If you’re a fan of golf, or enjoy playing the game, either way, this week should be one of your highlights for the 2018 calendar year.
It’s U.S. Open week, and it begins Thursday and ends Sunday — Father’s Day — the traditional final round that inextricably links fathers and sons, fathers and daughters and families.
This year, the National Championship of the United States will be played at one of its historic sites — Shinnecock Hills Golf Club — well out toward the east end of Long Island in Southampton, N.Y.
Long Island has been a hotbed of great golf courses, great golfers and great championships since the game was introduced to America in the late 1800s.
Shinnecock Hills, founded in 1891, was one of the original five founding member clubs of the United States Golf Association in 1895, and a year later hosted the U.S. Open in its second year of existence.
As it became part of its rich history, the Open traveled around the country, being hosted by some of the great golf clubs designed through the 20th century.
Interestingly, it would be nearly 90 years (89 in fact) before the Open returned to Shinnecock and Long Island — perhaps because of the transportation difficulty of having thousands of golf fans going out to the east end of the island — in the1986 Open with Raymond Floyd winning. Nine years later, it was Corey Pavin who captured the national title at Shinnecock.
Another eight years passed, and in 2004 Shinnecock hosted its fourth U.S. Open with South African Retief Goosen leaving with the prestigious trophy.
Fourteen years later, the links style Shinnecock layout will test the best golfers in the world, and I can’t wait to see how they fare.
For much of my professional career, I have been fortunate to be around the game of golf, and blessed with opportunities to play some of America’s top courses.
In 2001, just three weeks removed from the 9/11 attack, I flew into LaGuardia airport to spend a week working on two book projects for the publishing company I worked for in Chelsea, Mich. — Sleeping Bear Press.
They were two projects that would provide me one of the best and productive weeks a golfer could experience, including a round of golf at Shinnecock and a few days later at its neighbor, the National Golf Links of America, which borders Shinnecock with spectacular views across the landscape.
One of the books of which I was serving as the editor was titled “America’s Linksland: A Century of Long Island Golf.” Written by Metropolitan Golf Association historian William Quirin, the book covers 100 years of golf on the Island. For any golf aficionado, a trip to the Island for golf should be on your bucket list.
Shinnecock’s golf course is a masterpiece, originally designed as a 12-hole layout by Willie Davis, and expanded to 18 holes in 1895. Four times, the layout was revised with renowned architect William Flynn (think Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver) doing the present course in 1931. Legendary building architect Stanford White designed the existing clubhouse, looking much as it did in the 1890s.
Some things are just meant not to be changed.
The natural topography of Shinnecock resembles a number of courses in the British Isles. Golfers will find rolling hills, uneven lies, elevated greens and spectacular bunkering, among the many challenges offered. The wind can blow in the open spaces of the layout.
The book on Long Island’s golf history was published in 2002, the year the Open was conducted at another legendary course in the area — Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, designed by another early noted architect, A.W. Tillinghast. My golf holiday, at least one way of looking at it, also consisted of playing the Black Course, one mighty tough challenge.
Shinnecock’s next door neighbor, The National Golf Links, is perhaps my favorite architectural course I’ve played. Designed by Charles Blair Macdonald, the National is the Cadillac of design and has been studied by every major golf architect of the past century. That book, published a few months later, was titled "The Evangelist of Golf: Golf Courses of Charles Blair Macdonald." The two books are among my favorites for golf history.
How can you explain the greatness of a golf course? My criteria is that a great course challenges the best players in the world, yet can be enjoyed by the every day double-digit handicapper. You always want to come back for more.
I am a collector of sorts of golf memorabilia, scorecards being one of them, so I recently found the two from Shinnecock and National Golf Links. National played to a par of 73, and I somehow managed a respectable 79 that day in late September of 2001. I followed with an 80 on the par-70 Shinnecock layout a few days later.
Many of the historic clubs have names for each hole, and at the National, there is the par-3 fourth, which plays as short as 159 yards and as long as 195 yards. Named for a famous hole at North Berwick in Scotland, a Redan design provides the golfer a green target that slopes from front right to back left, away from the teeing ground. Protected by a large sand bunker to the left of the green, the hole plays considerably difficult.
Shinnecock also will provide the golfers with a Redan par-3, the 189-yard 7th. On my two rounds at the courses, I managed a par at National and made bogey at Shinnecock.
So if you’re a lover of history, and in this case golf history, enjoy the four days of watching the world’s best men’s golfers battle the challenge of Shinnecock. It’s a true gem and worthy of hosting our national championship.
It’s a far better experience than watching the event at some of the recent host sites such as Chambers Bay, Wash., and Erin Hills, Wis. It’s nice to see a return to one of golf’s historic clubs.
Contact Brett Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org