Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
New York, United States of America

Tenth hole, 410 yards; Unlike Dunn’s work which included blind shots and quirky features like a crater green, Toomey & Flynn’s design generally provides the golfer with a good idea of what is expected from him on each hole. A noted exception is the tenth, which is situated across the most undulating part of the property. This rollacoaster hole is unconventional enough to where there is a fair amount of disagreement as to how it should be played. Some lay back off the tee for the sake of gaining a level lie for their approach shot, in which case they are 170 yards or so yards into the green. Others take a chance with the driver in hopes of reaching the bottom of the hill and having just a seventy yard uphill pitch. Because the visuals from the tee are unsettling and create indecision, this is a favorite hole of the author, though admittedly it is probably a better match play hole than a stroke one.

The horizon tenth green is perched on the side of the valley. An approach that spins too much can finish forty yards back in the fairway. Some argue the approach gets harder the shorter it becomes – and they might be right!

Eleventh hole, 160 yards; One of the game’s few great uphill one shotters. The three deep bunkers that run diagonally along the right side are the obvious trouble until…. the golfer goes long left and is looking at a chip shot that races away from him and back toward the tee. More double bogeys originate from over the green than from being short of it. The author remains in awe of Greg Norman’s par save from this position in the final round of the 1995 U.S. Open. As with the seventh, a miss in the bunkers short may leave the easiest possible up and down.

The small, tightly bunkered eleventh green is fully exposed to the elements, thanks to some recent tree and brush clearing.

A recovery shot from the tightly mown fairway over the eleventh green is as tough as it gets: a little too hard and the ball rolls off the front of the green. Too soft, and the ball is back at one’s feet.

Twelfth hole, 470 yards; Shinnecock’s superb rolling topography highlights the back nine. Thankfully, Toomey & Flynn resisted cluttering up the landscape with needless features and the end result is one of golf’s greatest nines. As is warranted bythe hole’slength, the bunkerless green is open in front and is one of the more inviting targets on the course. Thanks to Michaud’s firm playing conditions, golfers are once again having to judge how far short of the green (is it ten yards? twenty? thirty?) to land their downwind approach shots.

There is nothing forced or contrived about the golf at Shinnecock. As with many holes, the rolling twelfth fairway appears to have been draped over the land.

Fourteenth hole, 445 yards; An original hole, the twisting fairway weaves up its own valley to a narrow yet deep green. One imagines the delight of the architects when they first discovered this natural valley into which they could fit a hole.

A perfectly routed hole, the fourteenth wanders up its own natural valley. Note how ‘clean’ behind the green is – no artificial mounding aides in depth perception or acts as a backboard.

Fifteenth hole, 410 yards; The shortest two shotter on the back side has the most elevated, exposed tee on the property. As with the short two shotters at Prairie Dunes with their elevated tees, there is simply no place to hide from the wind.

With the prevailing wind at one’s back, the golfer hopes to reach the flat part of the fifteenth fairway near the solitary tree on the right.

However, judging the wind’s effect for the approach shot is tricky, as the fairway is sheltered from the winds above. Complicating matters, a) Toomey & Flynn didn’t provide for a run-up option on this modest length hole and stopping a wedge close to a forward hole location is far from easy and b) the rear of the green feeds away from the player.

Sixteenth hole, 540 yards; Toomey & Flynn concocted one of golf’s finest bunkering schemes with twenty of Shinnecock’s more than one hundred and fifty bunkers located on this hole alone. The result is numerous interesting playing angles with the golfer needing to concentrate on each shot, a rarity among most three shotters. Ever recall seeing a par five with as much blood smeared over it as this hole had during the 1995 Open?

The more cautious the tee ball (i.e. toward the left), the more this nest of bunkers must be carried on one’s second shot.

Even before Toomey & Flynn’s work, Shinnecock Hills’ influence on architecture was significant for several reasons. As a cornerstone club, plenty of architects visited the course and gained an appreciation as to what the new game of golf was meant to be about.For instance, Herbert Leeds came down from Boston to visit the course prior to beginning work on Myopia Hunt. David Raynor first exposed his son Seth to golf when he was asked to survey the Shinnecock site at Southampton. In addition, Willie Dunn’s positive reports back to the United Kingdom regarding the growth of the game in the States led to an influx of Scottish golf professionals, including his nephew John Duncan Dunn, who would quickly partner with Walter Travis in creating America’s first great eighteen hole design at Ekwanok Golf Club in Vermont in 1899.

In addition, from an architectural perspective, the firm of Toomey & Flynn were more than deserving in finally receiving a world class site upon which to work. As comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with their classic parkland courses,Toomey & Flynn built a natural course full of strategic merit that made the most of a unique opportunity at Shinnecock Hills.

The End