Meet Shinnecock Hills, One of America's Historic Golf Clubs

A view from behind the 18th green at Shinnecock Hills
A view from behind the 18th green at Shinnecock Hills. David Cannon/Getty IMages

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is one of the grande dames of American golf, a tony private club in Southampton, New York. It is built in sandhills and is one of the American courses that is closest to being a true links-style golf course: virtually treeless (except some areas around the perimeter), tall grasses blowing in the wind, a seaside location on Long Island.

The club takes its name from the Native American Shinnecock Indian nation, whose 750-acre reservation is nearby. (The Shinnecock Nation says the golf course is built over tribal burial grounds and for years has been involved in litigation attempting to reclaim land from the club and other area landowners.)

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club dates to 1891; in 1895, the club was one of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association (USGA). Shinnecock Hills was the site of the second-ever U.S. Amateur Championship and U.S. Open, both played in 1896, and has hosted multiple other U.S. Open tournaments.

The course — once called "golf's holy grail" by Johnny Miller — is routinely included in the Top 10 on lists of the greatest golf courses in the United States. On Golf Digest's biennial course ranking, Shinnecock Hills has placed as high as No. 2.

Contact info for the club:

200 Tuckahoe Road.
Southampton, NY 11968
(631) 283-1310
shinnecockhillsgolfclub.org

Can You Play Shinnecock Hills?

Shinnecock Hills 18th hole, No. 9 green and clubhouse
Looking up the 18th fairway, whose green is to the left; with the ninth hole and clubhouse in the background. David Cannon/Getty Images

Do you know anyone who is a member at Shinnecock Hills? No? Then probably not.

Shinnecock Hills is a private and exclusive club. If you belong to a similar, high-end private golf club, you can request that your club's Director of Golf or General Manager send a reciprocal request to his or her counterpart at Shinnecock Hills, which might, depending on many factors outside your control, work.

Otherwise, the only way to get on the golf course is as the guest of a member. (But if you do get on, you won't be charged: guests sign for all bills with the member's name, so the member incurs all guest charges.)

The Origins and Architects of Shinnecock Hills

Shinnecock Hills hole No. 7
The green on the par-3 No. 7 hole at Shinnecock Hills, named 'Redan'. David Cannon/Getty Images

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was founded in 1891. Its clubhouse opened in 1892 and underwent a major renovation in 2016.

The golf course has had several major updates and renovations. The original course was 12 holes in length and designed by Willie Davis. In 1895, the course was expanded to 18 holes, with six new holes designed by Willie Dunn. Charles B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor were involved in later renovations.

The golf course that exists today largely came into being in 1931, when a rebuilt course designed by William Flynn opened. Flynn, Macdonald, Raynor and Dunn are all considered part of the pantheon of early golf architecture giants.

Pars, Yardages and Ratings at Shinnecock Hills

Shinnecock Hills Hole No. 11
The runup to the 11th green. David Cannon/Getty Images

These are the hole pars and yardages that will be in use during the 2018 U.S. Open, when the course will play approximately 500 yards longer than it does for members:

Hole 1 - Par 4 - 393 yards
Hole 2 - Par 3 - 253 yards
Hole 3 - Par 4 - 500 yards
Hole 4 - Par 4 - 472 yards
Hole 5 - Par 5 - 585 yards
Hole 6 - Par 4 - 456 yards
Hole 7 - Par 3 - 189 yards
Hole 8 - Par 4 - 445 yards
Hole 9 - Par 4 - 481 yards
Out - Par 35 - 3,812 yards
Hole 10 - Par 4 - 412 yards
Hole 11 - Par 3 - 158 yards
Hole 12 - Par 4 - 468 yards
Hole 13 - Par 4 - 370 yards
Hole 14 - Par 4 - 519 yards
Hole 15 - Par 4 - 403 yards
Hole 16 - Par 5 - 616 yards
Hole 17 - Par 3 - 179 yards
Hole 18 - Par 4 - 488 yards
In - Par 35 - 3,613 yards
Total - Par 70 - 7,445 yards

These are the course yardages and ratings for members:

  • Red tees: 6,940 yards, 74.4 USGA course rating, 140 USGA slope rating
  • Green tees: 6,530 yards, 72.3 course rating, 134 slope rating
  • Blue tees: 6,141 yards, 70.3 course rating, 129 slope rating
  • White tees: 5,396 yards, 72.5 course rating (women), 131 slope rating (women)

Shinnecock Hills Hole Names

Shinnecock Hills Hole No. 4
No. 4 green at Shinnecock Hills. David Cannon/Getty Images

All of the holes on Shinnecock Hills' golf course are named. It's mostly a mix of Native American names plus names borrowed from Scottish links courses.

