For the 10th time in history, Long Island hosted a U.S. Open championship this past weekend. That includes tournaments for both men and women and a historic timeline that dates back to 1896.
Walking the course at Shinnecock Hills this year, it’s easy to get swept up in the sprawling hills and picturesque terrain without thinking of the robust history associated with the land.
This was the fifth Open held at Shinnecock. The first was in 1896 when James Foulis, better known for inventing the modern 7-iron, won the only tournament of his career.
It would be another 90 years before Shinnecock hosted again. Raymond Floyd, a World Golf Hall of Famer, shot a 66 in the final round to edge out Greg Norman and win the Open in 1986.
In 1995, it was Norman again playing runner-up, this time to Corey Pavin, who ran valiantly down the fairway after his 4-wood approach on the 18th hole sealed his victory. This was also the first U.S. Open for a 19-year-old Tiger Woods. Rateif Goosen won at Shinnecock in 2004 and Brooks Koepka nailed his second straight U.S. Open title this year, becoming just the seventh person in history to win the big dance in back-to-back years.
In between the Shinnecock moments, Garden City Golf Club (1902), Inwood Country Club (1923), Bethpage (2002 and 2009) and Sebonack (2013) all hosted the U.S. Open. Most notable are Bobby Jones winning in 1923 simply because he is one of the most influential figures in the history of American sports, Woods winning in 2002 at Bethpage, which we know now as the prime of the modern legend’s career, and Inbee Park winning in 2013, the first women’s U.S. Open on the island.
Long Island’s golf landscape is more than championships and big names, it’s about the dense arrangement of courses scattered from Queens to Montauk. It’s why many consider Long Island the world’s premier golfing destination – sorry, Scotland. The diverse placement of courses feature both a modern parkland build of tree-lined fairways, and courses with older treeless and hilly swaths. You can go anywhere in Nassau or Suffolk and run into a course that is revered internationally.
You could read novels about the green pastures and bountiful gusts of swirling positive sentiments about the courses in these parts, but it’s really Shinnecock that holds the top flavor for golf enthusiasts. Maybe it’s the historical factor of being the oldest formal golf course in America when it opened in 1891, or the first course to have a club house when that opened in 1892, or the host location of just the second U.S. Open in history 1896.
Golfers simply love the challenge. During interview after interview, one golfer after the next mentioned how tough the course would be and that even aiming for par would be a challenge.
“You’ve got to play really good golf if you want to shoot a good score, and I like where par is a good score on every hole no matter what club you got in your hand, what hole it is,” said Dustin Johnson, the top ranked golfer in the world, who finished three-over and in third this year.
“A par is a really good score,” he continued. “Around here, the fairways are fairly generous, but with crosswinds on every hole, they’re still tough to hit. Even though you’re in the middle of the fairway, a lot of times with a wedge you’ve still got to hit a good shot just to give yourself a 15- or 20-footer.”
Rickie Fowler said he played 13 rounds of golf on Long Island in 2013 and was waiting for the opportunity to play in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock. He finished tied for 20th at 11-over.
“I’ve always heard about the great golf in Long Island, especially in the Hamptons, and I wanted to get up here and see and play some of the golf courses because I just love to play golf,” he said. “Shinnecock is my favorite as far as it’s a real golf course. It’s going to test you, day in and day out, and it’s very straightforward right in front of you.”
Many golfers admire holes 14 and 15 as two of the most scenic in the country. Rory McIlroy played at National, Friar’s Head, and Garden City while he was in town for the Open.
“Obviously, with the history and the architecture, but I’m a big fan of what Coore and Crenshaw have tried to do with their golf courses,” he said referring to the golf course architectural firm that has developed or renovated hundreds of courses, “and Friar’s Head is one of the best I’ve played. Not just for the design, but just for the setting and the scenery.”
For all the same reasons, Shinnecock will once again host the Open in 2026, and before that, Bethpage will host the PGA Championship in 2019, where once again Long Island will be on display as a premier golfing destination.
Major Golf Championships on Long Island (men and women)
|2026||Shinnecock Hills||U.S. Open men||TBD|
|2019||Bethpage State Park||PGA Championship||TBD|
|2018||Shinnecock Hills||U.S. Open men||Brooks Koepka|
|2013||Sebonack Golf Club||U.S. Open women||Inbee Park|
|2009||Bethpage State Park||U.S. Open men||Lucas Glover|
|2004||Shinnecock Hills||U.S. Open men||Rateif Goosen|
|2002||Bethpage State Park||U.S. Open men||Tiger Woods|
|1995||Shinnecock Hills||U.S. Open men||Corey Paven|
|1986||Shinnecock Hills||U.S. Open men||Raymond Floyd|
|1926||Salisbury Country Club||PGA Championship||Walter Hagen|
|1923||Inwood Country Club||U.S. Open men||Bobby Jones|
|1921||Inwood Country Club||PGA Championship||Walter Hagen|
|1919||Engineers Country Club||PGA Championship||Jim Barnes|
|1902||Garden City Golf Club||U.S. Open men||Laurie Auchterlonie|
|1896||Shinnecock Hills||U.S. Open men||James Foulis|
*Note: A number of Walker Cup tournaments were also played in Long Island, but not reflected in this chart.
Chris R. Vaccaro is Executive Director of the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame.