SEBONACK GOLF CLUB
Course Architects: Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus (2006)
Year Opened: August, 2006
Location: Southampton, New York
Slope: 151. Rating: 77.6
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 360 Yds 10 - Par 4 413 Yds
2 - Par 4 474 Yds 11 - Par 4 496 Yds
3 - Par 4 442 Yds 12 - Par 3 165 Yds
4 - Par 3 250 Yds 13 - Par 5 550 Yds
5 - Par 4 355 Yds 14 - Par 4 465 Yds
6 - Par 4 418 Yds 15 - Par 5 661 Yds
7 - Par 4 490 Yds 16 - Par 4 467 Yds
8 - Par 3 189 Yds 17 - Par 3 220 Yds
9 - Par 5 549 Yds 18 - Par 5 570 Yds
Par 35 3,527 Yds Par 37 4,007 Yds
Awards Won: Ranked #7 by GolfWeek - 100 Best Modern Courses (2009),
#53 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 Courses in the U.S. (2009),
#7 by Golf Digest - Best in State (NY) (2009-10),
#39 by Golf Digest - America's 100 Greatest Courses (2009-10),
Top 100 Courses in U.S. - Golf Magazine (2007),
America's Best New Private Course by Golf Digest (2007).
Key Events Held: U.S. Women's Open (2013).
HISTORY: Although the history of Sebonack Golf Club is not long, it is quite
The estate of New York banker Charles Hamilton Sabin dates back to 1919, when
the wealthy financier built a 28,000-square-foot mansion on the Bayberry Land
property overlooking the Great Peconic Bay. The land was then sold to the
Electrical Workers Union in 1949 and it was used primarily as a convalescent
home for the electrical workers and then for social and recreational
activities as the years went by.
Half a century later, the property was sold at auction and none other than
Donald Trump agreed to purchase the 300-acre parcel for a cool $46 million.
Only "The Donald" reneged on the deal, and in stepped Michael Pascucci.
Not only did Pascucci agree to purchase the land at that same price, he
completed the 2001 transaction in cash! You see, Mr. Pascucci had made
hundreds of millions of dollars in the auto leasing business in the 1970s and
then sold his company, which is now owned by Bank of America.
When hundreds of undeveloped, pristine acres of waterfront property on the
Great Peconic Bay came up for purchase, well, not only was it unheard of,
Pascucci considered it too good to be true.
Located adjacent to the National Golf Links of America, No. 15 in the latest
"America's 100 Greatest" rankings, and just a few hundred yards from
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (No. 3), this piece of land has something that
those two famed courses do not -- two miles of coastline on Peconic Bay.
Now it was time to find an architect, and Pascucci turned to longtime Florida
neighbor Jack Nicklaus. Most are aware of the Golden Bear's golfing
credentials, having won 73 times on the PGA Tour, including 18 major
championships, but plenty aren't fully aware of Nicklaus' golf course design
team, which has crafted over 300 courses worldwide, eight of which rank in the
top 100 in the United States.
This is where it gets interesting. After preliminary work on the project had
begun, Pascucci made a visit to Tom Doak's work at Pacific Dunes, 14th in the
rankings, and upon his return set up a meeting with the dynamic duo to see if
a collaborative effort could be arranged. It took a year-and-a-half for the
meet, but it was worth the wait.
Both Doak and Nicklaus, disciples of world-renowned architect Pete Dye, had
different design styles, but they agreed to never disagree and this became
clearly evident when it came to Sebonack owner Pascucci.
Pascucci certainly wanted to be involved in the design decisions, especially
since he had millions of dollars at stake, and it turned out both Nicklaus and
Doak agreed that Pascucci would be the tie-breaker if they could not agree.
They never did, but Pascucci did overturn his co-designers when it came to the
18th hole. Both Nicklaus and Doak envisioned the closing hole to be a rugged
par four along the coast, but Pascucci wanted the finisher to be a par five.
He won out.
Despite their distinct design differences, Doak and Nicklaus moved very little
dirt, using the lay of the land to dictate their course of action. Doak
conjured up the routing, with Nicklaus offering his expertise on every hole.
There was plenty of give and take. "The look is more Tom's," Nicklaus
acknowledged during a tour of the course while it was under construction. "The
golf is a combination of both of us."
Named for the title on the land deed, Sebonack certainly fits well into the
nearby, ultra-exclusive neighborhood and is destined to become a true classic
golf course in just a very short period of time.
In all, the price tag for buying the land and constructing the course was in
the range of $115 million. It will take some time for Pascucci to see a return
on his investment, even with the $500,000-to-$1 million invitation-only price
tag. But that's not what Sebonack is all about. Golf is.
