Shinnecock Hills Golf Club - Course Guide
Golf’s Holy Grail – a genius course
While many great golf courses in the United States claim to be best in the world for beauty or playability, they can often fall short a little on history – especially when compared to their British counterparts.
Not so Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island in New York.
This private club was established as far back as 1891 and is a founding member of the United States Golf Association. The clubhouse, built a year later, is believed to be the oldest golf clubhouse in the U.S.
Frequently listed as one of the greatest courses on the planet, Shinnecock staged its first U.S. Open in the 19th century and has played host four more times in the modern era. The tournament is due to return there once more in 2026.
Built on linksland, the original design from Willie Davis featured just 12 holes and a nine-hole ladies-only course – the first of its type – was added in 1893.
British golfer Willie Dunn, who would finish runner-up in the 1895 U.S. Open, added six more holes in 1895 to bring the men’s course up to the full 18.
Further restorations were carried out by C.B. MacDonald in 1901 and William Flynn in 1931, the latter’s extensive redesign taking the course to 6,740 yards.
That was extended to 7,400 when Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were hired to bring Flynn’s design back to life ahead of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock.
As for the club’s emblem which depicts a Native American chief, that’s to honor members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation who helped build the course which sits on land they claimed was taken illegally from them by settlers in the area in 1859.
Built on sandhills next to the Long Island Rail Road just east of Shinnecock Canal, the course is regarded as a brutal test. Golfworld described it as:
…a setup that tests the cerebral and emotional parts of the game, especially when kissed by the wind.
If that sounds familiar to golfers on the other side of the Atlantic, the official website notes:
Shinnecock is laid out utilizing the natural topography of the Shinnecock Hills, and resembles a number of the courses on the British Isles.
There is very little let-up, with one hard hole being followed by another which can lead to streaks of poor scoring. Every part of the game is tested with drives requiring accuracy and iron shots needing to be precise to find and hold the greens. A little like Pinehurst No.2, the putting surfaces have run-off areas, allowing for creativity and variety in the short game.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club Fast Facts
Yardage: 7,440 yards
Designers: Willie Davis (1891), Willie Dunn (1895), C.B MacDonald (1901), William Flynn (1931)
Shinnecock Hills course record: 63 Tommy Fleetwood (2018 U.S. Open)
Past Major Tournaments at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
2018 U.S. Open
Brooks Koepka had cruised to victory in the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills by tying the record low score of 16-under. But here he showed his ability to dig deep by producing a winning score of 1-over to edge out England’s Tommy Fleetwood by a shot and become the first back-to-back winner of the event since Curtis Strange in 1989. Fleetwood’s final-round 63 broke the long-standing course record of 65.
2004 U.S. Open
Controversy reigned as USGA officials needed to water the baked greens during the final round to stop balls rolling off them. Many said conditions were unplayable and for the first time since 1963 no player shot under par in round four. South African Retief Goosen was last man standing as a remarkable 11 one-putts in a closing 1-over 71 gave him a second U.S. Open, his 4-under total beating Phil Mickelson by two.
1995 U.S. Open
In a tournament marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Open, home hero Corey Pavin fired a total of even-par 280 to hold off Greg Norman by two shots. Neal Lancaster shot a record 29 on the back nine while this was Tiger Woods’ first U.S. Open although he withdrew during round two with a wrist injury.
1986 U.S. Open
Three-time major winner Raymond Floyd added a fourth to his collection as Americans occupied 10 of the top 11 places. Floyd’s closing 66 gave him a total of 1-under 279, leaving him two clear of compatriots Chip Beck and Lanny Wadkins.
1896 U.S. Open
In just the second ever U.S. Open, Scotland’s James Foulis won his first and only major. Contested over 36 holes and featuring just 35 entrants, the course measured a mere 4,423 yards. Foulis fired 78-74 to win by three strokes from England’s Horace Rawlins, winning $150 for first prize.
Par 3, 252 yards: Not only is it long, it’s uphill too although players can bounce their tee-shot onto the putting surface. Next task is to avoid a three-putt.
Par 4, 491 yards: The front nine’s signature hole. A blind tee shot adds to the difficulty and the brave will drive down the right side to get a better angle on approach.
Par 3, 159 yards: Short in yardage but the green is devilishly hard to hit due to the swirling wind and some describe it as “the world’s shortest par 5” given the amount of double bogeys.
Par 4, 519 yards: Named Thom’s Elbow, in honor of Charlie Tom, the head pro for more than 50 years, this is the longest and most intimidating par 4 on the course. An elevated tee makes it look even longer and drives and approach shots must be accurate. Wind is a factor too.
Shinnecock Hills – What Famous Players Say
Rob Bolton (after the Coore-Crenshaw redesign):
The result is nothing short of postcard-caliber beauty… we’re going to fall back in love with this gem. Natural terrain with fairways 15 yards wider and framed by four-inch rough, as well as targets defended by yawning bunkers will remind us that all that was once good can be again. With the variety of the par 3s, the absence of parallel holes and the starkness of its location, you’ll want to reach for a sepia setting on your HDTV.
Golf’s Holy Grail – a genius course.
I love the golf course. You can exercise all the colors of your talents.
This is one of my favourite courses. All areas of your game are tested.
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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at SkySports.com and Golf365.com and has been writing betting previews for the PGA Tour and European Tour since 1997. He has also written for a range of betting companies, including William Hill and Betfair, as well as being a regular columnist for Rotoworld, The Guardian, Sporting Life and Planet Sport. His other area of speciality is football while he's also covered cricket and tennis.