A few days ago I slipped out to Sebonack Golf Club, the new-money newcomer in swanky East Hampton, N.Y. A Jack Nicklaus-Tom Doak production, Sebonack buffers the old-money National Golf Links of America, and just last week was awarded the 2013 U.S Women’s Open.
The course is spectacular and rugged, tough and fun. And while credit must go to its designers, the bay views are so abundant and the rolling topography so rousing that I’m pretty sure my mom could have built a good track there. Actually, it’s hard to believe that a developer didn’t pounce on the land sooner than Mike Pascucci, a former car-leasing magnate (who needs dot.comers?) who reportedly paid about $45 million for the site and another $75 million for parts and labor.
Memberships are no bargain — $650,000 will get you in the door — and my host for the day told me Pascucci isn’t inclined to accept just any old hedge fund manager or energy drink czar. “Serious golfers only,” he stressed. That’ll require patience from Pascucci, but given he sold his company for $700 million in stock in 1997, the man can afford to be picky. (Pascucci also owns WLNY, a local TV station on Long Island).
I’m no architecture buff, and other than the topsy-turvy greens — a Doak trademark — I couldn’t separate one designer’s fingerprints from the others. But the holes do offer tons of variety and intrigue and even a little forgiveness — after hooking my drive on the par-5 18th into the Great Peconic Bay, I re-loaded and, thanks to a 25-mph tailwind, got my short-knocking self home in two. I then promptly four-putted for an 8.
A clubhouse the size of a cruise ship just opened on the property’s high point, and what the behemoth steals from the site’s natural splendor, it returns in splendid views. Behind an unmarked door on the second floor, a spiral staircase leads to the roof, from which you can take in the deep blue bay, much of the course, the 18th green and comparative “cottage” of a clubhouse at neighboring National and due south the iconic shingled clubhouse at Shinnecock Hills.
It’s a striking confluence of new and old on some of the most sacred land in all of golf. But mostly the scenery just made me wish I had more money — new, old or anything in between.