Following my lunch at National Golf Links of America I made the 45 minute drive to East Hampton for my afternoon round at Maidstone. I was scheduled to play with Geoff and Sergio. When I decided that I would play the Golf Digest Top 100 Golf Courses in America, there were 12 private courses on the list that I thought I could get access to. There were also 11 resort courses and 1 public course. That left 76 courses where I would need to meet people who would be willing to help. Over the years while playing golf at Kiawah Island, I’d played with several people who invited me to play their home courses. One critical component to my strategy for playing all 100 Top courses was the expectation that I would meet people while playing at Kiawah Island and other courses I had access to, that would offer to help.
Geoff and I were paired together at the Ocean Course in Kiawah during the Spring of 2017, a couple of months prior to the start of my quest. When Geoff asked me what I did, I told him that I was a couple of months away from retirement and that I planned to spend my first year of retirement playing the top 100 golf courses in the country. He mentioned that he had a college friend who was married to a member at the Maidstone Club in the Hamptons. He said he couldn’t make any guarantees, but he would ask his friend’s husband if he would be willing to host him and me at Maidstone.
Geoff’s college friend’s husband was Sergio. Sergio agreed to host Geoff and me. Geoff and I kept in touch over the year and reconnected in April of this year to set a date for our round at Maidstone. We settled on the week of May 7th. That was the same week that I was scheduled to play Shinnecock Hills. Once I had Shinnecock locked in for May 12th, I started to fill in the days around that date with the other courses on Long Island. My host at Shinnecock Hills, had a death in the family one week prior to our scheduled round. He had to regrettably cancel after the funeral was set for the same day as the round. By that time, I had several other rounds scheduled for the week so kept those plans.
Sergio wasn’t sure that he would be able to join Geoff and me for the round, but he committed to make sure we could play during the afternoon of May 11th. Fortunately, Sergio’s schedule allowed him to join us.
I arrived at Maidstone and parked. While walking from the car to the clubhouse with my clubs, an unassuming guy said “hey, let me take those for you.” I later learned that the unassuming guy who took my clubs to carry them to the clubhouse was Eden Foster, the Head Professional at Maidstone. I would later come to understand that simple gesture was emblematic of the spirit of service and hospitably of the staff and the members of the Maidstone Club.
After Eden took my clubs, I headed to the Men’s Locker room to change my shoes. In the locker room I met James and John. No, not the James and John who wrote some of the books in the New Testament, but James and John, the locker room attendants. They are two really nice guys with a calling to serve. They were very attentive and made me feel very welcomed.
We talked about my quest and eventually about my difficulties getting a replacement host for a round at Shinnecock Hills. A member whose name was also James, overheard us talking and asked me for my name and number. He said he knew a few members and would contact them to see if they still had guest privileges remaining. One of the challenges of finding a new host so close to the US Open was that the club had to limit guest play to ensure they were able to properly prepare for the Tournament. That unsolicited offer was another example of the hospitably of everyone associated with Maidstone.
Once Sergio and Geoff arrived I headed to the Pro Shop to meet them so that we could get our round underway. Geoff introduced me to Sergio. We then met our caddies, George and Delfina and headed to the first tee. Delfina just finished her Senior year at the University of Miami. She is a very accomplished golfer. She was the number one golfer in Argentina. She also finished in the 2017 ACC tournament. Delfina is currently play with the National Women’s Golf Association and working to qualify for the LPGA Tour.
One of the many great things about playing with Sergio was that he was steeped in the history of the course. He provided commentary on each hole that included how to play the hole and the history of the hole. Meeting new people, hearing their stories and getting their perspective on the courses were some of the things I enjoyed most about the amazing journey I was on.
Maidstone opens with a short par four. The first hole measures 362 yards. The fairway is wide open and runs straight from the tee box to the green. There is rough on the right and the fairway for the 18th hole on the left. There are several bunkers sprinkled throughout and on both sides of the fairway. Like most holes on the course, there are no trees. I hit my drive down the middle of the fairway to 140 yards from the flag.
