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A WALK IN A PARK AT MAIDSTONE

A in-depth look at the Coore & Crenshaw retrovation of the Willie Park Jr designed Maidstone Club

Hindsight in the retrovation era is making clear how delicate a proposition it is for an architect to attempt to blend a course restoration with the appropriate updates to ensure a high level of quality and sustainability by modern standards. Thankfully, the modernization trend, in which a “name” designer would swoop in with their plans for improvements that were likely at odds with the original intent, seems to have died out. Today’s retrovation practitioners bring a combination of respect for the Golden Age greats, and the talent to realize their vision for changes in the dirt. 

In a very few instances, a course can and should be truly restored. If the work of the original architect was unequivocally great, and all of the features are still intact, then it makes sense to simply turn back the clock. But what about courses that don’t meet that high standard for greatness? The masters themselves were often dissatisfied with their work. Macdonald sent Raynor back to Chicago Golf Club to blow up his own course. Ross incessantly tinkered with Pinehurst #2. Those architects who practiced for long periods evolved in their craft, often improving with practice. Would they want a substandard design element reintroduced merely for the sake of historical accuracy? Of course not.

This was the core of the question faced by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw as they walked through the retrovation of the Willie Park Jr. designed course at Maidstone Club. In terms of heritage, a beautiful site and a devoted membership, Maidstone possessed strong fundamentals, but its course was not in the same league as some of its neighbors on Eastern Long Island, in spite of being created by a man who is considered to be among the greatest architects of his era.

 

 

The Other First Family of Golf

The Morrises may have been golf royalty in St. Andrews, but they were not the only noteworthy family in the game during its formative years in Scotland. The Parks of Musselburgh would play an equally impactful role, contesting the high-profile challenge matches of the day, and also in the export of golf architecture as a profession to America.

Willie Park Jr., whose father Willie Sr. and Uncle Mungo were champion golfers, wore almost every hat imaginable in the game at the turn of the century. He was a professional, claiming the Open Championship in 1887 and 1889, as well as a clubmaker, greenkeeper, and author of two books on golf, The Game of Golf and The Art of Putting. He made exploratory trips to The States in the mid-1890s, but golf had not quite taken hold to the point that warranted a relocation yet. 

In 1901, with the opening of Sunningdale Old and Huntercombe in the London heathlands, he firmly planted his flag among the early practitioners of golf course design, and is considered by some to be the first true genius of the craft. Given his expertise in the use of the flatstick, which was a more varied game within the game at the time, it is no surprise that big, bold greens were the hallmarks of Park’s courses. Park would ultimately be credited with more than 70 courses throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K., including gems like Olympia Fields and Maidstone.

The Retrovation

Although Maidstone has always been a darling among Long Islanders and the well-travelled golf cognoscenti, its standings in the national rankings had begun to slip by the time that Bill Coore arrived in 2012. The choice to push the course forward by looking back was an obvious one, but it was not without its challenges. It was originally laid out by William Tucker, then redesigned by club member C. Wheaton Vaugh, and redone again by Willie Park Jr. It continued to evolve over the decades that followed at the hands of tinkering members, as well as Mother Nature. Coore & Crenshaw associate Jeff Bradley shared his first impression before the work began: “We had a feeling that there were a lot of people who had dabbled with the course. It did not have a cohesive feel.” 

 

The course in 1939 – Photo Credit: Simon Haines (@Hainesy76)

 

Further complicating the issue were the clubhouse fires that had burned up a fair bit of the historical materials that could have guided the retrovation. Adopting a collaborative approach that took input from General Manager Ken Koch, Superintendent John Genovesi, Head Pro Eden Foster, Green Chair Robert Macdonald, and shapers Jeff Bradley and Quinn Thompson, the team settled on a two-phase strategy. First, trees and vegetation would be removed to give the course a more expansive feel and open it to the wind that should naturally whip across the seaside site. Next, the grass lines and bunkers would be addressed. There was no need to make material changes to Park’s brilliant greens, but they were in need of expansion. Fairways and long rough were also pushed outward allowing more room for the ball to bounce and run. Coore laid out a new bunker scheme that included a mix of rehab, relocation and a few key additions. He then turned his shapers loose to unify the look of the course across its various zones of play. 

