A Detailed Guide to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Try and find a golf course in America that is as difficult and demanding yet so charming and exclusive as Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Or you can save yourself some time and not bother because it’s not going to be possible.
If you are looking for a detailed page on a course that has hosted some of the most memorable U.S Opens ever played, stop right here and look no further.
Our team of golf experts brings to you an all-inclusive guide that tells you everything you could possibly want to know about the fourth-ranked golf course in America, according to the 2017/2018 Golf Digest rankings.
From the very beginning when Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was first opened to what we can expect when the U.S. Open returns in 2026, we are going to break down everything about the renowned course located on the shores of Suffolk County.
The blazing-fast greens will be unveiled in an elaborate section where we depict the nearly 7,000-yard par-70 golf course, uncovering all the hidden elements that make this place so treacherous.
We will, of course, discuss the historic U.S. Opens and other USGA Championships that have been contested at the track over the years. This will help bring to light why Shinnecock Hills G.C. has become so acclaimed in the golf community.
There are few places in the United States as luxurious and sought-after as Southampton, New York. It’s only fitting that we finish by giving you some tips and advice on traveling to the upper-class town in the South Fork of Long Island.
As problematic as the course can be for even the best players in the world, you may be better off in your seat reading this article, as opposed to losing golf balls and getting frustrated out on the course. However, no words, pictures, or stories can actually replace playing Shinnecock should you ever get that privilege and opportunity.
In the event you never get that chance, engulfing yourself in this guide may be the next best thing.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club – Key Facts
- Southampton, NY
- Year Opened
- Owner/Operated by
- Private Equity/Groups
- Course Designer
- Willie Davis (1891), Willie Dunn (1894), C.B. MacDonald and Seth Raynor (1901), William Flynn (1937)
- 7,445 yards (2018 U.S. Open)
- Host to
- United States Open (1896, 1986, 1995, 2004, 2018, 2026), 1896 U.S. Amateur, 1977 Walker Cup
The Roots of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
We might as well go back to the beginning so that you can fully grasp the concept behind Shinnecock Hills being one of the premier golf courses in not just the US but anywhere in the world. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was a pioneer in the industry for a variety of reasons.
For starters, having opened in 1891, it is widely regarded as the oldest golf club in the country, including having the first constructed clubhouse in 1892. You can appreciate that in a world where rich, powerful men dominated the legislature, Shinnecock was the first club to allow women, which they did from the start.
The reason Shinnecock Hills even exists is thanks to a chance meeting on a trip taken by a few men hoping to build a golf course. Edward Meade, William Vanderbilt, and Duncan Cryder ran into Willie Dunn in southern France and exchanged some ideas.
When the three men got back home, they immediately started searching for land near the outskirts of New York City that would be suitable to build a golf course. After finding 80 acres of sandy beach in Southampton for sale for $2,500, the men went to work!
They hired Willie Davis, who built the first 12 holes before Willie Dunn came aboard three years later in 1894 to finish the remaining 6 holes.
The timing was perfect because by December 22 of that year, the United States Golf Association (USGA) was formed, with Shinnecock Hills as one of the five original connected clubs.
We’ll tell you about how it hosted the second-ever U.S. Open in 1896, but that will come in a later segment. We first need to illustrate the golf course and explain why it is so tricky and challenging, no matter how good you are.
Describing the Brutal Layout
So far, we told you that 18 holes were completed by Willie Dunn and Willie Davis by 1894. Believe it or not, when the 1896 U.S. Open was contested, Shinnecock played less than 5,000 yards from the tips.
In order to make it more difficult, Charles B. MacDonald and Seth Raynor were brought in to consult in 1901. The advice and opinions from the legendary course designers turned out to be a complete “redo” of 13 of the original 18 holes.
When Massachusetts native and decorated course architect William Flynn came to the sandy property in 1937, he headed another makeover, again deciding to redesign 13 of the 18 holes. The result was a 6,740-yard golf course that was an extremely stiff test, especially given the lack of equipment back then.
By the 2004 U.S. Open, the USGA had added new tee boxes to the point that Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was now stretched out to a shade under 7,000. Wait until you see what they did for the return of the U.S. Open in 2018, because they tacked on another 450 or so yards to that!
Let’s now dive a little deeper into the particulars that make this place so hard.
An Incredibly Tough Test of Golf
When you think about Shinnecock Hills, the first thing that comes to mind is how severe it has played during the U.S. Opens that have been held here. The USGA has the ability to turn ordinary holes and make them seem impossible, so imagine what they can do on a layout like Shinnecock Hills!
Take the 14th hole, for example, perennially ranked as one of golf’s 50 greatest holes in America. How would you like to play a par 4 that measures 519 yards? Oh yeah – it’s really narrow, the front of the green is protected by deep bunkers, and the green speed is off the charts. Other than that, the hole nicknamed “Thom’s Elbow” isn’t too tough!