I shanked my second shot into a bunker off the right side of the fairway. I hit my third shot onto the green and two-putted to open my round with a bogey.
The second hole is the longest hole on the course. It’s a 562 yard par five. The fairway starts just past a pond off the front of the tee box. There are several bunkers that cut into the left and the right sides of the fairway. There is rough between the right edge of the fairway and a rare line of thick trees. There is rough along the left side of the fairway separating it from public road that runs through the course. I hit a low drive to the right side of the fairway leaving 350 yards to the middle of the green.
I pulled my second shot to the left rough leaving 180 yards to the pin. The hole was playing into the wind. The 180 yards was playing like 200 yards.
I hit my third shot to just short of the green and to the right of the left greenside bunker. Sergio and Geoff hit their third shots to the same area.
I chunked my first chip. I left my second chip 15 feet from the cup. My inside right putt rimmed out. I tapped in for a disappointing double bogey.
The 408 yard par three third hole has a fairway that is separated from the sixteenth fairway by a series of bunkers on the left. The right side of the fairway has several bunkers and a grove of trees as it approaches the green. I pulled my drive to the left and into the sixteenth fairway leaving just 205 yards to the flag.
I had a good angle to the back right pin. There is a small bunker 30 yards from the front left side of the green and a large one across from it short of the right side of the green. There are also two bunkers along the left side of the green and one that bends around the back right corner of the green. I topped my approach shot. The ball rolled along the ground to 103 yards from the pin.
I hit my third shot to 20 feet left of the pin.
I left my par putt just short of the cup and tapped in for a bogey.
The tee box on the 176 yard par three fourth hole is on a small peninsular that sticks out into the lake that near the western boundary of the course. The green is on the east side of the lake requiring a carry across the lake. The there is a 20 yard apron between the bank of the lake and the front of the green and four bunkers surrounding the green. I hit my tee shot right at the flag leaving a 16 foot putt for a birdie.
I nice tee shot that went unrewarded. In sign of how off my timing and how difficult it is to concentrate on every shot on every hole when you are playing so much golf, I three-putted to bogey the hole. I know you are playing the world’s smallest violin as I lament about my woes while having the privilege to play so much golf on some many amazing courses. While I was lamenting, Sergio who missed the green to the right, hit an excellent birdie putt from off the green that barely missed the hole.
The fifth hole is a short par four with a wide fairway that starts 135 yards from the tee. There is a cluster of bunkers off the right side of the fairway that start at about 200 yards from the tee and runs for 50 yards. There is a cross bunker that cuts into the left side of the fairway across from the cluster of bunkers. I hit my three wood to the left side of the fairway leaving 135 yards to a middle right pin.
The green is protected by a large bunker off the right front and a small one off the left front. It backs up to the lake. Approach shots hit long, go swimming. I pulled my approach shot into the left bunker. By now it was clear that my muscles were fatigued with all the rounds I played during the week and after my morning round at National Golf Links of America. My tempo was also off. I could feel it but couldn’t seem to do anything about it.
My first sand shot hit the lip of the bunker. I hit my second sand shot onto the green and two putted for a stupid and inexcusable double bogey.
The sixth hole is a 403 yard par four. The tee box is off the back of the fifth green. There is a short 125 yard carry over what looked like wet lands. There are bunkers across from each other off the left and right sides of the fairway at about 200 yards from the tee, a small bunker in the middle of the fairway at about 270 yards off the tee and deep rough adjacent to each side of the fairway. I hit my drive down the left side of the fairway to 190 out.
There is a long bunker on the left that starts 30 yards short of the front of the green and ends just off the front left. There is also a bunker that runs along the right side of the green. With the wind at my back, I hit a five iron to just off the right front part of the green.