Bradley and Thompson were chomping at the bit. They knew just how big an impact their facelift could make. “It was clear that you could make the coursemore vivid by getting the bunker faces up and marrying it to the coastal landscape,” recalled Bradley. The old, established turf allowed Genovesi to make quick progress by simply mowing. Dave Zinkand, who continues to make tweaks at the club on behalf of Coore & Crenshaw, described the effect: “The new mow lines make the greens pop and allow the ball to do things that it couldn’t do before.”

 

Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier

 

There is a special magic about Maidstone that captures the hearts of players fortunate enough to experience it. That feeling is shared by those who worked on its retrovation. “Maidstone was laying there. All we had to do was uncover it,” Bradley mused, with a clear tone of affection for the place and the people. “It is one of the projects I’m most proud of. I remember driving by the 18th after the work was done and seeing the course disappear into the ocean beyond. I thought to myself, ‘this is it’.” Prior to the team’s outstanding work, anyone who dubbed Maidstone their favorite on Long Island might be met with a raised eyebrow. Now, with the changes matured and Genovesi’s terrific firm and natural presentation, devotees who place the course on par with higher ranked neighbors like National Golf Links and Shinnecock are no longer unabashed homers, but rather quite reasonable connoisseurs.

The Course

Some courses, like Sand Hills and Prairie Dunes, are built on land that possesses a consistent feel. Others, such as Essex County Club, work their way through different zones of play, delivering an extra dimension of adventurous interest. Maidstone fits into the latter category as it moves from the clubhouse lawn, to the neighborhood, around the shores of Hook Pond, out to the Atlantic linksland, and then back again.

 

Map by Kevin Jackson (@outandingolf)

 

Beyond the diversity of its topography, Maidstone changes with the weather and the seasons. In the tour that follows, Jon Cavalier (@LinksGems) shows us the wide array of beautiful looks shown by the course throughout the years since the retrovation. Enjoy!

Click on any gallery image to enlarge

A round at Maidstone begins by stepping off the putting green directly on to the 1st tee. This par-4 plays down the front lawn of the clubhouse to a wide fairway connected to the opener on the East Course. The first of Park’s bold, pushed up greens is flanked by expanded bunkers.

 

 

If the drive into the club did not alert players to just how embedded in its neighborhood Maidstone is, the walk across the road to the 2nd tee is certainly a wake-up call. This straightaway par-5 has been made more interesting and strategic by the repositioning of bunkers such that they cut into the fairway. Precision is required on the drive, lay-up and approach into the green, which is set at an angle and flanked by more large bunkers.

 

 

The par-4 3rd connects the neighborhood to the shores of Hook Pond. A large, restored bunker on the right can be challenged for a better angle on the second. The green’s false front grabs attention and rejects weak approaches, and internal ripples on the putting surface await to challenge the flatstick.

 

 

The first of Maidstone’s one-shotters takes players, via a heroic carry over water, into a new zone. Any shelter from the coastal wind is gone on the 4th, where an elevated green surrounded by bunkers and short grass run-offs signals more of what’s to come across the pond.

 

 

Expanded sandy wastes and more prominent bunkering delivers a hearty taste of Maidstone’s duneland setting to this hole that runs along the shore of Hook Pond. The horizon look of the 5th’s low-profile green makes judging approach distance difficult, even with a short club in hand.

 

 

Clearing of vegetation left of the 6th created a dramatic vista across the course. A centerline bunker now demands confident decision-making and execution. The green, with its pronounced shoulders and huge bunker left makes an impression on approach that is only outdone by the severity of the cant and contours of the putting surface. An all-world flat ground four par.

 

 

The third straight two-shotter is one of the better known on the course. The 7th is Maidstone’s Cape concept, swinging left to right around the pond with the restored dune left. Depending on the wind, every option from a safe mid-iron to having a go at the green with the driver is available. The putting surface, which is narrow and deep, is packed with interest.

 

 

The par-3 8th is the first of the outstanding stretch of holes in the Atlantic linksland zone, and what an introduction it is. In a nod to modern expectations, the dune fronting the green was shifted slightly to give a hint of visibility. The hole still plays as intended though—with only a partial look, players must muster a solid tee ball to find the safety of the green, which floats above a sea of sand and scrub.

 

 

The 9th is considered by many to be among the greatest holes in America. No arguments to the contrary here. Players ascend to the elevated tee and after taking in the view and a deep breath of the ocean air, turn to face a shot to a fairway that looks impossibly narrow as it snakes through the dunes. There is no let up on the second either as the green has a wicked false front, a deep bunker left, and a newly created steep runoff right. No praise is too high for this golf hole.

 

 

The par-4 10th turns back and runs alongside the same dune that is left of 9. Although the yardage is shorter on the card, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a lesser challenge. Park pushed up a green so high that a butterfly with sore feet would have a tough time making a safe landing. Each duneland hole has its own unique character.

 

 

The course next turns to head inland at the 11th. Bunkers are positioned at the inside and outside corners of this dogleg left, placing a premium on driving accuracy. More sand flanks the expanded green, which sits at a much lower profile than its two predecessors.

 

 

In modern architecture, forebunkers fell out of favor for a time. The team’s rework of this Park rendition at the one-shot 12th illustrates well their purpose when properly utilized. It provides an intimidating look while concurrently confounding the players’ depth perception. A classic, natural par-3.

 

 

Players are next treated to a final trip out to the ocean via the par-5 13th. Tree clearing and fairway expansion on this soft dogleg left have given the hole a much more expansive feel. Bunkers left guard the short route to the elevated, angled green which is beautifully nestled in the dunes.

 

 

The final of Maidstone’s outstanding and varied one-shotters is as naturally sited a hole as can be found anywhere in America. The green at the 14th sits among dunes that were restored to their native state, with bunkers and runoffs that melt seamlessly into their surrounds. Depending on the wind, the same distance can play multiple clubs differently.

 

 

The arrow straight 15th travels from the linksland zone back to Hook Pond. The tee shot plays through a sand shoot to a fairway that is wider than it appears. The crafty player tacks like a sailor, first left off the tee and then back right flirting with the long bunker, to get the ideal approach angle.

 

 

Back-to-back par-5s were not a routing quirk that concerned Willie Park Jr. He was after the best sequence of strong holes, and the 16th provides a terrific contrast to the hole before. The tee shot plays back over the pond, where a bunker complex dividing the fairway from the adjacent 3rd lurks to catch balls on an overly conservative line. The at-grade green features some of the most subtly brilliant contours on the course.

 

 

The course says farewell to the shores of the pond with the tee ball on the 17th. A fairway expansion short left now allows the bombers to have a go at the well-defended green, set snugly in the neighborhood at the corner of Dunemere Lane and Highway Behind the Pond. The false front on the putting surface gets plenty of work as the miniscule target works on players’ hearts and minds as they approach.

 

 

It’s tough to imagine a classier closer than Maidstone’s. The par-4 18th plays up over a rise to a horizon green in a gorgeous setting with the clubhouse left and a small hillside right. Good shots and solid putting strokes are required to finish the round on a note high enough to match the view.

 

 

When pressed to explain in more detail how Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and their associates make decisions in their retrovations, Jeff Bradley said simply, “We tried to make it look like it should.” And therein lies the brilliance of their team. Like the Golden Age masters whose work they are revitalizing, the superstar designers of today blend talent and experience with a reverence for the past. This mixture gives them an intuitive sense of how to proceed. They just know. At a magnificently retrovated course like Maidstone, the results speak for themselves.

 

 

 

Copyright 2020 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Maidstone Club Tour by Jon Cavalier

MAIDSTONE CLUB – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

East Hampton, NY – Willie Park Jr.

Maidstone14-Tee

How a golfer feels about Maidstone typically reveals a great deal about that person’s preferences with regard to golf course design.  Those who find the course lacking in some way, whether too short or too easy, will tell you that the game has passed Maidstone by.  These golfers often prefer U.S. Open-style golf and, when evaluating a course, will focus on things like “resistance to scoring” and “shot values.”

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On the other hand are golfers looking for something other than sheer difficulty in a golf course.  These players are looking for a course that provides something different, something out of the ordinary, something they’ve never seen before.  These players are searching for a place that provides an element of the game so often forgotten in modern golf: fun.

