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Strong Island: The abundance of top-rated courses on Long Island is staggering

May 31, 2018

As the staggering number of Metropolitan New York–area tracks in GOLF’s ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the U.S. demonstrates, there are few more concentrated places on Earth where world-class layouts abound.

Winged Foot and Westchester Country Club to the north of the city, and Baltusrol and Plainfield across the Hudson in Jersey have long been lauded as historic greats. But it’s out on slender, sandy Long Island where a trove of linksy legends reside, anchored on the East End by three courses — Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America, and precocious newbie Sebonack — that virtually touch each other, and a Hamptons neighbor, century-old Maidstone, with its own rich history.

Couple that quartet with the stunners closer to NYC (Bethpage Black among them) and one afloat in the Sound (Fishers Island), and you have the golf mecca of your dreams — if you know somebody. All but one of these glorious links is private. Hey, membership has its privileges.


Year founded: 1891

Architect: William Flynn (1931)

Top 100 in the U.S. rank: 4

Top 100 in the World rank: 6

Miles from NYC: 90

Events hosted: U.S. Open (1896, 1986, 1995, 2004, 2018, 2026), U.S. Amateur (1896), Women’s Amateur (1900), Walker Cup (1977)

Historical highlight: Shinnecock’s clubhouse is the oldest in the U.S., dating back to 1892.

One fun thing: Pioneer architect C.B. Macdonald, a founding member of Shinnecock, actually tried to buy the club, hoping to craft his dream layout over the existing course, but the members turned him down. So he built it next door — the National Golf Links of America.


Year founded: 1908

Architect: C.B. Macdonald

Top 100 in the US rank: 5

Top 100 in the World rank: 7

Miles from NYC: 90

Events hosted: Walker Cup (1922, 2013)

Historical highlight: Six of its 18 holes are modeled on renowned holes at St. Andrews, Sunningdale, North Berwick, Royal St. George’s and Prestwick.

One fun thing: Early member Dan Pomeroy, president of publishing colossus Condé Nast, suggested a windmill to replace a less attractive water tower. Macdonald agreed and the day after it was placed, Pomeroy found the bill for it in his locker.


Year founded: 2003

Architect: Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw

Top 100 in the US rank: 21

Top 100 in the World rank: 33

Miles from NYC: 80

Events hosted: Metropolitan Amateur Championship (2008), Stoddard Trophy matches (2011), The MGA Ike Championship (2015)

Historical highlight: The course is owned by 1997 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Ken Bakst.

One fun thing: The name Friar’s Head comes from a term used by 19th-century sailors to describe a bald dune with vegetation covering its slopes.


Year founded: 1936

Architect: A.W. Tillinghast

Top 100 in the US rank: 23

Top 100 in the World rank: 52

Miles from NYC: 38

Events hosted: U.S. Open (2002, 2009), The Barclays/Northern Trust (2012, 2016, 2021, 2027), PGA Championship (2019), Ryder Cup (2024)

Historical highlight: Black was the first publicly owned and operated course to host the U.S. Open (2002).

One fun thing: Bethpage State Park is home to five golf courses, making it the largest public golf facility in the country.


Year founded: 1891

Architect: John Park/Willie Park Jr.

Top 100 in the US rank: 35

Top 100 in the World rank: 70

Miles from NYC: 110

Historical highlight: According to Hamptons magazine, the great New England Hurricane of 1938 largely destroyed the course, but the clubhouse (already on its third iteration, rebuilt in 1924 after burning down twice in 1901 and 1922) survived and remains to this day.

One fun thing: The club’s summer program for juniors — known as “JA” — attracts loads of young participants every year. From June through August, kids four and up enjoy a circuit of golf, tennis, swimming and yoga with club instructors five days a week.


Year founded: 1992

Architect: Rees Jones Miles from NYC: 97

Events hosted: Metropolitan Open (1995), U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship (2010)

Historical highlight: Atlantic was founded as a membership option for Hamptonites unable to gain membership to the other ultra-exclusive clubs in the area.

One fun thing: Rees Jones’s original course routing was changed several times to accommodate the habitats of two endangered species: the northern harrier and the tiger salamander.


Year founded: 1899

Architect: Devereux Emmet/Walter Travis

Top 100 in the US rank: 26

Top 100 in the World rank: 56

Miles from NYC: 25

Events hosted: U.S. Open (1902), U.S. Amateur (1900, 1908, 1913, 1936), Walker Cup (1924)

Historical highlight: When the 18-hole course first debuted, it was the longest in the United States, at just over 6,000 yards.

One fun thing: Susan Lucci, who played Erica Kane in the soap All My Children, has lived in a house next to Garden City’s fourth hole since 1978.

One (not so) fun thing: The club is one of the few men’s-only memberships left in the U.S.


Year founded: 1913

Architect: C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor

Top 100 in the US rank: 69

Miles from NYC: 31

Historical highlight: This was the first course to employ a Macdonald/Raynor template “Biarritz” hole, with its gigantic putting green bisected by a vast, deep swale.

One fun thing: President and Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt was an honorary member.


Year founded: 1923

Architect: C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor

Top 100 in the US rank: 90

Miles from NYC: 33

Historical highlight: Vincent Astor, Marshall Field and J.P. Morgan were among the club’s ten founding members in 1923.

One fun thing: According to the New York Times, membership was originally restricted to 100 men. Women and children were eventually welcomed as members in 1934.


Year founded: 2006

Architect: Jack Nicklaus/Tom Doak

Top 100 in the US rank: 76

Miles from NYC: 90

Events hosted: U.S. Women’s Open (2013)

Historical highlight: Sebonack’s 300-acre parcel was originally sold at auction to Donald Trump, but when he later walked away from the deal, current owner Michael Pascucci bought the land in 2001 for the same price: $46 million. Pascucci then spent a reported $115 million building the course.

One fun thing: Course superintendent Garrett Bodington worked at Augusta National, Meadowbrook and Bethpage Black before landing at Sebonack.


Year founded: 1926

Architect: Seth Raynor

Top 100 in the US rank: 11

Top 100 in the World rank: 19

Miles from NYC: 140

Historical highlight: The planning team included Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., whose father designed New York City’s Central Park.

One fun thing: Though Fishers Island is technically located in New York, it’s closest to the Rhode Island coastline and most easily accessible via ferry service from Connecticut.