If you are lucky to get out of the gates on the first hole with a par, good luck trying to make one on no. 2. The 253-yard par three is uphill and is also well-guarded by sand traps. If tour pros don’t mind gripping down on a 3-wood or smashing a hybrid on par 3s, then they won’t mind the second hole at Shinnecock Hills.
They’ll have to keep their heads in the game because it doesn’t get much easier on the next hole, and unfortunately, there is really no let-up the entire way around.
We are talking about quite possibly the finest collection of par-3s anywhere, not to mention a few other gems like the 9th and 10th holes.
Talk about two unbelievable par 4s back to back; the 8th and 9th at Pebble Beach is probably the only pair of consecutive par 4s that can even hold a candle to these beauties. Speaking of beauties, take a peek at the par 3s, because that’s exactly what they are.
Par 3s at Shinnecock
We already mentioned the first par three, and if you can make a par there, you have gained some serious ground on the field. The next par three on the course comes at no. 7, the famous “redan hole.” It might just be the signature hole of all 18 at Shinnecock.
Depending on where they put the pin, figure that the 7th plays around 190 yards. With little wind, that’s choke-down 6 or a big 7-iron for most tour players. However, the problems start when the player approaches the green.
A redan hole simply means that the green runs away from the players from front to back. This makes chipping and putting to certain pin placements close to impossible. If you don’t have a soft pair of hands and a deft touch with the flat stick, good luck surviving the 7th.
At just 158 yards on the scorecard, the 11th seems harmless to the naked eye. Once you take into the account that the shot is uphill, plays into a prevailing wind that swirls all directions, and the green is like the top of a lunchroom table, you will understand why so many players struggle with the shortish hole.
Finally, the 17th hole at Shinnecock, named “Eden,” is another gorgeous par 3 that won’t be easy as players are winding down their rounds.
Some sort of mid-to-short iron will be used on the 179-yard hole, but this won’t be an easy place to pick up a birdie. During the final round of the 2004 U.S. Open, 5 birdies compared to 8 double bogeys were recorded at the 17th.
If you want to find out more regarding how and why the course baffles so many players when they show up for the United States Open, just keep on reading.
Hosting the U.S. Open
Four U.S. Opens have been played at Shinnecock Hills, with two more on tap for now. If you are a U.S. Open historian or just a big golf buff, we have a prepared catalog on all things U.S. Open waiting for you to check out.
We alluded to the second U.S. Open in 1896 being played at Shinnecock Hills, but we didn’t mention that Scottish-American James Foulis was the victorious golfer by three shots over Horace Rawlins. Back then, the tournament only lasted 36 holes as Foulis compiled rounds of 78 and 74 to win the title.
Not only has the number of holes played been increased, but so has the purse. We can tell you that Foulis received $150 of the $335 total purse. Wait until you get down to the part where we discuss the 2018 U.S. Open, and you’ll see how much things have changed.
It took quite a while, but some 90 years later, the USGA returned to Shinnecock Hills to host a U.S. Open. This was the start of hosting three U.S. Opens at the location in nine-year gaps, as you will see below.
By now, the winner was taking home a hefty $115,000, a far cry from the $150 the previous U.S. Open winner at Shinnecock was awarded.
Hall of Famer Raymond Floyd was the recipient of the first-place check after firing a brilliant final-round 66 to leapfrog a handful of players and claim the trophy. The only man to complete 72 holes under par posted a total of one-under-par 279 to win by two shots.
This would be Floyd’s fourth and final Major after he had won a pair of PGA Championships and the 1976 Masters.
Perhaps the tournament is known just as much for Greg Norman’s collapse as it was for Ray Floyd’s masterful performance. Floyd was overshadowed by Norman, who dominated the headlines that year after leading all four Majors going into the final round, only to go on and win one (the ’86 British Open).
The 1995 U.S. Open is where the entire golf world started to understand just how tough Shinnecock Hills Golf Club plays during a U.S. Open. Just ask Corey Pavin, who won his only Major Championship here in 1995 shooting even par for four days, enough to fend off “the Shark,” depriving Norman of another chance at winning a U.S. Open Trophy at Shinnecock.
Most remember this tournament for the unforgettable 4-wood on the 72nd hole struck by Pavin en route to winning the Championship.
It’s a good thing men and women have this positive lasting image from a U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, because the next time it returned nine years later, the lasting imprints would be much more negative.
Let’s get the facts out of the way. South African-born Retief Goosen won the tournament after he and Phil Mickelson were the only two competitors to finish the tournament in the red (under par).
What took over as the talk of the tournament was that the USGA “lost the golf” course during the final round, allowing play to get completely out of hand.
What we mean is that the day had perfect weather and the best golfers in the world, and the scoring average was nearly 78.73. The par-4 10th hole actually played to an average of 5.03, more than a full stroke over par.
The USGA received their fair share of criticism. The director of the USGA at the time, David Fay, went on to admit to golfweek.com,
“It was not what we intended. We went over the edge.”