I putted from off the green to two feet right of the cup. I made the putt for my first par of the round.
The seventh hole is the second short par four on the front nine. The hole measures a mere 312 yards. The fairway is shaped like a crescent moon that wraps around a lake off the right edge with sand bordering along most of the left edge or back side of the crescent. I hit my three hybrid over the left corner of the lake to the middle of the fairway leaving just 96 yards to the pin.
The green has a bunker along the left side and one off the front right. The previously mentioned lake borders the green on the right. The pin was tucked behind the bunker off the front right part of the green. I generally don’t miss to the right with my lob wedge, so I hit the ball right at the flag. The wind was into us. My lob wedge wasn’t enough. The ball landed just short of the front right bunker.
I got a little to handsy with my pitch over the bunker. The ball rolled way past the flag.
I left my par putt two feet short and tapped in for a bogey.
The eighth hole is a 151 yard par three that plays over a waste area with sand and native vegetation. The green has a bunker that wraps around from the front to the right side. The green is also protected by a bunker off its left side. The Atlantic Ocean is behind the green. I pulled my tee shot into the left green side bunker.
I hit my sand shot to fifteen feet and made the putt for only my second par.
The tee box on the 367 yard par four 9th hole provides one of the most scenic views on the course. The hole plays along the Atlantic Ocean.
There is a 200 yard carry over weed covered sand dunes to the start of the fairway. There are also dunes along the left and right sides of the fairway all the way to the green. There is a bunker of the left side of the fairway at 220 yards out from the tee. I hit a low short drive to the right fairway leaving 205 yards to the green.
There is a large bunker that eats up most of the fairway about 90 yards out short of the green. Sands runs along the right side of the green. I hit my three hybrid toward the left side of the green expecting a fade. The ball landed just short of the green and rolled left of flag before bending behind it and rolling to the right edge. I then took a long walk in the short grass with my putter in hand.
My birdie putt looked good until I hit it. From 20 feet I left the ball five feet from the cup. I missed the five foot par putt and recorded a three-putt bogey. It was my second three-putt in the first nine holes. I missed just one fairway on the front nine and yet made just two pars. I also made two double bogeys from the middle of the fairway. All the wasted scoring opportunities left me with a 44 on the front nine.
The back nine starts with a 360 yard par four with a fifty yard wide fairway. There is a large bunker off the right side of the fairway at 170 yards off the tee. There is gnarly rough off the left and right side of the fairway. I hit my drive down the left side of the fairway to 147 yards out from an uphill green.
My approach shot was playing two clubs longer than the distance. The fairway necked down to a slither at 80 yards from the green with a bunker on the left side of the slither and a waster area on the right side. The thin strip ran for just 25 yards connecting the fairway to an apron off the front of the green. I hit a six iron to the middle of the green to 20 feet right of and below the flag.
I two-putted to start the back nine with a par.
The eleventh hole is a 395 yard par four with a fairway that doglegs to the left. There is a bunker off the right side of the fairway at 190 yards out and a cluster of bunkers off the left side of the fairway at 235 yards out. For the long hitters there is a cluster of bunkers on the right side at 290 yards out. The fairway is bordered by think spongy rough on each side. I popped my drive up. The ball landed in the left side of the fairway, short of the cluster of bunkers. This lengthened the hole. I was left with 235 yards to the middle of the green.
I compounded my issues when I topped my second shot and pulled the ball into the left rough leaving 175 yards to a narrow green with bunkers along the left and right sides.
I hit my third shot to the right side of the green. The ball rolled farther right but stopped before rolling off the green and into the right greenside bunker leaving a fifty-foot putt for my par.
I left my par putt 8 feet from the cup. I then left my bogey putt one foot short of the hole for my third three putt of the round and the first of several double bogeys that I’d make on the back nine.
