East Norwich, NY, The Muttontown Club

Jan 1, 2011
2011 / January 2011

The Muttontown Club was established 45 years ago and is one of the most distinguished and superb courses on all of Long Island. The course opened in 1962; and the elegant Georgian mansion, which serves as the clubhouse, is steeped in history.

Construction of the building took five years and was completed in 1919 by Howard C. Brokaw, owner of Brokaw Brothers Clothiers of New York City. The mansion was dubbed “The Mad Chimneys” for the 26 fireplaces and 13 chimneys set among its 44 rooms.

In 1931, Frances Ford Seymour married George T. Brokaw, then heir to the estate. When he died five years later, she married actor Henry Fonda. This is where the Fonda legend begins at Muttontown. Members claim that Frances Fonda killed herself at the mansion, but she actually died at the Craig House Sanitarium in Beacon, N.Y. How much time the family spent at the estate is unclear, but one can imagine Peter and Jane Fonda running about the grounds as children.

The course was designed by Alfred H. Tull, a prolific designer with courses all over the eastern United States, including Beth Page Blue and Yellow. Hull believed in a free-flowing design that punishes poor shots but rewards decent shots. The course plays 6,533 yards from the tips and has a slope and rating of 70.3/128. A day at Muttontown is a great day of golf — the club boasts some of the best cuisine on Long Island; and a perfect game includes playing nine holes, heading to the clubhouse for lunch and then resuming your round. Rick Irwin, our host for the day, is a good friend of Global Traveler.

Hole 1

(341 yards, par 4)

I always enjoy the first hole at Muttontown, with the clubhouse on the left and the rest of the course to the right of the tee box. It is not a particularly difficult hole, but seldom do you see pars and birdies when you tap in your putt. Aim your tee shot right center of the fairway for a good approach to the green. The hole lies slightly to the left of this dogleg. The green is very slightly elevated, and the trap can catch those erring left and right. Rick usually strolls away with par.

Hole 3

(443 yards, par 4/5)

You need accuracy from the tee box, but you can also hammer your drive for this downhill hole. It is rather narrow and lined with trees on both sides; often players get caught in the trees left or shoot out of bounds on either side. The next shot usually leaves you with a chip to the green, but big hitters can reach the hole in two. I hit two great shots and still had a chip to the small green sunken at the bottom of the hill. Several traps protect the approach and the green, so club selection is crucial.

Hole 7

(149 yards, par 3)

I call this the “Dixon Hunter and Rick Irwin hole.” Many years ago, Rick and Dixon both teed up here at the same time. I bet them they could not hit their balls simultaneously and both hit the green — they did, and I was out some cash. It’s a wonderful par 3 with a pond in front of the green. On this round, I sent a low slice, missing the pond and ending on the right side of the green. A chip close and a putt … par!

Hole 8

(531 yards, par 5)

This very long hole is the No. 1 handicapped hole. From the tee box, you can see three traps; two lie side by side near your landing zone. All three of us — Rick, Tim and I — hit decent drives. The key is driving to the plateau near the traps and powering your next shot within striking range of the green. Again, trees lining the hole wreak havoc with golfers who slice or hook the ball. Take your third shot to the green, ending your uphill struggle while keeping clear of the bunkers.

Hole 10

(415 yards, par 4)

After you have enjoyed your Muttontown luncheon, return to the 10th to again do battle with the Tull design. This dogleg right is a great hole, offering a wide-open fairway to let you rip a drive. Favor the left center to put you in position for your approach to the green, which lies below in a small depression. I find it difficult to hit; I always seem to take three shots to this green — preparing me for the rest of the back nine.

Hole 12

(566 yards, par 5)

This is one of the most difficult holes; a No. 2 handicap, it is full of challenges. The key to success is to play your shots smart and try not to venture off the Tull design. The hole takes a very sharp turn to the right but not until you have secured two perfect shots for your approach. Drive solidly and strongly to favor the left side of the fairway. From here, favor the left side and nail your fairway wood up the hill toward a green that you cannot yet see. Finally, you will have a clear shot to the green, where you can try for par. Several hazards and thick trees can cause havoc here.

Hole 13

(465 yards, par 4)

This par 4 seems to play farther than the yardage on the card. Trees line about two-thirds of the way from the green toward the tee box. Your drive is to an open fairway that narrows slightly as you reach the tree line. Additionally, the hole is a slight dogleg to the left. Your approach to the green is a big hit, nearly 200 yards. Aim clear of the bunker on the left that caught Tim’s shot, giving him a bogey.

Hole 16

(166 yards, par 3)

Muttontown has some enjoyable par 3s, and this is no exception. Rick, Tim and I all teed up and made our best effort to par this hole. I landed slightly left, hooking my iron to land just over the green. Tim and Rick, being exceptional golfers, both landed on the green, flanking each other left and right. The hole is slightly elevated and well bunkered. I chipped on and two-putted, carding a four, while my partners walked away with par.

The Muttontown Club
5933 Northern Blvd.
East Norwich, NY 11732-0009

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