The green of the 7th hole was so out of control that players had difficulty even marking their ball or getting it to stay still. The rules officials even had to water the green in between groups just to give the participants a chance. Forget about green – by now, the color and texture of the putting surfaces were brown and completely baked out.
Hats off to Retief Goosen for being the last man standing, but this tournament got ugly Sunday afternoon. The USGA has kept this in mind while creating future setups to make sure something so appalling doesn’t occur again.
The 2018 U.S. Open is going to be played at Shinnecock Hills, and we’re not even going to attempt to squeeze in everything you need to know about it in a few short paragraphs. That wouldn’t be fair, and quite frankly, it would just be incomplete.
Do yourself a favor and click the button above. Don’t miss out on anything that could help you spot which golfers to target when betting the tournament. We’ll tell you everything about the exact setup, including the more than 450 yards that were added since the last U.S. Open here in 2004.
Please indulge yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Come on, ladies and gentlemen. It’s clearly way too early to break down a tournament that is this far away. A lot can change in the world of golf by then. There is even talk about making changes to the equipment, perhaps slowing down the technology of the golf ball.
Jack Nicklaus has been very vocal in his thoughts about the need to “slow down the golf ball,” even going as far as saying he would assist in the USGA.
“I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.”
Only time will tell as to what rule changes will be implemented by the time the 2026 U.S Open is on deck.
Other USGA Competitions Held at Shinnecock Hills
We wanted to make sure we pointed out that the United States Open isn’t the only USGA event that has been played at the William Flynn-designed golf club in the southeastern corner of Long Island.
The area might be more known as a place for New York socialites to escape to on the weekends, but it’s also been the host of a United States Amateur and a Walker Cup.
1896 U.S. Amateur
The 1896 U.S. Amateur was held at Shinnecock Hills and was won by a Scottish writer by the name of Henry James Whigham. He also finished 5th in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills that same summer.
Not too shabby for a 26-year-old kid who made his living as the editor-in-chief of Town & Country magazine.
1977 Walker Cup
In 1977, the USGA utilized the golf club in Southampton as the host site of the Walker Cup, which is essentially the Ryder Cup of amateur golf. The United States team doubled up the Great Britain and Ireland squad 16-8, winning in a decisive manner.
Current chairman of Augusta National G.C. Fred Ridley won both of his singles matches as a member of that 1977 winning American team.
The Pleasure That Is Southampton, New York
We aren’t going to beat around the bush. Southampton, New York, is not a place that everyone will get to experience during their lifetime. It is part of the Suffolk County shoreline known as the Hamptons, and the real estate isn’t cheap.
Just 6 miles from Shinnecock Hills is the Henry Ford Estate, located at 90 Jule Pond Drive.
Even closer to the golf course is a 150-million-dollar property that comes with 21 bathrooms and 700+ feet of direct oceanfront views.
If you happen to travel to the 2018 U.S. Open or are preparing to get there in time for the 2026 U.S. Open, it might be worth your time taking a gander at these unfathomable mansions.
We’ll venture to guess that you won’t be purchasing one anytime soon, so perusing them from the outside is your next-best option.
There is a reason this elegant town is situated a good 75-80 miles outside of the city. The hustle and bustle of NYC are exactly what the part-time residents of Southampton are trying to escape from.
If you have never been to a U.S. Open before, do everything you can to make it to one at Shinnecock Hills. Just make sure you bring a padded wallet and a camera, because you will need both to get through the trip.
There are a few reasonably-priced hotels nearby should you be one of the patrons at a USGA event. Just make sure to reserve a room ahead of time and plan accordingly. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck making the two-hour commute back and forth from the Big Apple.
Although, if you are blessed with an invitation to tee it up on the hallowed grounds, we don’t care if you have to drive four hours or spend $350 on a hotel room. Don’t pass up the opportunity!
You don’t have to be a golf course guru or even a fan of the sport to appreciate Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. We haven’t found a single person that wouldn’t mind spending a couple days on the beaches of Southampton, NY, basking in the warm June sun.
If you get a chance to go to a U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, it will be something you remember forever. It’s not just about how beautiful the property and surrounding landscape is; it’s about how much tradition is steeped into the golf club.
We revealed that when it opened in 1891, it was the first formal golf club in America. It was also one of the five founding courses that was associated with the start of the USGA. No doubt, the history is there. As for the difficulty?
The intricate humps and bumps around the fairways and greens combined with the speed of the putting surfaces make this track no bargain. Trying to hole putts is like trying to putt on a sheet of glass while landing the ball in a thimble.
The complexity of Shinnecock Hills is part of the reason golf fans crave watching it on television. Seeing the top players on the planet struggle reminds them that golf really is a hard game.
We highlighted each of the times the USGA has come to Shinnecock to host an event, most notably the U.S. Opens. Whether it was Corey Pavin running up the 72nd fairway with his arms raised in the air or Retief Goosen running hotter than the sun coming down the stretch in ’04, we have seen some incredible moments at Shinnecock Hills.
We suggest heading to Southampton and creating some lasting memories for yourself!