The 181 yard par three twelfth hole looked innocent enough from the tee. After all it is the 3rd easiest hole on the course. There is a large bunker in front of the green, but it is 50 yards in front of it so it’s not a worry. There are two large bunkers to the left of the green and one off the front right of the green, but with a 30 yard wide green, you’d think they would be out of play. No so for me. I came out of the shot and hit the ball into the front right bunker.
I hit my sand shot to fifteen feet but missed my par putt to make a bogey on the hole.
The thirteenth hole is a straight forward par five. It measures 500 yards. The narrow fairway is fairly straight. In addition to the narrowness of the fairway, several bunkers add a challenge to the hole. There are bunkers on each side of the fairway at 225 yards from the tee, a couple of more come into play on the second shot and several more are in play on the approach shot. The fairway is about as flat as they come with a slight increase in elevation at the green. My drive had a slight tail on it. The ball landed a few feet into the right rough just short of the first fairway bunker.
With 276 yards remaining to the middle of the green, I laid up to the middle of the fairway on my second shot leaving 120 yards to the pin.
I hit my approach shot to seven feet left of the flag. Geoff and Sergio also hit their third shots onto the green. All three of us then took that long walk in the short green with our putters in hand and visions of birdies dancing in our heads.
Sergio and I missed our birdie putts and parred the hole. Geoff who had the longest putt for birdie made his.
To be fair, my putt looked good until it hit something and was diverted. But a missed putt is a missed putt regardless of the reason.
The 152 yard par three fourteenth hole is supposed to be the easiest hole on the course. It wasn’t the easiest hole for me. The hole has a full carry over a waste area with dunes and native vegetation. There are a couple of small bunkers off the front of the green. I shanked by tee shot to the right of the green into the waste area.
I hit a good recovery shot that landed on the green and rolled to 20 feet from the hole. I hit my par putt a little too hard and then missed the returned bogey putt to make a double bogey on the hole. Golf is an amazing game. On the previous hole I covered 500 yards with five strokes. On this hole it took me five strokes to cover just 152 yard. Go figure!
It didn’t get any better on the 493 yard par five fifteenth hole. This hole and the second hole provide the best views of the prestigious neighborhoods adjacent to the course. The tee box backs up to the Atlantic Ocean. Sergio said that the beach behind the tee box used to be a nude beach. A lot of golfers that normally played one tee up were more than happy to move back a little on this hole since the back tees provided a better view of the nude beach. There were no nudes on the beach on this beautiful Friday afternoon in May.
The fairway on the fifteenth hole starts after a 140 yard carry over a sandy waste area. There is a cluster of bunkers on the right edge of the fairway at 165 yards from the tee and another cluster at 240 yards from the tee. The first bunker off the left side is not until 300 yards out. I popped my drive up to the right. The ball landed in the rough just short of the first cluster of bunkers.
I followed the pop up off the tee with a pop up on my second shot. The ball traveled just 60 yards. I was just not swinging the club well.
I hit my third shot down the middle to 100 yards out. I hit my fourth shot to below the hole. I putted to six feet. I made the second putt for a bogey on this second of the three par fives on the back nine.
We crossed the bridge to the third of three par fives on the back nine. The sixteenth hole measures 485 yards, but don’t let that fool you. The tee box is on the same peninsula as the par three fourth hole. That peninsula is in the middle of a lake that separates the second, third, and sixteenth holes from the rest of the holes on the course. This is a risk/reward hole. You must carry a portion of the lake on your tee shot to reach the fairway. The more water you carry, the better opportunity there is to reach the green in two. A 220 yard carry leaves a shot of no more than 235 yards to the green.
My eyes were bigger than my swing. I tried to cut off a little too much of the lake. My ball landed short of the bank and skipped across the last few feet of water but didn’t quite make it all the way to the bank. George told me that I had the option of reteeing or dropping on the other side with a two-stroke penalty. I chose to drop on the other side with the penalty. I hit what was my fourth shot to 140 yards out.
