By Spencer Smith
Photos Courtesy of Sebonack Golf Club
Breathtaking Landscapes That Appear as if Manicured by Time.
As you drive through an unassuming gate off Sebonac Road I imagine one feels like Columbus as he gazed upon the shores of Newfoundland, preemptive excitement disorienting and delightful, a discovery of immense proportion at hand. Around the first bend in the winding road a glimpse into the surreal awaits, and the second foreshadows the most unspeakable beauty. As we traverse the gentle slope towards our destination, a fawn saunters across the fairway to our left and a clubhouse of ineffable elegance comes into view, towering over the Peconic Bay, exuding class of the highest measure, a massive American flag adjacent the structure waving in the cool wind. Our world has become just a little bit larger and a little more fascinating, for we have discovered an emerald of the deepest green; we have now arrived at Sebonack Golf Club.
Sebonack made quite an arrival quickly after opening in 2006, being named America’s best new course in 2008, and debuting at number 39 on America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses in 2009 (both by Golf Digest). Located in Southampton, NY where the golf is as good as it is old; Sebonack is the last and final piece of a golf course trifecta that would be hard to find anywhere else in the world, with Shinnecock Hills just southeast and National Golf Links of America sharing a border with the first hole and driving range. This is truly the quintessential Golf Mecca. All three courses have hosted USGA Championships, most recently The Walker Cup at NGLA and the U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack, its first Major Championship.
At the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open, Inbee Park made history winning her third consecutive Major Championship, a rare feat among even the greatest and most prodigious golfers. The golf course, which played much slower than anticipated due to rain and the projection of high winds, proved quite a test with only three players finishing under par, begging the question, ‘How would Sebonack fair against the long drives and impressive short games of the top male players?’ With the warm embrace that has become ubiquitous within the golf world, it seems that a Men’s Championship at Sebonack, amateur or professional, is inevitable, assuming that is the desire of the club.
But what is it about the golf course that makes its worthy of a championship? In my experience, the shear beauty of the location often masks the brilliance of the design, so it takes a seasoned individual to dissect the mystique of this Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak collaboration. There are two parts of the course in particular that are responsible for its incredible presence, the first being the greens. These structures are most indelible, each unique in its shape and size; the blend between subtlety and severity is fantastic, providing the player with many options both on and around them. Nearly every green is surrounded in large by closely mown fairway grass to allow the player choice in shot selection, from the putt to the high lob. But before one can challenge the green he must navigate the fairway and greenside bunkers, which in some instances leave the golfer staring a massive wall of sand that seems to engulf their entire being; escape is good, but avoidance is better. Every fairway demands a specific line and shot type, but they are generous in area, so the bunkers are more penal as a result.
What is there not to love about Sebonack Golf Club? Surely the course has proven itself, but apart from that, it is the ambiance and atmosphere that separates Sebonack from the normal. There is incredible attention to detail in every aspect of its existence, from the smallest piece of décor, to the invitation of members. Sebonack Golf Club is the epitome of class; it transcends us all, and we can only stand in awe of its ultra-refinement, a refinement embellished by simplicity, elegance, and the ethereal.