Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game


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Field of Dreams – Peter Imber & Quogue Field Club

Benjamin Litman’s GolfClubAtlas article Timeless Golf at Quoque Field Club was a key contributor to the beginning of my love affair with 9-holers.  I wasn’t sure about how exactly to pronounce the name (it is “kwahg”, by the way), but I was absolutely certain that I wanted to play the course.  The chance to experience Quogue came for me during this season’s Noreaster, and as I wrote in my recap of that trip, it did not disappoint.

As a coincidental bonus, our host was Peter Imber, who also happens to be a principal player in Quogue’s restoration.  We connected after my visit, and hit it off over our respective efforts to revitalize our golf courses.  Not only did he give me guidance on how to approach my efforts at Canal Shores, but he also graciously agreed to do an interview.  With that interview, Jon Cavalier and I have partnered to bring you a QFC photo tour.  Enjoy!

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THE INTERVIEW

How did you get introduced to the game of golf?

I first picked up golf in my teens.  A friend of my father’s took me to play my first round when I was 14 at Southampton Golf Club.  After that I basically lied about my handicap to get on my high school and college golf teams.  I didn’t play in matches, but I got to play a lot with better players.

When did you know that the game had a hold on you?

I was hooked from the start.  I love to practice and I love the feeling of hitting a pure shot.  There is always something new to learn, and there is no one way to play or one “right” course design.

How did you get interested in golf course architecture?

I have been very lucky.  Growing up in NY, summering on Long Island and also living in SF for a while, I have had access to amazing courses, public and private.  In most cases I didn’t fully appreciate where I was playing until later, but I would invariably remember something about them – a shot, a view, a feel.  The two places that probably had the greatest impact were (not surprisingly) Shinnecock and National.  Both amazing in totally different ways.  As the years have gone by, I have tried to distill why they are so wonderful and the answer is ever evolving…the research is fun.

Who is your favorite Golden Age architect, and why?

It’s so hard to pick.  I have always loved Tilinghast’s simplicity.  The courses are right in front of you; they are fair and they are challenging.  It wasn’t until I went to Scotland in my 20’s that I began to appreciate architects like Raynor and McDonald, whose quirkiness comes from the source and is historically significant and not contrived.

Tell us about the history of Quogue Field Club.

The Quogue Field Club was founded in 1887.  The original location was about a mile from where it currently resides.  The club did not include golf originally but RB Wilson (head pro at Shinnecock at the time) designed a crude 9 hole layout in 1897.  As the village grew, the old location became the business center of the village and the club was moved to its current location in 1900.  The current course was built in 2 parts.  The original 9 was designed by Tom Bendelow in 1901 and much of that course is what still exists today.  A 2nd 9 was added in 1921 under the supervision of James Hepburn (pro at National Golf Links of America).  As a result of damage from the hurricane of 1938 and a lack of interest in golf around WWII, the club gave back a chunk of land representing 9 holes and what was left is the current layout.  7 of the 9 current greens are original (#4 and #6 were redone in 1999 and 1974, respectively).

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How did you get involved in the restoration of Quogue?

For years golf has been a distant second to tennis at QFC.  Many of the better golfers are members of other 18 hole courses in the area (SHGC, NGLA) and play their golf at those courses.  As a result, the course didn’t receive the attention it might have, and over the years appreciation of the history of the QFC course was lost.  In 2008 I asked the chair of the Green Committee why our greens were so much slower than others in the area despite the same weather and same soil.  The next day I was on the Green Committee.  Two years later I was asked to replace the chair when he stepped down.  

The first thing I did was challenge the committee to see how they would like to improve the course.  We began to discuss what changes we felt were most important.  The single change that lead to the restoration was our desire to remove some non-native trees that had been planted along a number of fairways.  They weren’t in keeping with the links roots of the course.  In order to strengthen our case to the board, we asked to bring in an architect for a consultation.  That’s how we met Ian Andrew.  We were so impressed with his visit that we convinced the board to allow us to retain him for a full Master Plan…and so it began.

Did you experience any resistance to change, and if so, how did you overcome it?

There is always resistance to ANY change at a club that has been around as long as ours.  There are two ways to deal with this – either build consensus for the changes, or make the changes and explain it after.  I’d like to think that we pursued a balance of the two approaches.  We worked closely with the Board at all times, and, supported by Ian’s Master Plan, we made some significant but inexpensive changes (namely tree removal to resolve a safety issue).  We did so without building consensus, but with strong conviction that we were making the right decision and with the full support of an expert (Ian) and the Board.  As the membership digested these changes, we brought in Ian to present the full Master Plan to the membership which helped build consensus for the rest of the vision.  