My fifth shot landed just short of the green. I pulled my putt and missed the hole by a foot. I tapped in for a double bogey.
The seventeenth hole has another water carry of slightly more than 200 yards to reach the left side of the fairway. The tee box is almost perpendicular to the left side of fairway. A pond borders the left side of the fairway, the right side has two bunkers and borders one of the public roads that runs through the course. I again took a very aggressive line on my tee shot. I hit a solid drive but didn’t clear the pond.
I hit my next shot from the drop zone to 30 feet from the pin. My par putt stopped six feet from the cup. I made the next putt for a bogey.
Our shadows were getting a little long as we approached the 18th tee box. The par four hole measures 390 yards. There is a short 130 yard carry over rough to the fairway which is adjacent to and connected to the first fairway on the left. A bunker cut into the right side of the fairway at about 200 yards from the tee. Across from that bunker is that series of three bunkers that separates the first and eighteenth fairways. There are a couple of more bunkers farther up the fairway on both sides.
While I never got into a good rhythm during my round, I wanted to finish strong. I took a deep breath and summoned up the best swing I could. The ball didn’t go very far but it went straight. The ball landed in the middle of the fairway leaving 220 yards to a back middle pin.
I so badly wanted to par the last hole. With the sun setting, a chill in the air, and the wind in my face I decided to go with the driver off the deck. The ball flew to just short of the green and then skipped on green leaving a 50 foot putt to that back flag position.
I hit a nice putt that broke more than I expected. The ball curved as it approached the hole and rolled to five feet to the right. With the approval of the golf gods, I sank the next putt to end my round with a par. It was a small consolation after not playing very well. I finished with a 46 on the par 37 back nine for a total score of 90.
When I retuned to the locker room to change my shoes and clean up, John, one of the locker room attendants told me that he had called a few to members at Shinnecock while I was out playing. He had hoped that he could find one that still had guest privileges, but he hadn’t had much luck. I thought it was a very kind gesture on his part to try. Earlier when I mentioned that John and James were called to serve this is one the things that they did that warranted me making that statement. It really was so very kind and thoughtful of them to attempt to help me with my quest. John also told me to reach back out to him if I got to the end and still needed help with Shinnecock.
After cleaning up, Geoff and I followed Sergio to this house. We then headed into town for a very delightful dinner. It had been great to get guidance on the course from Sergio during our round and to hear the history of the course. Our conversation over dinner was even more enjoyable. We talked about playing together and about my quest. More specifically we talked about how kind and generous people had been over the past year as I made my way through the top 100 courses. Sergio made some very insightful comments on why he thought people had been so willing to help me play all 100 courses in a year.
Sergio said that he thought people we very inclined to want to help, but that sometimes the recipient of the help doesn’t know how to receive the generosity. He said that he thought by allowing people to share something that is such a meaningful part of their lives with me, I was not only receiving a gift but also giving a gift. The gift of graciously accepting their kindness with such gratitude.
I hadn’t looked at it that way, but it made sense to me. I’ve stated many times throughout my updates and blogs that I believe that people are innately good. I had not considered how providing people with a meaningful opportunity to express that innate goodness is a gift within itself. I am very grateful for all the people who are helping me with this amazing journey and I do hope that being apart of it fills every heart with as much joy as I feel for the acts of kindness that have been shown to me along the way.
I’d like to thank Geoff for the introduction to Sergio and Sergio for hosting us. I also want to thank Eden Foster and his team for making my visit to Maidstone such a pleasant experience. Playing at Maidstone was a fitting end to my week in the Hamptons. While I didn't get a firm tee time at Shinnecock, I did play a total of six courses over the week and had more left before closing out the week. After dinner with Geoff and Sergio I returned to my hotel to get some much need rest before heading back to Scarsdale to play my final round of the week at Quaker Ridge on the next day. I'd started to the week at Winged Foot and would finish it across the street where destiny and fate intersected. I will tell you about that intersection in my next blog.