I want to begin this report with a disclaimer. There are no more sites like the one on which National Golf Links of America (NGLA) rests. When the game of golf was young in this country, course builders and their architects had opportunity after opportunity to build courses on unimaginable sites. In the early 2000s, Sebonack golf club was built adjacent to NGLA. Up the street are Shinnecock Hills and Southampton. There are no more available plots of land. Those early builders were a fortunate lot. If they didn’t create a masterpiece, given the exquisite property available, it’s on them.
NGLA is many things to its members and their guests. If you have the opportunity to play the golf course, you get an immediate and personal sense of how the ball reacts to the land forms and the ground quality. For those like me, who had the chance to shoot over 1200 images during a Friday walkabout, that interaction is absent. What became apparent to me were the shapes and layers of the golf course.
NGLA is essentially treeless. There is arbor along the perimeter of the course but, as in Scotland, the fairway corridors are devoid of trunks, branches and leaves. Views extend for thousands of yards and adjacent fairways, greens and bunkers stack on top of each other.
NGLA sits atop the finest surface for golf course construction: sandy soil. Not only does the predominance of sand enhance drainage, it allows the course to play fast and firm, accepting high and low shots into fairways and greens. Sandy soil is malleable and Charles Blair Macdonald, the course architect, was able to utilize natural rolls and enhance ripples to create a turbulent golfing sea. From time to time (as on the 9th hole) portions of fairway appear placid; don’t be deceived.
NGLA makes features stand out. What appear from the tee to be fairway mounds are, on closer inspection, the support framework of bunkers. Speaking of bunkers, at NGLA you find convex bunkers (the norm is concave), narrow troughs, enormous wastelands and deep pits. There is no standard bunker on the course, just as there is no standard tee nor tee shot, putting green or green surround. Everything is different yet everything fits. Enough words for now.