There is no sign, directions, warning or notice of any kind that you are approaching this special place. Perhaps the entire venue is a gem of land that simply popped out of the Atlantic Ocean intact ready to go. The fairways, greens and fescue are the equivalent of what green grass is to Augusta National. The turf is solid linksland, firm and solid as if erupting from the sea. There are no signs or directions to access the location.
As we entered the short drive in with the required buzzer to get in, it reminded me of the feeling of entering Port Marnock in Dublin Ireland but that idea quickly faded as we encountered the empty parking lot. Out of nowhere, like a leprechaun, an affable handsome individual emerged, “Playing Golf today?” We sure were here to do that but we would be the only players on the course this day. I was psyched despite the 40 degree weather and 35-40 mph winds under sunny bright skies. I was wondering how I would survive all of this as I would be walking a course for the first time in months to see if my back would cooperate.
There are no golf carts here so there was no choice in the matter. The buildings are majestic but symmetrical and simply in style with a very comfortable look. These conditions would be a true test of patience and persistence and also to check if my newly developed swing would hold up in these conditions. We changed our shoes and got fitted for the task ahead replete with my 20 year old reliable Zero Restriction windbreaker and most importantly-the Fairfield University beanie. My hands never get cold but if my head is cold, I am finished. We really didn’t really have to worry about our appointed tee time given we would be the only players on the course on this day.
I had to eat something as we had an early rise to catch the car ferry from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Port Jefferson. The staff offered me anything that I wanted so I opted for a bacon and egg sandwich, which was the best one I can ever remember. Fresh eggs, perfectly cooked bacon on an East Coast hard roll that you could never find on the West Coast. After scarfing down this treat, we met our caddies and headed down to the range to warm up.
Warming up was not warm–the winds were howling even fiercer than the entrance and the parking lot. I had a mindset to relax and just keep hitting good shots and stick to tried and true techniques–no heroics, no pursuit of the course record. This would be an ethereal round–the scorecard was slightly larger than a post it note with no yardages and no hole handicaps. There were multiple tee boxes but only one set of tees. There are no rakes in the bunkers as the caddies tote rakes with their bag carrying duties. There are no ball marks to repair as the club takes care of his with their own mysterious patented technology. No arguments from me-I was just happy to be here.
Each pin on the green has two nautical flags for “F” and “H.” The course is a wonderful walk through dunes, fescue, farmland, and meadows. The course got its name from sailors in Long Island Sound that believed that it’s sandy dunes looked like the top of a friar’s noggin. There is also some similarity to the inland topography of Cypress Point with the flatness of dunes and fescue. I struggled–the wind on the front nine was in our faces the entire time. The ball was going nowhere even for my partners who stripes it a ton. I made a 45 putt for my first par on the par 3 4th hole. It seemed to be pure luck and really didn’t instill any confidence. The wind was impacting my game and the gods of golf seemed to be telling me to fix this but it seemed powerless. My back swing was shortened and I knew this was absolutely the wrong thing to do. It came to me on the 8th hole when I told my caddie, “I am not giving up, I don’t give up.” I’ve hit too many good golf shots and I was going to come back. I parred the par 3, 8th and with a pretty decent bogey on 9–46 shots were in the bag.
The back nine turned this round into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as we finally had some wind at our back and crossing. Par was the standard for the backside with some good approach shots that enabled one putt pars. My caddy was happy because I was happy and we didn’t come near a bunker or the fescue on the entire back nine. The 15th hole was breath taking–literally–the wind was blowing so hard we couldn’t take a picture from the tee box. My partner hit a gargantuan drive that unfortunately the wind grabbed and pushed way right into the woods. The wind almost blew his driver out of hands when he tried to hit another ball and that one was long gone. I found the fairway with my drive and hit what I thought was a terrific 3 wood avoiding the left hand bunker about 75 yards out. I actually had to hit a 7 iron into the green (playing the shot at 150 yards) to five feet for a one-putt par. The 17th hole par 3 is about 175 yards playing into a 30 mph crosswind right to left. The hole on the right was one gigantic parcel of sand and fescue and the pin was tucked into the left hand portion of the green. The left hand side was a mound of Irish looking fescue and the tee shot on this day would have to be aimed into the fescue assuming that the wind would plant it on the green, which is exactly what got executed. The home hole is a wonderful par 4 of at least 400 yards with a dogleg to the left with a fairway that will move all the shots to the right and more so with the wind. Three over for the back nine made this round memorable for perseverance coupled with pure enjoyment and great company.
I’m sure wind is always a factor here but at a 10-15 mph clip, long hitters can probably go pretty low here. I believe putting becomes far more important as the greens undoubtedly will speed up in the warmer weather. To the left is a photo of the famous walk from the 15th green to the 16th tee as you stroll by the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean overlooking the tiny beach. It is the eeriest feeling that I have experienced since the 11th tee at Royal Troon where there is nothing between you and the ocean and the quiet is deafening.