We still fight some battles, even as we approach the final stages of the restoration, but more often than not, we are simply asked questions about why we are doing certain things and engage in a thoughtful discussion.  In the end, the course belongs to the members and we are not looking to impose our will come hell or high water.  On the other hand, sometimes change needs a little jumpstart.  Hopefully our members would agree that we found a good balance.

How has Ian Andrew impacted the work at the club?

Ian has a wonderful vision.  He does not look to put his fingerprints on the course.  He values the history of the course and treated it like an old gem that had been lost for generations – shine it up and put it in an appropriate new setting.  Ian focused on our links heritage.  He advocated tree removal for the most logical of reasons: “Your best asset is your views and your best defense is the wind…and the trees are interfering with both.”  Ian focused a great deal on presentation, and it was amazing how much he changed the course without us moving a shovel full of dirt.  Every change he has advocated was consistent with his vision and consistent with the history of the course.

(For more from Ian Andrew, read his GeekedOnGolf interview here)

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What were the key areas of focus for the project?

The biggest focus was on improving sightlines and returning to a links feel.  Just removing the trees that lined the fairways changed the look and feel of the course.  We have three holes on the water, but you never used to be able to see the water except from two spots.  Now you can see the water from the clubhouse and almost every hole in between.  You can also stand in almost any spot and see every hole on the course.

What has member feedback been to the changes?

Overwhelmingly positive.  Even those who questioned it, now seem to love it.  As much as anything else, I think the members didn’t realize or appreciate the gem we have.  It was just a place they played.  Now their friends are asking to play it and they are proud of what we have restored.

What one piece of advice would you give to Green Committee or club members who are considering championing a renovation or restoration?

Communication is everything – whether to the Board or the membership at large.  Explain what you are doing and more importantly, why, to anyone who is curious.  Clubs can be very catty places where people make judgments without all the information.  A well thought out and well explained plan will almost always prevail.  It’s okay if it takes time.  It gives the membership time to digest the vision.  We have been implementing our plan for five years.  Trees one year.  Two new tees the next.  A new bunker the following year.  At this point I don’t think anyone even notices the changes anymore.

What do you love the most about the restored Quogue Field Club?

I love the walk and the views.  Where you used to play holes in a tunnel, now I see golfers on every hole across the course and I can see the water from every hole.  It makes me smile.  It doesn’t hurt that our Superintendent John Bradley has done an outstanding job of raising the bar on course conditions and presentation.


QUOGUE FIELD CLUB

Before diving into the hole-by-hole tour, two important notes about Quogue:

First, how it works.  The course has forward and back tees.  There are two sets of each, which are color-coded.  One color-coded set is played the first loop around, and if you want to play 18 holes, you play the other colored set the second loop.  The different sets are at meaningfully different distances, creating a distinct playing experience on each loop.  Genius.

Second, how it plays.  Superintendent John Bradley present a course that does now seem highly manicured or over maintained, and yet it plays absolutely perfectly.  The fairway run and bounce, the fescue is playable, the bunkers are rugged yet tidy, and the greens roll true.  To me, it is the model of maintaining a course responsibly and sustainably with regard to inputs, while at the same time providing players with an outstanding experience.

HOLE #1 – (Black) Par 5 – 528 yards / (Orange) Par 5 – 492 yards

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The opener is a five par that plays over a road and flat ground to a green flanked by bunkers.  The subtle, but infinitely interesting internal contours of Quogue’s greens are evident from the very beginning.

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HOLE #2 – (Black) Par 3 – 148 yards / (Orange) Par 3 – 161 yards

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The green on the second sits surrounded by sand and fescue-covered mounding.  The putting surface is a punchbowl of a variety that not even Messrs Macdonald & Raynor ever thought to build.

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HOLE #3 – (Black) Par 4 – 270 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 272 yards

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Quogue’s church pews, and all manner of other quirky bunkering, are on display on the 3rd.  The yardage on the card begs for a heroic shot, but the members know that for most players, going for the green is a sucker’s play.

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HOLE #4 – (Black) Par 3 – 193 yards / (Orange) Par 3 – 171 yards

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The fourth is a mid-length par-3 with one of the coolest greens on the planet – the redan, biarritz combo.  The high front right feeder slope is separated from the back plateau by a shallow swale.  Fun to look at, and even more fun to play.

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HOLE #5 – (Black) Par 4 – 412 yards / (Orange) Par 5 – 470 yards

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The 5th is a slight dogleg right that ends with a green set hard against the water. Judging approaches at this particularly windy spot on the property is a devilish challenge.