HOLE BY HOLE ANALYSIS: If there ever was a chance to make a birdie at
Sebonack, it's the first hole. Although the fairway tilts to the right, a
fairway metal or long iron should suffice off the tee. This will set up a
short iron to a roller-coaster green. Avoid the fairway bunkers down the
right, not to mention the greenside traps, and you're home free. Now, if the
elements are up, which they usually are, then throw all of that out the
You'll soon find out that Sebonack is not a short-hitter's course. This is
quite evident on the second tee, a whopping 474 yarder, one of eight par fours
over 400 yards. From a slightly elevated tee, everything is right in front of
you. No tricks. Just a wide fairway with eminent danger down the right side.
That's trouble in the form of sand, brush and thick rough. A long iron or
fairway metal will be needed to reach the uphill and severely sloped green.
Any shot played to the front of the putting surface, will roll back down the
fairway. It's not often that the hardest hole comes so early. One word of
caution: Do not -- I repeat, do not -- go long, as you'll end up in deep
menacing bunkers that are impossible to get up and down from.
Playing back towards the clubhouse, the third is an uphill par four that
requires a tee shot down the right side. The fairway slopes to the left, where
three deep bunkers lay in wait. Your uphill approach will necessitate an extra
stick or two depending upon pin placement. This green is another surface with
a false front, so club selection is key. By the way, the gaping bunker to the
left is a "Bear" of a trap.
The first par three, the fourth hole, is also the longest at 235 yards.
Slightly downhill from the tee, it favors a draw to a very long, and
undulating green, the longest on the course at 40 paces. The ridge from left
to right splits the putting surface in two, making for a tough two-putt and
the chipping area in the rear is no picnic either. Additionally, sand that is
short, left and right sits well below the green and makes for a difficult par
No. 5 is a another short par four of just 355 yards. Playing downhill, this
gem features a bunker in the center of the fairway, so play short of the
trouble and attack with a short iron. The green is tiny, with sand front and
left, but if you have the right yardage, you can make birdie. Long and right
will leave an uphill pitch back to the flag.
Although just 418 yards from the black markers, the sixth plays uphill off the
tee, swings slightly to the right and then back to the left. Trees line the
left side of the fairway, while a bunker down the right guards the landing
area. Your second shot towards the green will once again favor a draw, unless
of course you want to tackle the tall trees down the left. The putting surface
rolls from back to front with a bunker short-left and one right.
The mighty seventh is the second-longest par four on the course at 490 yards.
A swinging, dogleg left, you'll need to bust a drive down the right to set up
a clear shot towards the green. Bunkers left and right in the landing area
pinch the fairway and will make for a difficult approach. A long iron or
hybrid will be the club of choice to get home in regulation. Two greenside
bunkers squeeze your target in the front, so err long if you can.
It's easy to describe the par-three eighth: magnificent. All carry over water,
this 189-yarder usually plays back into the wind, wreaking havoc with your
club choice. The kidney-shaped green is long and narrow with a ridge running
from right to left. For good measure, a pair of bunkers -- one in between the
water and the green and one to the right -- will keep you honest.
The closing hole on the front nine is a long, uphill par five, rarely
reachable in two despite its 549-yard length. Fairway bunkers, strategically
placed in the midst of the wide landing area, will certainly make you think.
Your second shot must clear the crossing bunker on the right to leave a wedge
to the green, otherwise you're left with a long difficult climb to the green.
The putting surface is tiny, just 26 yards in depth, with a pair of pot
bunkers short of the promised land.
If you thought the front nine was lengthy, get a load of the back side, an
almost insurmountable 3,974 yards. One of your best shots at birdie will come
at the 10th, a short, dogleg right par four that plays slightly downhill.
Clear the bunker crossing the fairway and you'll have just a short iron to a
fairly small green. Two bunkers guard the green that splits in two. A back-
left pin could be quite difficult, especially since your approach is played
towards the bay.
One of the prettiest views on the course, and there are many, is certainly on
the 11th tee. From an elevated tee, the Peconic Bay is in full splendor, as it
sits in the distance. Back to business, this is the second hardest hole on the
course, and with good reason. It's a 496-yard par four, doglegging to the left
and playing downhill towards the water. A sweeping draw should be the play,
bypassing the two bunkers down the left. Your tee ball should carom down the
fairway leaving a downhill lie approach to a green that runs away from you.
With sand right and deep, it's easy to bail out left, but that's no bargain,
as grassy hollows await. One of my favorite holes on the course, probably
because I made par.
If it's picture postcard time, then you must be at the 12th. The shortest par
three at Sebonack, this beauty plays towards the water and features a postage-
stamp sized green. Sand dots the landscape, not to mention native grasses and
when the wind crosses over the land, you'll be quite fortunate to reach the
putting surface. By the way, miss long and you'll be re-teeing with your
From short to long, that's what awaits at the par-five 13th. A risk-reward
550-yarder for the big hitters, this hole can be had, but you better be
precise. Your tee shot will be the least of your problems, as the fairway is
generous with a bunker left and right for good measure. It's the second shot
that will have you scratching your head. Water comes into play with your
approach or your layup down the right side. Two crossing bunkers are not to be
taken lightly, nor the fairway that tilts to the right. Three traps guard the
putting surface, so it makes sense to layup and attack with a wedge. The
green, at just 22 paces, features plenty of undulation, with an extended
chipping area in the rear.
