Nothing, however, compares with the drama of the eighteenth. Nicklaus and Doak planned to build a long, demanding par four here, but Pascucci wanted a finishing hole on which the average golfer stood a chance of making par. So the architects pushed the tee back and sketched out a 560-yard par five that may someday be known as one of the great holes in golf. With the prevailing wind blowing right to left—out to the bay—the drive is played to a generous fairway. But for the best angle of approach (away from one of those majestic elms on the right), you must drive up the left side, flirting with a bluff running the length of the hole. The second shot must lay up short of a pair of massive coffin bunkers, or dare to carry them. The green is large but comes with its own set of challenges: Putts of any length will have to ride a roller coaster of unpredictable breaks.
And then, for one last thrill, there is the bye hole. A mid-length par three intended for settling any outstanding bets, it plays downhill across the first fairway to a green perched on the bluff and framed by a point of land in the distance called Cow Neck. From there, it's just a few steps to a lovely driftwood-gray landing that overlooks Great Peconic Bay, a perfect spot to sip a postround drink and enjoy the sunset.
So, is Sebonack as good as or (dare it be said?) better than Shinnecock and the National?That's a tall order, and a question that will be answered, or at least argued, over time. Sebonack seems destined for a place on top-100 lists, although it may never rank as high as Pacific Dunes or Friar's Head, considered to be among the very best courses of the modern (post-1960) era. What's already clear is that Sebonack carries a definite sense of place. Slate tiles recovered from the roof of the property's old mansion have been used as paving stones between the clubhouse and the range. The club's logo—an S formed by a pair of opposite-facing crescent moons—was inspired by cutouts in the mansion's shutters.
Sure, the National and Shinnecock, with their combined two centuries of history, make for imposing neighbors. But Sebonack Golf Club seems certain to build a distinguished history of its own.
Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus may have made an odd couple at Sebonack, but the finished course is clearly stamped with the DNA of both architects. Course owner Michael Pascucci's decision to pair the two seems unorthodox on the surface, but a look back in time shows that such collaborations have produced some of the world's great courses:
Pine Valley (1918) The original architectural dream team, with club founder George Crump leading a parade of golden-age legends including Harry Colt, Alister MacKenzie and Hugh Wilson in creating this New Jersey Pine Barrens wonder.
Cypress Point (1929) While not formally credited with the codesign, Marion Hollins, one of the finest women golfers of her time, gave a major assist to Dr. MacKenzie on the Monterey Peninsula—most famously by proving that the ocean crossing at the now-legendary par-three sixteenth was viable.
Augusta National (1932) In a neat parallel with Sebonack, Clifford Roberts matched the era's top player (Bobby Jones) with a sometimes combative, always innovative golf course architect (MacKenzie).
Harbour Town (1969) At the pinnacle of his playing career, Nicklaus teamed with Pete Dye on this Hilton Head beauty that, with its emphasis on strategy over length, would change the direction of modern course design.