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HOLE #6 – (Black) Par 4 – 281 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 245 yards

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The tight 6th plays over a wetland, which also guards its entire left side.  The low set green is guarded by bunkers on both sides, including a unique grassy sand dune.

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HOLE #7 – (Black) Par 4 – 414 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 434 yards

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The 7th is a tough four par which demands a tee shot placed between angled bunkers on either side of the fairway.  The large green is surrounded by bunkers on three sides including 2 nasty little pots.

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HOLE #8 – (Black) Par 4 – 379 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 347 yards

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The penultimate hole provides another dose of quirky challenge with a cluster of bunkers right of the landing area, and another cluster of cross-bunkers short of the green.  The green wraps around a circular bunker right making some pin positions dicey.

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HOLE #9 – (Black) Par 5 – 534 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 408 yards

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The closing hole heads back over the road and to the clubhouse.  One final seamless transition from fairway to straight-fronted green awaits the player upon the return.

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A day spent at Quogue Field Club is a golf geek’s dream come true.  It is golf at its purest and finest.  Created before architectural egotism existed, lovingly restored, and masterfully presented, the course evokes joy from the deepest levels of a player’s heart.  That level at which each of us first fell in love with this great game.


Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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5th Annual Noreaster – Back to Long Island

After two years in Boston, our group was longing for a return trip to Long Island, and Friar’s Head.  Planning began over the winter, but took a detour.  Two of the original four members of the Noreaster crew, Brian and Shawn, weren’t able to make the trip this year.  They are good dads, and had travel plans with their kids that trumped golf buddy travel.  I understand and respect those priorities.  Fortunately, my network of golf geeks who get it continues to expand, and the slots were filled by Jon Cavalier and Gary M.

We pulled together a lineup of Friar’s Head, Maidstone, Quogue Field Club, and Deepdale GC.

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FRIAR’S HEAD

Since my last visit to Friar’s Head, I have had the good fortune of playing several more of Coore & Crenshaw’s best courses – Old Sandwich, Sand Hills, Sand Valley and Dormie Club.  My love of their work continues to grow, but I admit to wondering if the additional exposure would in any way diminish Friar’s Head.  It most definitely did not.  Friar’s Head delivers, every time.

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Behind the green at the short par-4 5th

The back nine gets most of the press, but on this visit I was much more taken with the front.  Those holes are brilliantly routed out to and back from the inland farm, and are packed with strategy and character.  I made the turn feeling that the front might be the stronger nine, especially with the recent tree removal.

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The fairway rolls down to the 9th green

Whereas the outward nine meanders around in a wide open area, much of the back nine winds through dunes closer to the clubhouse and water.  Beginning with the par-3 10th, the inward nine has more of an adventure feel.

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The view back from the 10th green

My feelings about the front side notwithstanding, there is a reason why the closing stretch from the 14th through 18th gets so much love.  It is all-world.

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The tee shot on the par-5 14th


MAIDSTONE CLUB

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Photo by Jon Cavalier

Maidstone was one of the courses we visited on our first annual Noreaster, which also included Piping Rock, Shinnecock and Friar’s Head.  Truth be told, it was not our crew’s favorite from that lineup, but it didn’t get a fair assessment either.  We played Shinnecock that morning in a howling wind and spitting rain, and it beat us up.  By the time we made it to Maidstone, the rain has stopped, but the wind increased to silly levels and it was difficult to see Maidstone for how special it was.

That first visit to Maidstone was also prior to the renovation by Coore & Crenshaw.  I filed it away in the “nice course” category until Jon Cavalier did his LinksGems course tour.  Reviewing Jon’s tour, I could hardly believe that it was the same Maidstone I had played.  From that day forward, a return to East Hampton has been on my mind.

Expectations were high as we made the drive east on Long Island on a perfect June morning.  18 holes later, my high expectations were thoroughly exceeded with Maidstone entering my Top 10 all-time favorites.  Willie Park’s routing – beginning and ending with a wide open field in front of the clubhouse, transitioning to the wetlands around Hook Pond, and featuring the seaside dunesland at its heart – is masterful and varied.  C&C’s work on the greens and bunkers is mind-blowingly cool.  And the stewardship of GM Ken Koch and Superintendent John Genovesi is spot on.

Still absorbing the morning months later, I am left believing that a fair argument could be made that Maidstone belongs in the same conversation with Shinnecock and National Golf Links as top dog on Long Island.  As was the case when I first saw Jon’s photos, I am once again counting the days until a return visit.

