn spot in the long grass past the cart.
The fairway here is angled to the tee. Deep bunkers guard the left side and must be avoided at all costs.
This hole is tucked into one corner of the property with the trees behind framing the hole nicely. The water is the main hazard from the tee. Multiple bunkers also surround the green.
The hole here is a MacDonald original design. The tee shot plays over the water to a fairway moving right to left.
This tee shot earns the name of the hole. Bunkers pinch both sides of the fairway.
The fairway rises back up the hill with a large bunker to the right. The best tee shot is to get over the hill to the flat part of the fairway.
The 17th features on of the best views on the course. Once you get over that the hole has options. If you are a long hitter the green is in play. Shorter plays need to layup short of the fairway bunkers or carry them on the left side.
The left side of the fairway is the preferred angle as you get a good view of the green. The right side has a large sandy waste area that obscures the view of the green. It is crazy how close this green is to the front gate behind.
On the card this may look like an easy birdie opportunity, but the hole plays a lot longer in real life. The hole plays up the hill to the flag pole.
There is so much to say about this course. I truly don’t feel qualified to write about it from a beauty and golf architecture standpoint. Macdonald is a master. The challenges around this course are both obvious and subtle. The greens are spectacular and bring out plenty of creativity in golfers. When you pair this routing with the view and near constant challenge of the wind you are in for quite a day. Quite frankly this is one of the best days I have had on a golf course. World class to say the least.