Hole 1 — Westward Ho
Hole 2 — Plateau
Hole 3 — Peconic
Hole 4 — Pump House
Hole 5 — Montauk
Hole 6 — Pond
Hole 7 — Redan
Hole 8 — Lowlands
Hole 9 — Ben Nevis
Hole 10 — Eastward Ho
Hole 11 — Hill Head
Hole 12 — Tuckahoe
Hole 13 — Road Side
Hole 14 — Thom's Elbow
Hole 15 — Sebonac
Hole 16 — Shinnecock
Hole 17 — Eden
Hole 18 — Home

Peconic, Montauk, Tuckahoe, Sebonac and, of course, Shinnecock are names of Native American tribes that once lived (or still do) on Long Island.

Probably the most famous of the hole names at Shinnecock is Redan, the club's seventh hole. Redan refers to a specific type of golf hole design; the name originated at a links in Scotland and Shinnecock's Redan is considered among the best examples of a "redan hole."

Significant Tournaments Played at Shinnecock Hills

Hole No. 15 at Shinnecock Hills
Looking across the 15th hole. David Cannon/Getty Images

The 2018 U.S. Open will be the fifth time that major is played at Shinnecock Hills. The course has also been the site of other big tournaments. That list includes these professional and amateur majors and international team events (winner is listed for each):

  • 1896 U.S. Amateur: H.J. Whigham
  • 1896 U.S. Open: James Foulis
  • 1900 U.S. Women's Amateur: Frances C. Griscom
  • 1977 Walker Cup: United States
  • 1986 U.S. Open: Raymond Floyd
  • 1995 U.S. Open: Corey Pavin
  • 2004 U.S. Open: Retief Goosen

In addition to 2018, the club is also scheduled to host the U.S. Open again in 2026.

More History and Trivia about Shinnecock Hills

The No. 9 green and clubhouse at Shinnecock Hills
The Shinnecock Hills clubhouse sits perched behind the No. 9 green. David Cannon/Getty Images
  • Shinnecock Hills was the first golf club in the United States to admit women. The club allowed women golfers and members from its start.
  • At the 1896 U.S. Open, John Shippen, an African American caddie at the club, and Shinnecock Indian Oscar Bunn both entered. Some of the other golfers signed a petition demanding their removal and threatening a boycott if the field was not all-white. The USGA refused to cave in, and Shippen and Bunn played. Shippen finished tied for sixth place and Bunn 21st. Both Shippen and Bunn lived on the Shinnecock reservation near the golf course.
  • Shippen was the first African American to play in a U.S. Open, and also the first native-born American to play in a U.S. Open.
  • Having hosted that 1896 Open, two more in the late 20th century, and then again in 2004, Shinnecock Hills is the only golf club to host U.S. Opens in three different centuries.
  • The club is located adjacent to National Golf Links of America (literally across a road from Shinnecock Hills) and Sebonack Golf Club, a very high concentration of very highly rated golf courses in one small area.
  • Is there a dress code at Shinnecock Hills? You bet there is. And how strict it is can be deduced from the fact that the club specifies that shirts must remain tucked in at all times and that caps must be worn with the bills facing forward at all times (except when inside the clubhouse, where caps and hats must be removed).
  • Shinnecock Hills is a walking-only golf course, no carts allowed. Caddies are available for members and guests who want one.
  • Margaret Curtis was the loser in the championship match of the 1900 U.S. Women's Amateur at Shinnecock. Curtis later became one of the founders and namesakes of the Curtis Cup.
  • The first golfer to shoot 29 over one of the nines in a U.S. Open did so at Shinnecock Hills. Neal Lancaster scored 29 on the back nine during the 1995 tournament.
  • Something else notable happened in that 1995 Open: Tiger Woods played the tournament for the first time. Woods, age 19, withdrew with a wrist injury after opening with a 74.
  • The Shinnecock Hills turfgrass was pushed to the edge during the 2004 U.S. Open, with many golfers complaining the USGA ruined the tournament by nearly (or actually, in some cases) killing the grass on greens. That tournament was one of the times the USGA received the harshest criticism from golfers over the course setup.