MAIDSTONE COURSE TOUR

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Hole #1 – Par 4 – 424 yards

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The opener plays downhill away from the clubhouse to a green that is both elevated and canted.  Long approaches are in danger of finding the road, which backs the green.  The Coore & Crenshaw team’s bunker rework is on display and gives a hint at the polish that has been applied to this Willie Park Jr. gem.

Hole #2 – Par 5 – 537 yards

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The first of the “wetland” holes plays straight through flanking bunkers to a stellar green featuring a low front tier and a long, angled back tier.  Approaches must be precisely played to find the correct section, while avoiding the large bunker that runs the length of the back right.  The renovation took this hole from ho-hum to holy moly!

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Hole #3 – Par 4 – 408 yards

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A straightaway two-shotter, the third demands proper positioning off the tee to access various pin positions on the green which features a false front and two tiers.  Great greens make great golf holes, and this hole is proof positive.

Hole #4 – Par 3 – 176 yards

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The first one-shotter marks another transition, with three of the next four holes playing over or around Hook Pond.  Bunkering rework around the green has added even more character to this thrilling hole, where two realizations hit the player on the tee: 1) The wind is really blowing, and 2) If I don’t make committed approaches, I will be watching balls roll back down false fronts ALL day.

Hole #5 – Par 4 – 325 yards

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Multiple options are available to the player on this short four, including going for the green when the wind is right.  Bunkers guard the landing zones and the green, which backs up to Hook Pond.  Reward awaits the bold, but not without risk.

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Hole #6 – Par 4 – 403 yards

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The green on this hole, featuring bold contours, and surrounded by jaw-dropping bunkering is a harbinger of the architecture to come.  Hit the approach on the wrong tier, and you may as well try and negotiate a three-putt with your playing partners as you walk up the fairway.

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Hole #7 – Par 4 – 341 yards

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The best cape hole in America?  An argument could be made.  Step on the tee, gauge the wind, check your pucker factor, and let er rip.  A thrilling tee shot, followed by an approach into a green with killer contours and creative flourishes in the surrounds.  Sublime.

Hole #8 – Par 3 – 151 yards

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The tee shot plays blind over the large dune to an elevated green.  A wise man once said, a shot is only blind once.  That wise man may have been right, but he would be intimidated on the 8th tee too.

Finding the 8th green – wonderfully contoured, floating on a sea of sand – with one’s tee ball is an exhilarating relief.

Hole #9 – Par 4 – 415 yards

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Ahhhh, the iconic 9th.  With the ocean on the right and the whipping wind, the player must focus to find a safe landing in the fairway winding through the dunes.

A service road left of the green has been replaced by a wild runoff shaped by Dave Zinkand.  Continuous improvement and relentless attention to detail.  What separates the good from the world class.

Hole #10 – Par 4 – 387 yards

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This unique hole is one of Maidstone’s most natural and rugged looking, with sandy wastes, long grasses and colorful dune vegetation.  Standing in the fairway looking at the green set atop a dune, the player can be forgiven for concluding that there is no safe place to land an approach.

Hole #11 – Par 4 – 464 yards

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This slight dogleg left is an elegant hole with bunkers guarding the drive zone and green.  It highlighted for me just how perfectly balanced Maidstone is.  From turf maintenance, to bunker treatments, to tree management, nothing has been left undone, and yet nothing is overdone.

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Hole #12 – Par 3 – 181 yards

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This used to be a nondescript connector hole.  Thanks to C&C, that is most definitely no longer the case.  The forebunker confounds depth perception, the flanking bunkers intimidate, and a back left bunker lies out of sight, waiting to punish misjudged shots.  All this sand, defending a green that is tough enough to not need defending.  The 12th is now up to the standards of Maidstone’s other wonderful one-shotters.

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Hole #13 – Par 5 – 500 yards

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The 13th plays back toward the ocean and the fairway narrows as it nears the green.  A green that, now running at an angle between two bunkers and featuring a large false front, might be the most improved on the course.  This hole used to be “the one before the iconic 14th”.  Post-renovation, it is THE 13th.

Hole #14 – Par 3 – 152 yards

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This all world one-shotter can play dramatically differently from day to day based on the wind.  Whether holding a wedge or a long iron, the player is guaranteed a dose of beauty to soothe their frazzled nerves.

The view of the 14th from behind shows a) how close to the ocean the green sits, and b) how little margin for error there is for tee balls. Find the green, enjoy the sound and smell of the ocean, and consider yourself among the fortunate few.

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Hole #15 – Par 5 – 493 yards

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Playing straightaway from the ocean, the green is reachable in two with the right wind.  Multiple subtle plateaus mean that an eagle or birdie are far from guaranteed even if a bold approach safely finds the green.  This hole marks the end of the seaside adventure as the course heads back to the clubhouse.