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Maidstone is that place.

MAIDSTONE CLUB

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Maidstone is located in East Hampton, on the Southern shore of the Eastern end of Long Island.  It is the easternmost of the great Hamptons golf clubs, and enjoys perhaps the best piece of property on any golf club on Long Island.  Set right on the beach, Maidstone provides its members and guests with gorgeous ocean views from its magnificent clubhouse.  This setting makes the course virtually unique on the East Coast, as it winds through large sand dunes and provides as near a true-links experience as one can get on this side of the Atlantic.

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The course plays to a par 72 of 6,574 yards from the back tees.  While seemingly short by today’s standards, when the wind is up at Maidstone (and it always is, due to its location), the course will provide all the difficulty most golfers can handle.  Notably, Maidstone distributes its strokes to par asymmetrically – the front nine plays to a par 35, while the back plays to a par 37.  The back nine also incorporates the following unusual sequence from holes 12-16: par 3, par 5, par 3, par 5, par 5.

Maidstone-Scorecard

Maidstone’s routing is also virtually unique in American golf.  The course begins on high ground near the clubhouse and proceeds immediately down and away from the ocean.  The first three holes play on sandy, rolling ground.  The fun really begins, however, after hitting the tee shot on the fourth hole over the inlet bordering the Gardiner Peninsula, on which holes four through fifteen play.  These holes wind back and forth through magnificent sand dunes and give Maidstone its essence.  After teeing off on sixteen, the player returns to the mainland to play the final three holes.

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Before we begin our hole-by-hole tour, Maidstone’s beautiful clubhouse warrants a brief mention.  If you’ve read my other tours, you know that I often discuss clubhouses as being an extension of the overall golfing experience and that, when a clubhouse is done right, it can amplify the ambiance and setting of the golf course.  Some of the best courses in America are complemented perfectly by their clubhouses — National Golf Links, Shinnecock, Fishers Island, Merion, Sleepy Hollow and Winged Foot are examples that spring to mind.  Maidstone is another.

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And the views . . .

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… are fantastic.

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THE WEST COURSE AT MAIDSTONE

Though often overlooked, golf at the Maidstone Club is laid out over 27 holes.  The West Course, which we discuss here, is the Club’s primary 18-hole golf course.  The remaining nine holes are the remnants of the Club’s second 18-hole course, which was damaged by hurricane in 1938 and, sadly, never restored.

Maidstone-ClubhouseFront

Hole 1 – 424 yards – Par 4
Maidstone’s first hole is one of its longer par-4s, but the width of the hole, the ever-present firmness of the turf, and the fact that the hole runs downhill make this an excellent opportunity to start a round off well.  The first is bordered to the right by the Club’s entrance road, and to the left by the 18th hole.

Maidstone1-Fairway

The first green is raised and fronted by difficult bunkering.  Here, the recent restoration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw is first visible – the improvements they’ve made in Maidstone’s bunkering and green surrounds cannot be overstated.

Maidstone1-Approach

While the fronting bunkers are certainly to be avoided, the golfer must take care at the first, and on many subsequent holes, to avoid the miss long.  Here, any shot hit too aggressively will bound down a steep bank and risk tumbling out of bounds.  A fine opener.

Maidstone1-GreenBelow

Hole 2 – 537 yards – Par 5
Standing on the tee at the second, the longest hole on the course and the only hole exceeding 500 yards, the golfer’s eye is drawn to the road and accompanying out-of-bounds running the entire left side of the hole. The right is no picnic, however, as the hole is hemmed in on that side by a property boundary.  Though there is plenty of width in this hole, there is certainly an intimidation factor in this tee shot.

Maidstone2-Tee

Staggered bunkering runs down the left of the hole in the area of approach.  There is room to lay up to the right, but again, the property boundary is mere paces from the right edge of the fairway.

Maidstone2-Approach

The 2nd green is elevated slightly and set at an angle to the fairway.  An opening is provided to allow balls to be run on to the putting surface, but sand surrounds the remainder of the green.  This green slopes significantly from back right to front left and is large enough that simply hitting this green does not guarantee a par.

