Maidstone Club: An Unforgettable Experience
As I sit here and write this, it has been nearly as year since I did a proper course writeup.
When I first began this site I was extremely diligent in writing about every top course I played (and even many not-so-top courses).
The reality is, between the writing, photo editing, and promotion – each post takes a lot of time to put together, and frankly as much as I love golf, I have a business to run as well.
However as April has turned into May, the weather begins to turn and I just received my copy of “How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs” I’ve found myself getting back into golf mode.
In the next month I have rounds lined up at Garden City, Merion, Philly Cricket Club, Aronimink and possibly a few others that let’s just say, have me really looking forward to the summer golfing season.
Now, because of my lack of writing (and photo editing for that matter), I’m left with nearly two dozen top 100 courses that I’ve played – but have yet to do a proper write up on.
So as I was thinking back about where to start, there was one obvious choice that sticks out as one of the most enjoyable rounds I’ve played on my quest: Maidstone Club.
My First Trip to the Hamptons
Early last spring I received an email through this blog that said simply:
“Sean, I’d love to extend an invitation to play Maidstone and maybe the National if you’re ever out on Long Island.”
As you can imagine, my response was pretty much “I will fly to Long Island, at any time, on any day, under whatever terms you desire, if we can make this work.”
Ok, that’s not quite what I said, but I essentially said I’d be happy to plan a trip around it.
A few months later, I’d planned my New York trip – and up until the week before I wasn’t totally sure if it would happen or not.
However the day finally came, and in one of those “I hope I don’t get murdered scenarios” – my host picked me up in Manhattan around 10pm after he got done working, and we made the 2.5 hour drive to East Hampton together – having never shared more than a couple lines of text back and forth in emails.
The plan was to stay at his mom’s house in East Hampton, play in the morning and then I was going to take a bus back later that evening.
Well, the one thing he forgot to mention was that his mom’s “house” was a palatial estate less than two minutes from the club.
It truly was one of those “how did I end up here?” moments, and was a fitting introduction to “the Hamptons” which I’d always heard so much about.
As I was getting ready to head to sleep that night, I knew it would be a warm day ahead, so I asked my host if shorts were ok to wear.
“Shorts are fine, but would you mind shaving?”
My unshaven “homeless chic” look probably wasn’t going to illicit the best first impression to the club and his fellow members.
He had to let me borrow a razor.
Maidstone First Impressions
We woke up the next morning and headed to the course. We had to be done by noon as there was a members event, so we were getting an early start.
The day was absolutely perfect.
A light breeze, not a cloud in the sky, and I was literally giddy.
This was one of my first true experiences with a “fortress club” or an extremely private club where they usually don’t allow people like me in – so I was going to savor every second.
We spent some time on the range and practiced our short game before heading to the first tee – which truly had a magical feel.
The ocean is directly behind the tee, and you’re teeing off into a place very few people have the privilege of seeing.
We would be playing with Dave and David, two other guests of the club. Both of whom I’ve kept in touch with, and the latter of which hosted me for what would be my most enjoyable round of 2016 up to this point, down at his club near Miami.
Just the Facts
- Designer: Willie Park Jr.
- Established: 1891
- Rank: #36 (U.S.) and #66 (World) (Golf Magazine), #98 (U.S.) (Golf Digest)
- Location: East Hampton, NY
- Fees: Private
- Website: http://www.maidstoneclub.org
- Slope: 139, Rating: 72.9
Unlike some of it’s other Long Island brethren like Shinnecock or Bethpage Black – Maidstone is not known for being a ball-busting course.
In fact from the tips it measures just over 6600 yards, so hardly menacing in length by anyone’s standards.
I didn’t know a whole lot about the course itself before teeing off. What I did know however was that it had a reputation for having a weak start, a weak finish, and some world class holes in between.
Did I agree? Let’s find out.
Hole 1 (Par 4, 424 Yards)
As I mentioned, the opening tee shot at Maidstone is one of the few I’ve had lately where I legitimately had butterflies. I was excited, and there were a number of other members waiting to tee off behind me, so I was just doing everything in my power not to embarrass myself.
I found the first hole to be the perfect opener.
You had a big wide open fairway on your tee shot, so as long as you stayed out of the fairway bunker on the right, you’re in good shape.
Also, the approach to the plateau green made you think, but it wasn’t anything too scary.
My perfect kind of opening hole.
You can also immediately see the work that had been done by Coore-Crenshaw, with some of their signature blown out bunkering that would become a theme for the rest of the course.
Hole 2 (Par 5, 537 yards)
The second was a mid-length par 5 with bunkers to be aware of on both sides of the fairway. Accuracy is demanded, but electing to hit 3 wood brings the rather large bunker on the right into play.
Hole 3 (Par 4, 408 yards)
We get our first bit of elevation change on the 3rd, which is a mid-length par 4.
The tee shot is relatively benign as long as you aren’t too far left or right, but the approach is surrounded by bunkers to an undulating green.
Hole 4 (Par 3, 250ish from new tees)
This is where I feel things really start stepping up.
What used to be a fairly simple par 3, has apparently recently received some steroids injected into it.
On the card, this hole plays 176 from the back tees.
Well apparently the cards hadn’t been updated, because we got to play it from the new tees which stood at a stout 251 yards out. Yes, for a “short” course, that’s a serious par 3. Especially because anything short is looking at bunkers or lake.
Hole 5 (Par 4, 325 yards)
Ah, my favorite type of hole – the short par 4!
And this is about as good as they come in my book.
From the tips its a solid poke at 325, but depending on which tees your playing and what the wind is doing this could be reachable.
This is a really strategic hole.
Do you hit driver and risk a slice or hook into the wetlands or water? Or bombing it over the green into the water?
