The Open Again: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club Will Host U.S. Open in 2018

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Courtesy Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

Here’s some wonderful news. The Shinnecock Hills Golf Club will be the site of the U. S. Open in 2018. This will be the fifth time since the club was founded in 1891 that this prestigious event, the greatest annual event in golf, will take place here.

The event will, as it has in the past, bring about 100,000 visitors to this community during the four days that it is played. An entire temporary city is set up on this historic course ahead of time—the course is just north of the highway, across from Southampton College—and the city will include pro shops, locker rooms, V.I.P. sections, practice areas, grandstands, television and other media studios and various other facilities. In the last three Opens held here, in 1986, in 1995 and in 2004, an elaborate footbridge was constructed over County Road 39 so people could pass back and forth from the activities at the club to the activities on the south side of that busy road. (None was necessary in 1896 when the Open was played here for the first time. Cars had not yet been popularized.)

At the end of the event, of course, all of this is taken down and the club’s restored to its original magnificent condition. Usually this takes several weeks to do. The club should be back in the hands of its membership with everything back in order by about two weeks after the event is over. It takes place June 14-17 in 2018. They plan way ahead.

The event was first held in 1895 and has been held continuously for the past 116 years. It is a remarkable thing, considering there are more than 10,000 golf courses in America, that this event should be held in the same place four times.

But Shinnecock Hills deserves it. It has been, since it was built and up through to this day, ranked as one of the top five golf courses in America. In a recent survey by Golf Digest, it was ranked third, right behind Pine Valley and Augusta National, the site of the Masters.

Shinnecock Hills might actually have been the first golf course in America. The sequence is not quite clear how golf came to America from Scotland. Most people say Shinnecock was the second golf course. In any case, in 1891, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the great yachtsman and millionaire who at that time had a summer mansion out here, had returned from a vacation in Scotland on a steamship accompanied by a golf pro named William Dunn. Vanderbilt had played golf on the great courses in Scotland. He became enamored with the game. And Dunn would build a course for him at Shinnecock.

The Commodore teeing up a golf ball at Shinnecock with some of his friends and some of the Shinnecock Indians in attendance is considered a seminal moment in the history of golf. Where his first shot went we do not know, however.

In 1896, the second annual U.S. Open was played at Shinnecock. The golf club at that time had a tremendously gifted caddy there, a Shinnecock Indian named Oscar Bunn. He held the lead in that event for one round, but then fell back. Eventually it was won by James Foulis by three strokes over Horace Rawlings.

I happily attended each of the last three events here as a spectator. On both occasions, the greatest golfers in the world were here. In 1986, after three days of play, half a dozen golfers were within a few strokes of one another for the lead, but on that final day Raymond Floyd shot a 66 to win by 3strokes over Lanny Wadkins and Chip Beck.

In 1995, a perennial favorite from Australia, Greg Norman, nicknamed “the Shark” for often snatching victory from defeat (he was the original Crocodile Dundee in appearance), came down the home stretch just a stroke or two behind a relative unknown named Corey Pavin. But Norman messed up on the last two holes and Pavin held him off to win by two strokes.

Also notable that day, with a small crowd following him, was a young, slender 19-year-old amateur named Tiger Woods. He finished well back. But his grace and swing were, even at that time, several cuts above all the others.

In 2004, 0n overly slick greens, Retief Goosen won when Phil Mickelson double bogied the 17th.

Robert A. Murphy, who is President of the club today, had this to say about the selection of the club once again for this honor in a prepared statement.

“I am delighted to welcome the U.S.S.G.A. and the U.S. Open Championship back to Shinnecock Hills in 2018. Shinnecock Hills is very proud of our common heritage with the U.S.G.A. dating back to the origins of golf in America, and we are equally excited about our strong future together. We believe that our course offers a unique venue for championship golf that stands the test of any era, and are very pleased to have the U.S.G.A. as our partner in sharing the challenge of Shinnecock again in 2018.”

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