Maidstone2-Green

Hole 3 – 408 yards – Par 4
The third hole shares a fairway with the sixteenth, though the two are separated by a chain of bunkers down the left side.  This hole can play very short or very long, depending on the wind.

Maidstone3-Tee

While bailing out left off the tee is an available route to this green, the approach is longer and more difficult from this angle.

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From the middle of the third fairway, the player has the option to run the ball on to this green.

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The third green is small, significantly tilted and heavily bunkered.  Putting the ball off the green and into a bunker is a real possibility here.

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Hole 4 – 176 yards – Par 3
The fourth hole transports the golfer over the inlet and into the dunescape.

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The fourth tee is on an island in the middle of the inlet and provides for an exciting tee shot, especially into the wind.  Note the openness of the landscape behind.

Maidstone4-Tee

The fourth green is elevated and domed, and will shed indifferent tee shots into the surrounding bunkers.  Long is an especially difficult recovery.

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Beginning with the fourth green, the course meanders through some of the most unique terrain in American golf.

Maidstone4-Green

Hole 5 – 325 yards – Par 4
A short par four made shorter when played with the wind behind, the fifth is a prime example that length is not the only defense in golf.  The bunkers running down each side of the hole pinch tighter the closer one gets to the green, presenting a strategic dilemma: lay up short of the narrow opening, or attempt to drive it all the way through the trouble?

Maidstone5-Tee

A narrow opening to this green will allow access via the ground game, but distance control is critical.  Anything long will find the water.

Maidstone5-Approach

The green itself is small and plays smaller, thanks to its rounded edges that funnel balls into surrounding collection areas, bunkers or water.

Maidstone5-Green

When the hole is cut at the back of the fifth green, it can be a challenge for a golfer to summon the courage needed to attack.

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Hole 6 – 403 yards – Par 4
The sixth plays out over a wide marshland to a diagonal fairway running left to right. The farther right the line, the longer the carry.

Maidstone6-Tee

The landing area is dominated by a fairway bunker.  Finding the fairway here is critical . . .

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. . . as the green is one of the most difficult on the course. This green slopes substantially from left to right, and its internal contours can either guide a well-struck approach to the hole or play havoc with a meager effort.  One of the best greens Willie Park ever created.

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Hole 7 – 341 yards – Par 4
A true right-hand cape hole, the seventh features two of the most thrilling shots on the course and begins one of the most exciting four hole stretches on Long Island.  The tee shot features a sweeping fairway bounded on the right by a pond and on the left by large dunes.  Again, the more aggressive the line, the longer the carry but the greater the reward.

Maidstone7-Tee

On his approach, the golfer confronts the water yet again, as the green juts out into the pond.  Now the hazard eats in from short right and surrounds the rear of the green.  The closer one plays to the far left side of the fairway, the safer the angle into the green becomes.

Maidstone7-Approach

The seventh green is fairly large but not the easiest target, given the surrounds and the winds.  Though the hole is short, par is a good score here, and double or worse is always in play.

Maidstone7-Green

Hole 8 – 151 yards – Par 3
A picturesque short par-3, the eighth exemplifies the essence of Maidstone.  The green, nestled among the dunes, is partially obscured by an encroaching mound and is more than half blind from the tee.  When the hole is cut on the right half of the green, only the tip of the flag may be visible.

Maidstone8-Tee

If one were teaching a class on how to make bunkering look natural and blend with the surrounding terrain, the eighth green at Maidstone would be the first lesson.

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The green itself, in keeping with the natural contours of the land, slopes from high right to low left.  As seen from the right of the green, there is little margin for error.  A gorgeous hole, and arguably the best of three outstanding one-shot holes at Maidstone.

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Hole 9 – 415 yards – Par 4
Standing on the ninth tee at Maidstone, there are few in the world who would rather be elsewhere.  One of the all-time great classic holes, the ninth begins from a tee cut high into the dunes separating the golf course from the Atlantic Ocean.  The serpentine fairway sweeps right, then left, snaking through the largest dunes on the course.

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Neither the size or the beauty of the sand dunes bordering the ninth hole can be overstated.

