National Golf Links of America resides inconspicuously in South Hampton’s inner region on a hidden lane known as the Sebonic Inlet, an appropriate prelude to a secluded and otherworldly habitat.
Its terrain is like nothing earthly except perhaps in England or Scotland but more like the moon or other interplanetary surface and stirrings of a magic kingdom.
In the foreground, as you enter, the historic clubhouse looms prominently from the ground’s highest point, an eerie tableau like the lone remnant of an abandoned English estate, the Peconic bay glistening and framing the grounds like a perpetual moat to the horizon.
There is a reverence, a tranquillity and a sense of history every guest experiences driving through the stone columns that mark the entrance.
One feels the centuries surrounding its birth, time suspended, every part of your life that you carried with you, somehow left at the gate, as if blown away by the breeze off the Bay.
Its prestigious membership is as quiet as an early summer morning before a player arrives. No one knows how to become one. New members just appear out of the blue. A new name on a locker. No announcement or welcome. But the names on the lockers tell the story.
Few clubs match the roster at National. I’ve been a guest many times over the years. If not a life-altering event, it’s life-sustaining in believing all things beautiful and magical.
At National, you experience those things while roaming the vast, secluded landscape of rolling fairways, firm moon-scaped turf, redans and giant greens.
The usual buzz of many golfers congregating doesn’t exist at National. Upon arrival, there is a surprising and intimidating quiet that pervades the atmosphere.
Players even tend to whisper in the understated locker room, its lockers paneled from a century ago, the fixtures in the sinks, stalls and showers, remnants of the earliest beginning of the modern era and evoking the club’s infancy at the turn of the 20th century.
Golfers appear more like stragglers, having appeared almost out of thin air, departing the locker room shortly before their tee time, only a few others on the putting green adjacent to the first tee, a quiet directive to ascend the tee from Billy, the caddy master for decades.
There was no driving range during the early years. The Player’s warm-up was relegated to a net behind the golf shop or the lashing of one or two of one’s own golf balls back behind the tee into Peconic Bay.
Nothing was more satisfying than the flight of those balls seemingly in the air forever before a splash that appeared miles away into Peconic’s calm vista of blue. Often, my best shot of the round.
After the round, there is the matter of lunch which at National is a very big deal. Unless a corporate outing has been scheduled, the dining room is never crowded. Only two or three groups lunch at the same time.
After the round, players adjourn to the “the birdcage” (the adjacent screened area for beverages after rounds, overlooking the 18th fairway) or occasionally tour the library where all the ghosts of the founders and legends of amateur golf are realized in the form of handsome sculptures.
They include an imposing giant size sculpture of the original founder, CW McDonald, grim and determined, in the center of the room and the hands of the legendary Harry Vardon, sculpted in the original classic Vardon grip that prefaced the modern game. The room more chapel than library.
Not many players stay overnight at the club. But on several occasions, I took advantage of the opportunity and convenience to stay there.
The rooms are on the upper level of the clubhouse, a quiet bastion of tiny rooms, open windows, understated décor and waking to breezes off Peconic Bay. In the mornings, I’d wake to a muffled sound of a mower out on the course somewhere, and from my room, I could see a lone worker rolling the first green to a glossy sheen.
Nothing that I experienced in my life was more restorative than waking to the tranquility of those mornings with the scent of the sea air, the fresh-cut grass and the breeze off the Bay through those open windows.
I will turn eighty this year. If I had to choose one final day of golf, it would be National Golf Links of America, a magic kingdom if there ever was one.
National Golf Links of America Course Map
The National Golf Links of America was first opened in 1908 in Southampton, New York, and is now a 6,915 yards par-73 test. The private course is set in 243 acres at Peconic Bay.
National Golf Links of America Scorecard & Hole by Hole
National Golf Links of America Slope Rating
The National Golf Links of America has a slope rating of 141 and a course rating is 74.3.
National Golf Links of America Membership Cost
The National Golf Links of America is a private golf club. Membership costs aren’t advertised.
National Golf Links of America Membership Address
149 Sebonac Inlet Rd
Southampton, NY 11968
Phone: (631) 283-0410
Jack Holden retired from business and returned to writing full time about his lifelong passion for the game of golf. He was introduced to the game as a caddy in Westchester County, NY, where golf clubs and great golf courses proliferate. He provides unique golf course reviews, commentary, opinions, tales and other interesting tid-bits about the game he loves.