When I left New York City after my last golf trip to the area, I would have laughed at you if you told me I’d be back four weeks later. But, as fate would have it, I was back in the Hamptons again one month later to play Maidstone Club. This second visit was with my golf buddy Tim, who journeyed over from Edinburgh, Scotland. Our original plan was to spend a weekend in the Philadelphia area, but once rounds started to fall through due to green aeration schedules, we expanded our phone calls to New York. In the end, we played a tremendous round at Merion and then hopped in the car and drove to East Hampton for Maidstone!
We arrived in East Hampton and met our generous host, who put us up for the night in his home. We woke up the next morning and drove to Maidstone, where we had a coffee and muffin in the classic locker room. The entire club exudes that “you are in a very special place” feeling. Maidstone also made history by leaping into the PowerShower Rankings tied for second place with a rating of 8.0. If that isn’t bragging rights, I don’t know what is!
The club was founded in 1891 and the course design has been influenced by some of the best. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, Willie Dunn laid out an original 7-hole course in 1894, which was redesigned in 1924 by Willie Park, Jr. and his brother Jack. That is the course we know today as Maidstone West (there is also a 9-hole course), and Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore renovated it in 2012. The goal of the renovation was to “unclutter” the course and restore the linksy strategic layout the Park brothers originally built.
Instead of going into details about the renovation here, I will weave highlights throughout the hole-by-hole section below. The renovated green complexes on the course particularly stood out as special, so note them below. The Coore & Crenshaw influence is also evident in the bunkering, and I loved areas where the greens spilled into bunkers. If you are interested in seeing more detail about the renovation, check out this page on the Maidstone Club website. Kudos to the very private club for sharing information about the renovation.
I naturally entered the round wanting to compare it with Shinnecock and National Golf Links of America, both of which I had played four weeks earlier. I left the round realizing that a direct comparison wasn’t the correct approach. Each course has a different vibe and design ethos to offer. Maidstone’s vibe is a great balance of playability and challenge. Short holes are mixed with longer holes, and the moment you discount a short hole as easy, you stare down a putt for double bogey.
Maidstone offers more of the holistic “club” side of things compared to the other two, which are “golf clubs” in the traditional sense of the phrase. Maidstone has a beach club, tennis facilities, and pool, which you won’t find at Shinnecock or NGLA.
Hole #1 – 362 yards – I disagree with those who say that the opening hole is weak at Maidstone. The fairway is wide open, but placement is important to have a good angle into the large, raised green.
Hole #2 – 509 yards – This is the only par 5 on the front nine, and it is reachable for longer hitters. The green is modeled off of the Road Hole at St Andrews and even though the bunker is larger and shallower than the Road Hole Bunker, the similarities are obvious.
Hole #4 – 162 yards – This green was expanded during the renovation and in the second photo below, you can see some of the beautiful bunker work on the course. There was also a new tee added at 250 yards, but 170 was plenty of par 3 into the wind!
Hole #6 – 393 yards – The 6th starts a stretch of holes that can stand with nearly any other course in the country. A few, including the 6th, are short, but shot placement is key to create the best angles into the tough greens. Don’t equate short and easy.
Hole #7 – 312 yards – This par 4 green is out on the peninsula you see on the right. A waste area runs down the left, so aim center fairway here with a long iron. The greens spills directly into a bunker on the left, and despite the short yardage, there is plenty of opportunity for bogey or worse here.
Hole #8 – 131 yards – As you have seen in these photos, the weather was tricky all day and didn’t allow me to produce great pictures. On this tee we were staring into incredibly bright white clouds.
The tee shot is blind on this short par 3, so the first photo below was taken on the far left edge of the tee box. The photo below it shows the greenside bunkers and the final of the three photos shows the green looking back at the tee. It’s a great little hole and is one I’d love to play again now that I’ve seen it!
Hole #9 – 367 yards – This beautiful par 4 plays along the Atlantic dunes to a green that spills off the right edge into a mammoth bunker. It reminded me of the par 4s in the seaside dunes at Askernish, in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The hole feels very natural.
Hole #10 – 360 yards – The 10th had one of the my favorite greens on the course. The massive false front is tough, but over the green is no relief with a steep drop off into rough. Aim center green and avoid spinning one back into the left bunker… as I did.
Hole #11 – 395 yards – Big hitters can cut off a little bit of this corner, but the best play is to hit a slight draw down the left side of the fairway. The green is deep and was enlarged during the renovation. The bunkering around the green was also restored.
Hole #13 – 454 yards (par 5) – This is the start of a stretch of four holes with three par 5s and one par 3. The hole is 500 from the tips, but it still is reachable for longer hitters. The green was another beauty with a big false front and sides that spill into bunkers.
This also goes down as one of my favorite halfway houses in golf. Waves crash 30 yards beyond the building (see photo at beginning of review) and there is a set of cards at the table for anyone who wants to pop out for a light bite and soak in the surroundings… You know where you’d find me!
Hole #14 – 129 yards – Despite disappointing light for this photo, I hope the beauty of this par 3 comes through! The green looks small and sloping from the tee, but there is more square footage than you’d think. This hole immediately climbs to one of my favorite par 3s that I’ve played.
Hole #15 – 481 yards (par 5) – There is more room on the left side of this fairway than you’d think, and you can make out the pin directly down the sand path. This is another reachable par 5 and Coore & Crenshaw added new bunkers and re-edged existing traps. This hole marks a departure from the dunes section of the course heading back to the lake area and clubhouse.
Hole #16 – 470 yards (par 5) – I wish that I had taken a photo from this tee, which requires a shot over water to reach the corner of the dogleg, seen below. It is the final of the three par 5s on the back and the massive green means two-putts are not guaranteed.
Hole #17 – 287 yards – Don’t discount this hole for its length! A 230-yard shot at the second fairway bunker is perfect and it leaves a wedge into this small and sloping green – one of the best on the course.
Hole #18 – 367 yards – For those people who say the first and last are weak, we disagree again. The bunkering on this hole was drastically improved during the renovation, and believe it or not, the stunning ocean view beyond the green used to be blocked by trees. Those were removed to open up the vista and two new bunkers were added on the left to better define the fairway.
I loved the experience at Maidstone. Everyone was incredibly friendly and our host and his wife could not have been more generous. To top it all off, our caddie turned out to be someone who worked at Kingsbarns when I caddied at the course in Scotland. We knew all of the same people and figured we must have met at some point before in passing. Small world…
After the round I threw on a bathing suit and headed down to the Maidstone Beach Club where we had lunch and talked Scottish golf. Then it was down to the beach for some rest and relaxation on the beautiful stretch of coastline. If only every round of golf were capped off this way!
Avid readers of the site will have heard me say this, but as I travel more, I give less and less credence to the top 100 lists published by magazines. I judge a day based on how much I enjoyed the design, the people, and the club as a whole. On that scale, Maidstone lands very near the top.