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The approach shot to the ninth is the most difficult at Maidstone.  A long, precise shot to an elevated green is required.  The mammoth Yale Bowl bunker sits waiting to the right to catch all but the most well-struck shots.  The Yale Bowl is the deepest and most treacherous bunker on the course – finding it brings all manner of crooked numbers into play.

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The incredible topography of the ninth at Maidstone, as seen from behind the green.

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Hole 10 – 401 yards – Par 4
Though the ninth and tenth holes are listed at similar yardages on the card, the two holes will seldom play similarly.  The tenth tacks back in a western direction, exactly opposite the ninth, reversing the wind that was confronted on the previous hole.  Though the fairway is generous, care must be taken to place the tee shot in the proper position, as a diabolical green awaits.

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Sitting on the crest of a dune, the tenth green is the most substantially elevated on the course, and one of the most challenging.

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Coore & Crenshaw’s beautifully reworked natural bunkers guard both sides of the green and will gather balls that peel off the upslope.  The green cants significantly from back to front, and is guarded long by a steep drop of nearly 20 feet.

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Any miss here makes for a difficult recovery.  A brilliant green complex in every respect.

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Hole 11 – 464 yards – Par 4
If Maidstone were to have a weak spot, it would have been 11th and 12th holes.  Coming off the spectacular set of holes bookending the turn, the golfer must now play over an area lacking the interest of these all-world holes.  Nevertheless, Park was able to craft holes of sufficient interest over this flat portion of the course to carry the golfer over into the strong finishing stretch.  The 11th is a hard dogleg left to a fairway guarded by bunkers that play larger than they appear.  The firm, fast conditioning lends even straightforward tee shots strategic interest.

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The green is ringed with bunkers of varying sizes and shapes, which gives the hole texture and visual interest.  The green itself is canted stiffly from back to front, and a false-front sheds indifferent approaches back into the fairway.

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Hole 12 – 181 yards – Par 3
Though the least striking of Maidstone’s quartet of one-shot holes, the 12th is no throwaway hole.  A large cross-bunker fronting the green complicates the perception of the hole’s distance, and the domed green obscures rear pin placements.  The green itself is quite large, requiring precision iron play.  There is no safe miss on this hole – hit the green or struggle to make par.

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Hole 13 – 500 yards – Par 5
A gorgeous hole, the 13th returns the golfer to the dunes and begins the outstanding closing stretch of holes at Maidstone.  The first in a stretch of five consecutive non-par 4 holes, the 15th plays out to a wide open fairway before doglegging left around a set of bunkers and into the dunes.

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This green is reachable in two shots for longer hitters (and even for shorter hitters when playing downwind), but the many bunkers and surrounding vegetation extract a high price from those who try and fail to get home.

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The 13th green is one of the best on the course, and suits this hole perfectly.  Angled from right to left, the green abruptly rises from the fairway before leveling out for a stretch and then rising again to a second tier before plunging into a rear bunker.  The initial rise over the false front serves to bleed speed off long approaches but will also return short wedge shots with too much spin to the fairway below.  The bunker on the left was masterfully reworked by Coore & Crenshaw and now meshes perfectly with this standout three-shotter.

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Hole 14 – 152 yards – Par 3
The 14th hole at Maidstone is one of the most beautiful par-3s in the world.  Entirely ensconced in the dunes, the isolated 14th will take the breath from even the most well-traveled and crack the facade of the most cynical.  This is a special place in the golfing world.

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Once again, the bunkering work that Coore & Crenshaw have performed on the 14th hole has added to its already immeasurable charm.  The bunkering now blends seamlessly with the surrounding landscape and appears to have been a part of this hole since it was created.  The hole is now as gorgeous as it has ever been.  With the notable exception of Fishers Island’s otherworldly set of par 3 holes, I am unaware of par 3 in the state of New York with a comparable ocean view.

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Hole 15 – 493 yards – Par 5
The tee shot at the 15th plays from an elevated marker set in the dunes through a narrow chute of sand and shrub to a fairway bunkered on both sides.  This is one of the more enjoyable drives on the course.

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Once again, Park’s brilliant routing comes into play, as the par-5 15th runs parallel to and in the opposite direction of the par-5 13th hole, thus ensuring that whatever wind conditions the player faced before will be opposite him now.  As a result, like the 13th, most players will have a chance to reach this short par-5 in two when the wind is behind them, but will only have that benefit if they played into the wind on 13.