Yet another par four over 400 yards, the 14th compounds the problem even more,
as the hole plays uphill to the green. Strategically placed fairway bunkers
require thought, but it's your second that will confound you. Three sand
complexes must be navigated at the green and remember, take an extra stick or
you'll end up plugged in a bunker. That's a double-bogey just waiting to
happen. Trust me, I speak from experience.
I can't imagine anyone reaching the par-five 15th in two. 661 yards. Enough
said. A sharp dogleg right, you'll have to cut the corner where sand lurks
just to have a reasonable shot at laying up. Trees down the right and left are
annoying and a round killer. From the fairway, the 15th plays downhill towards
the putting surface, with a fairly wide landing area, although sand is
prominent down the left and right. The multi-tiered green is not easy to
negotiate, especially if you miss short-right where the false-front lies.
If you thought 15 was long, wait to you reach the 16th tee. This par four
plays almost as long as its predecessor. A 467-yard par four, straight up the
hill from tee to green. The fairway bunker down the right side is a great
target point from the tee, but don't stray right, as trees will hamper your
approach. Choose an extra club or two to reach the putting surface, or you'll
end up in sand or worse, coming back down the fairway. A back-right pin will
leave a blind approach to a thin green that runs from back to front.
The par three's at Sebonack are just wonderful and the final one at 17 is no
exception. At 220 yards, it usually plays back into the wind as the Bay lurks
in the distance. Although fairly wide, the putting surface is tight and
undulating. Bunkers short and deep make for a precise target. Long and left
and you'll need a machete to find your ball.
Slightly reminiscent of Pebble Beach, the closing hole features the coastline
of Peconic Bay down the entire left side of the par five. From an elevated
tee, the beauty of Sebonack lies in front of you. Your tee ball is fairly
simple, as a very generous landing area awaits. Although more room to the
left, it's best not to challenge the trouble that lies ahead. Certainly
reachable with a helping breeze, you'll need to hopscotch past the trio of pot
bunkers by the green. The putting surface has several slopes as it rolls
toward the water. A back-left pin can be a great Sunday placement when the
U.S. Women's Open comes to town.
For good measure, just in case of ties, there's the par-three 19th, that plays
across the first fairway towards the bay with Cow Neck in the distance. Just a
short iron, but a great way to settle the bet.
FINAL WORD: Among the country's legendarily difficult courses, Pine Valley has
a slope and rating of 155/75.2, Bethpage Black's numbers are 148/76.6 and
Pinehurst No. 2 boasts 135/75.3. But did you know that Sebonack has a slope of
151 and a rating of 77.3?
As pristine and beautiful as it is, Sebonack is one tough golf course. No, not
Oakmont, the Ocean Course or Whistling Straits tough, but pretty darn close.
With several holes running up to and alongside the Peconic Bay, this wind-
swept course is stunning. The best of the LPGA and the world will enjoy first-
hand when the 2013 U.S. Women's Open comes calling.
"We are delighted to have been selected to host the 2013 U.S. Women's Open,"
said Pascucci. "We believe that the combination of the natural beauty and
challenge of Sebonack, together with the world's greatest female golfers, will
make for a lot of excitement in an area rich with a history of championship
golf. We are very proud to host a national championship."
It will be the first U.S. Women's Open played on Long Island and the first
time the women's national championship has been played in the state of New
York since 1973, when it was held at the Country Club of Rochester.
Nicklaus and Doak set out to build a golf course worthy of its prestigious
location and that is just what they did. Their dune-esque layout is superb in
every way. This collaboration, at first blush awkward, turned into one of
respect and compromise.
Getting down to brass tacks, Sebonack is first and foremost a great walking
course. But if riding is your modus operandi, there is also a fleet of 40 golf
carts, which have been outfitted with solar panels to help protect the
environment. Expensive ($2,700 per), but so what? It helps the eco-system and
it will ultimately decrease club costs.
Course conditioning gets high marks, with pristine fairways and immaculate
greens. Unfortunately, I know firsthand how perfect the bunkers are. Menacing
to look at, with that rugged feel, the traps are indeed hazards.
The challenges of getting on and playing the golf course are equally
Since the club is very exclusive, you'll need to know the right people just to
get an invite, and especially to stay in one of the guest cottages.
As far as the difficulty of the course, all you need to know are the basics.
Eight of the 10 par four's are over 400 yards and four par five's are over 550
yards, including the 661-yard 15th.
The routing of the course flows very nicely from start to finish, although the
walk from the eighth green to the ninth tee is slightly awkward. While you're
there, just slip through the trees and play a couple of holes at The
National...it's that close.
If it is ambience you seek, just sit in the Adirondack chairs on the back
porch of the magnificent clubhouse that overlooks the course and Great Peconic
Bay, with the sun setting. That's what Sebonack is all about.
Golf, beauty and contentment at the highest level. As close to heaven as