Hole #16 – Par 5 – 485 yards

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The par-5 16th ends the fun 3,5,3,5,5 stretch. The cape-style tee shot plays back over Hook Pond to a fairway that makes a right turn toward the low-set green.  Judging the wind and playing the angles well can result in birdies.  Picking the wrong lines…different result.

Hole #17 – Par 4 – 328 yards

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This short four starts with a second straight cape tee shot, playing in the opposite direction.  Yet another fun little routing quirk.  The player can take multiple lines off tee to gain the most advantageous position to approach a green set intimately at the intersection of two roads.

Hole #18 – Par 4 – 390 yards

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The home hole plays uphill toward the clubhouse and ocean.  The shared fairway makes for an expansive view and provides plenty of room to get way out of position for the approach.

Maidstone’s final green setting is so breathtakingly beautiful that it almost masks the sadness the player feels to be walking off this all-world course.  The adventure ends, but the memories last forever.


QUOGUE FIELD CLUB

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Photo by Jon Cavalier

Fortunately for me, my golf buddies are willing to indulge my recent obsession with 9-holers.  I could not have been more excited to experience Quogue Field Club, thanks to our host Peter Imber.  It did not disappoint.

Peter has been at the forefront of the restoration of Quogue, and he has graciously agreed to participate in an interview and course tour on which Jon Cavalier and I intend to collaborate.  With that closer look on the docket, I won’t dive too deeply into the course here.  I will say, however, that Quogue Field Club embodies everything that I love about the game.  It is both simple and intensely interesting at the same time.  It provides plenty of challenge, especially when the wind blows, without sucking out the fun.  It is a joy.

I could go around and around this course endlessly…

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The green at the par-3 2nd

Quogue’s nine holes have nine terrific greens, as well as plenty of old-timey quirk – grassy mounds, church pew bunkers, shots over roads, a punch bowl surrounded by sand.  The list goes on and on.

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The redan-biarritz 4th is one of a kind

The course is open to and intimately embedded in its community.  It is a source of inspiration for what community golf can be, whether public or private.

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The 9th green, set close to the understated clubhouse


DEEPDALE GOLF CLUB

On a trip that was packed with high notes, the highest relative to my expectations might have been our visit to Deepdale.  I must admit that I did not know much about the club, other than that the course was designed by Dick Wilson, an architect whose courses I had never played.  Sometimes, going into a golf adventure “blind” makes it all the more enjoyable and that was certainly the case here.

The course was wonderful, from the routing, to the imposing bunkering, to the sloped and contoured greens.  Wilson created a course that challenges the low handicapper, without punishing those who are less skilled.

The club is outstanding.  A great mix of old school charm with new school amenity.  The showers are almost as good as Friar’s Head (and that is saying something), and the seafood cobb salad might be the best post-round meal I have ever had.  Deepdale is the kind of club that would be a pure pleasure to frequent – a golf getaway from city life that isn’t even all that far away.  It was the perfect end to our trip.

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The approach to Deepdale’s 1st

From the first hole, several things are evident about Deepdale.  It is immaculate, the doglegged fairways sweep beautifully over the land, and the greens are anything but boring.

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From behind the 12th green

I had no idea that the land so close to the highway and airport could be so stunning, with rolling hills and plenty of elevation change.

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From the 15th tee


CONCLUSION

The more golf adventures I have, the more I come to realize that the enjoyment of the experience is as much dictated by the quality of the company as it is by the quality of the courses.  I am fortunate to be able to play the courses I do, but my fortune is exponentially better because of the company I keep.  These are simply stellar dudes.

Reflecting on the trip, there was one missing element – immersion.  Because of some last minute shuffling, we were not all staying in the same place.  A big part of what I truly enjoy about buddies trips is the camaraderie, on the course and off.  Car time and meal time, talking golf, architecture and life, add richness and depth to these trips.  The logistics robbed us of a bit of that this time around.

The 2017 Noreaster consisted of our most eclectic group of courses and clubs to date, in terms of both vibe and architecture.  We had modern and classic, understated and luxurious, big and small, modern and classic.  One common thread that runs among them all – greatness.

Familiarity born of return visits to the area, and Friar’s Head and Maidstone, increased my appreciation.  These trips are often a blur and repeat visits help to crystallize memories and perspectives.  I often wonder, which Noreaster area has the strongest collection of courses?  Boston, Long Island, or Philly?  The answer came to me this year.  Whichever area I just visited.