Do you back off and go hybrid or three wood, which brings the bottle neck of bunkers into play just short of the green?
Or do you play smart and hit an iron into the middle of the fairway.
There’s no right or wrong answer, but just be willing to live with the choices you make 🙂
Oh, and try not to be distracted by the houses in the background that cost more than you’ll make in a lifetime…
Hole 6 (Par 4, 403 yards)
6 and 7 are back to back cape holes (with 6 being a bit of a psuedo-cape design).
You tee off to a diagonal fairway over marsh land, and the farther right you go, the longer the carry (but shorter the approach).
Too far left and you’re in the bunkers, or way too far left and you’re into the marsh.
The green slopes strongly left to right, and will be a challenge regardless of where the pin is. One of my favorite greens on the course.
Hole 7 (Par 4, 341 yards)
Seven is a proper cape hole over water. Bite off as much as you want.
I watched a big banana slice go into the water, before playing it a bit safer on my second shot.
But a well struck ball to the left side of the fairway should leave you with an easy approach.
Hole 8 (Par 3, 151 yards)
The 8th at Maidstone is one of the most unique holes on the course. From the teebox, only the left side of the green is visible, so depending on where the pin is that day, you could be facing a blind tee shot.
It’s also a phenomenal example of a course that seamlessly blends into the landscape. The bunkers look like a natural extension of the dunes.
Hole 9 (Par 4, 415 yards)
Walking up onto the all-world 9th hole, you know you’re some place special.
You get your first full glimpse of the ocean, and you’re treated to a beautiful par 4 that takes you down into the dunes, and then right back up again on the approach.
From the tee you have a fantastic view of the course and dunes, and it’s one of those spots where you truly should take a minute and soak it all in. Golf simply doesn’t get much better than this.
The fore bunker that crosses the fairway can throw off your perception, so trust your distance and don’t under club – or risk rolling into one of the scarier bunkers on the course.
Hole 10 (Par 4, 401 yards)
The right bunker is in play off the tee as you hit it over the tall grass. From there you’re left with an approach to a large green with trouble on either side.
Hole 11 (Par 4, 464 yards)
The 11th is a big two shotter that takes you back out away from the dunes.
Frankly 11 and 12 are probably two of my least favorite holes on the course – in part because the previous 5 were so good – you do feel a little bit of a let down.
Not like a #6 on Spyglass letdown, but a little bit of one.
Careful of bunkers on both the tee shot and approach.
Hole 12 (Par 3, 181 yards)
12 is a mid length par 3 that was easily my least favorite on the course. Bunkers on all sides, but lacks the visual interest of 8, the heroic shot of 4, and well, there’s just no comparison to 14.
Hole 13 (Par 5, 500 yards)
13 re-engages you with a beautiful par 5 into the dunes which should be reachable for many people depending on the wind.
That said, there is ample trouble off the tee in the form of tall grass and bunkers, so if you aren’t feeling it – don’t be afraid to hit 3 wood.
Hole 14 (Par 4, 152 yards)
Standing on the tee at 14, I didn’t want to leave. It’s one of the most special one shot holes in the world.
Not because of the history, the length, or any of that.
But simply because at that point, sitting in a remote spot deep into the dunes looking out at the oean, you’re looking at one of the most beautiful spots in golf as far as I’m concerned.
The winter of 2015 was brutally hard in the NE, and we got really lucky as Maidstone’s greens took significant damage.
I played in mid June, and this green had just been reopened a few days prior. You can still see some of the patches that got filled in if you look closely.
Once again the bunkering is phenomenal, in that it doesn’t look like there are any. It’s that seamless with the natural landscape.
Hole 15 (Par 5, 493 yards)
15 is another reachable par 5, but the tee shot is a bit tricky.
You have to thread the ball between large trees/bushes on both the right and left hand side about 100 yards out, then you have bunkers lining both sides of the fairway.
So a striped drive down the middle leaves you a great shot at a tap in birdie, but if you’re not careful, this hole could just as easily lead to big numbers.
Hole 16 (Par 5, 485 yards)
The finishing stretch!
16 is another reachable par 5 (loving these shorter 3 shotters), and is similar to the cap number 7.
Except this time, not only do you have to clear water, but if you’re too far left you have bunkers to clear as well.
A long drive will leave you a mid iron into the green. But how gutsy do you want to be?
Hole 17 (Par 4, 328 yards)
The par 4 17th is short on paper, but now features a bit of the reverse of the previous right handed cape holes we’ve seen. You can go for the green, but it’s going to take a big poke to get it there.
A solid shot between the two bunkers straight out is a good line.
The green has some undulation and is a bit tricky, especially if you end up in the bunker on the left.
Hole 18 (Par 4, 390 yards)
On 18 you cross the road again and tee off towards the clubhouse to an uphill green. You’ve got bunkers on the left separating the fairway from the 1st and a big bunker on the right waiting to eat up a slice.
Once you get up to the green, you’re once again treated to a spectacular ocean view and the unfortunate realization that your round is over.
Final Thoughts on Maidstone Club
I’ve played a lot of top courses and thought “I’m so glad I played here, but man did that course wear me out.”
Both physically and mentally.
Maidstone is not one of those courses.
Before playing Maidstone, I’d read remarks that it was too short, or that technology had passed it by.
I don’t think that could be farther from the truth.
Maidstone has something that I think few courses truly master: It was a beautiful classic layout, that has very difficult elements (especially when the wind is up), but was also fun as hell to play.
I think the Maidstone experience was summed up best on a comment from a recent Instagram post of mine. @dillonmays_ said:
“There are better courses than Stone, but during any day spent there, you can be pretty confident that no one on the planet is having it better than you are.”
Couldn’t agree more, Dillon. Couldn’t agree more.