Maidstone15-Approach

Though largely flat, the 15th hole provides plenty of strategic interest.  Not only must the fairway and greenside bunkering be avoided, but care must be taken not to run a ball through this tricky green.  A long miss here makes for a very tough recovery.

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Hole 16 – 485 yards – Par 5
An often repeated criticism of golfers from the U.S. Open school is that Maidstone suffers from having four short par 5 holes.  These players overlook not only the ever present and shifting wind at Maidstone, but also the fact that a hole can find its defenses in areas other than raw length.  The 16th is an excellent example.  The 16th tee sits on the same small island as the 4th tee and plays out to a fairway running left to right.  As with so many tee shots at Maidstone, the golfer has a strategic decision to make: do I play right and attempt to make the long carry so as to bring the green within reach in two shots, or do I play left for an easy carry and play the hole in three shots?  That so many of these decisions are confronted during a round is precisely what gives Maidstone its greatness.

Maidstone16-Tee

The battle with the “easy” 16th does not end once the tee shot is safely in the fairway, however.  The player is presented with an enticing target.  A flat green, open in front, with what appear to be small bunkers and minimal danger seemingly awaits.  Perhaps the player now decides to try a shot beyond their capabilities?

Maidstone16-Approach

Now the danger is revealed.  The bunkering guarding the green is more challenging that it seems from a distance.  The green is subtly humped and slopes off to all sides.  The shrubbery that appeared to give the green a wide berth now encroaches closer than it first appeared.  While the 16th remains an excellent opportunity for birdie, its rewards are not without risks that will snare the careless player.

Maidstone16-Green

Hole 17 – 328 yards – Par 4
The 17th is a drivable par 4 that once more puts the golfer to a decision and a test.  The tiny green can be reached from the tee but requires a maximum carry over the pond, avoidance of the deep bunkers to the left of the green and out-of-bounds to the right and rear of the green.

Maidstone17-Tee

The preferred angle, for those laying up off the tee, is to the right of the fairway.

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The 17th green presents challenges of its own, as it is both the smallest on the course and elevated so that it falls away on all sides.

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If Park’s intent was to test the player’s wedge game, he has succeeded here.  There is no good miss on this hole.

Maidstone17-Reverse

The 17th is surrounded by trouble.  The home hole waits across the road.

Maidstone17-Green

Hole 18 – 390 yards – Par 4
Maidstone’s finishing hole plays back up hill to the clubhouse.  Interestingly, it is the only truly uphill hole on the property.  A long hole, the 18th offers a generous fairway to encourage the player to put a little extra into his tee shot, but finding the fairway bunkers makes par an unlikely proposition.

Maidstone18-Tee

The final approach is to a gorgeous horizon green.  The lack of any landmarks beyond the hole makes gaining an accurate perspective and distance difficult.

Maidstone18-Approach

Following the natural contours of the land, the green slopes from back to front before rolling over the apex of the dune and falling to the bunkers below.

Maidstone18-Greenwide

The “alligator eyes” bunkering backing the home green lend some limited perspective of its depth.

Maidstone18-GreenNarrow

Putting out on the final green at Maidstone, with the sights and sounds of the ocean below, the golfer is fully aware that he has just played one of the true classic gems in American golf.

Maidstone18-GreenLeft

If a golf course can be summed up in a single word, the word that applies to Maidstone is this: charming.  It is a charming golf course in every respect, from its setting high in the dunes above the Atlantic Ocean, to its unique routing across its many different types of terrain, to its unusual series of holes including a par-3, -5, -3, -5, -5 sequence, to its lack of length in comparison to modern “championship” courses.  Maidstone is virtually unique in American golf and, along with classic courses like Myopia Hunt Club, Fishers Island, Eastward Ho and Garden City and modern venues like Bandon Dunes, provides a venue that reminds us all that golf is a game that we play for fun.  Could Maidstone host a professional event today?  No.  Can I think of a more appealing place to spend an afternoon playing a match among friends?  Absolutely not.

Maidstone-ClubhouseSunset


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Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf