Sebonack Golf Club opened its tees for play in May 2006 and is the result of collaboration between Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus. Sebonack is carved through 300 prime acres of ultra-exclusive terrain in the Hamptons area of Southampton, New York. The club is located next to both the National Golf Links of America and Shinnecock Hills in Southampton. Sebonack is located nearer to Peconic Bay than Shinnecock, immediately to the west of The National.
Sebonack is an old native American Indian word that roughly translates into “golf club for the filthy rich.” The Indians were very prescient in their naming of this land, which seems like it was always destined to be a golf course. It has the perfect sandy soil for golf with gorgeous views overlooking the bay.
The price of entry into Sebonack Golf Club is a tad high. There is a $650,000 initiation fee and membership is by invitation only. Similar to The National Golf Links, Sebonack has “founding” members. These ten gentleman shelled out $1 million each for the privilege and can nominate and sponsor new members. The total net-worth of the ten founders combined exceeds the gross domestic product of many countries. Sebonack will probably be the first golf club not only ranked in the top 100 golf courses in the world, but also as a stand-alone entity will rank in the World Bank top 100 GDP rankings. If it were a sovereign state, it would rank near Mozambique.
Doak and Nicklaus collaborated on the construction and you can probably feel a little more of the Doak influence than the Nicklaus. The greens are undulating, in the extreme at times, and approach shots are almost always to a green with a false front which means you have to get all the way to the pin if you want to get onto the short stuff. This seems to be one of the features of many of the courses around these parts and it really marks them apart from a UK links type course. In the UK the ball will often run up around or onto a green. Here you really need to land it up there to stay, the aerial route therefore being the preferred option. That probably makes the course play a little longer than a UK equivalent of the same yardage.
Throughout the round there are a number of standout moments, including the short par four opening hole and the majestic three-shot closer, which occupy the open dune ground and rather unconventionally head toward the same area. Enhanced by classically handsome bunker shapes, the 2nd is the first real fearsome test, its tee shot played through a pair of stately elm trees and its approach uphill into a nasty, pimple green that features a large frontal hump to torment golfers taking the aerial route. The 3rd green is again elevated and equally severe on those unable to throw their ball beyond its steep false front. Most of the remaining holes are among the forested section, with outward half highlights including the downhill par three 4th and the driveable 5th and par five 9th, both bunkered to entice bigger hitters to attack.
The final nine starts with a couple of exciting par fours, the 10th ( 383 yards from the black) rising into a tightly contoured green atop a ridge and the 11th falling across a crest and then staring straight down toward the bay. Also enjoying a superb water backdrop, the par three 12th is a great hole with its small putting surface set attractively on a natural spur. Other highpoints include the finishing work on the 14th and the greenside shaping on the par five 15th, its cascading target cut into a shallow dune and framed by sprawling sand traps. Hopping along the shoreline, the 18th completes a terrific collection of long holes and provides a fitting end to a magnificent day’s golf. Aside from uninterrupted views across the bay, the hole is noted for beautiful bunkers that pinch its landing zones and a fascinating green site built with a sunken front section, an upper tier and a cool central ridge.
Signature Hole: 18th Hole – 570 Yard Par 5 – The founder of Sebonack, Michael Pascucci, insisted on a par five finishing hole even though both architects wanted a long par four. After months of battling it over, the owner got his wish and Sebonack finishes with a chance to score birdie rather than scrambling to get a par. The result is a fantastic hole that runs along the coastline and provides some of the most stunning views on the course.
Most difficult hole: 11th Hole – 496 Yard Par 4 – This brutal par four is a dogleg left that plays uphill off the tee and then well downhill to the green site. At nearly 500 yards (466 yards from the black) it is clearly a difficult par four, but playing downhill to the green is where the trouble can really start since the firm, fast conditions rarely hold an approach shot that flies all the way to the green, while the elevation change and wind direction causes additional havoc. Note that the view from the top of the fairway is perhaps the most dramatic of any at Sebonack. Here’s a hole that has it all: trees, dunes, dramatic long views of Great Peconic Bay and, for the first time, the chance of hitting a wayward shot onto the beach.