St. James, N.Y., Nissequogue Golf Club

Nov 1, 2013
2013 / November 2013

Nissequogue brings back memories, many from the time when I was developing Global Traveler. As we swiftly approach the 10th anniversary of the launch of GT, a review of Nissequogue seems fitting.

I had a mentor in Dixon Hunter, a golfer and “man’s man” who encouraged me to launch the magazine. “You can do it,” he told me. “You don’t need anyone.” These conversations took place at Nissequogue, often with key potential clients. Dixon died more than five years ago, and I still miss him and his powerful drives and jokes that made me laugh before the punch line. Nissequogue is and always will be special for me, and I hope new club members realize what a spectacular place this is on Long Island’s North Shore.

One of Dixon’s ideas, which I thankfully rejected, was to dock his 55-foot boat at Chelsea Pier in New York to use as GT’s first office. “We can entertain clients in New York Harbor,” he said. That’s the kind of guy he was.

The course was founded in 1966 on 120 acres of the estate of William J. Ryan, publisher of The Literary Digest. The clubhouse was Ryan’s mansion, constructed in 1929 in the heyday of the publication. In 1999, course architect Stephen Key’s renovations resulted in today’s 6,643-yard, par-72 championship golf course. I teed up at Nissequogue with Lucky Bob Hancock, Jimmy the Cop and IBM John to strike a few balls and relive the good old days.

Hole 2 | 547 yards, par 5
I have always struggled with this hole. It is long, downhill, with the green tucked into the right and lots of trouble spots. Off the tee, you need a straight shot, favoring the left side of the fairway while avoiding the trap on the right and trees on the left. Wild shots right could send you out of play and on the road to the clubhouse. My drive landed far enough right and near the trap that I overcooked my second shot, blowing through the fairway to the rough in the opposing hole. I muscled a wedge back over the trees but underestimated the distance, coming up short. A little valley in front of the green collects shots; a little more gusto is needed so you don’t just trickle on. The green slopes from front to back — best to place your ball below the pin.

Hole 5 | 316 yards, par 4
This is the famous hole where Dixon once cut the corner for a hole in one. At the tee box, I dared him to go for it, and so the challenge had to be met. We thought the ball might have landed over the green, so he hit a provisional as well. He was sure the ball had cleared, and we looked all over the rough and behind the putting surface. I looked in the cup, and there it was — incredible. For us mere humans, aim short of the traps dead ahead and take a wedge to the green: easy.

Hole 6 | 219 yards par 3
This is a straight par 3 with the green practically level with the tee box. Sand traps that protect the green left and right catch a lot of shots off the tee, including John’s. Lucky Bob and I had beautiful tee shots that mysteriously came up short and left of the green, landing side by side a yard off the green. I had to decide whether to putt or chip. While contemplating my shot, Bob stepped up and chipped into the cup for a birdie. I decided to try the putter method and slammed a putt, hitting the flagstick and dropping in for a second birdie — we highfived and walked back to the cart, ignoring our struggling teammates.

Hole 16 | 477 yards, par 5
This is a beautiful and spectacular hole, a wonderful spot to take a picture of the bay and the 17th hole. The tee box is about 100 feet above the fairway, which rises gradually back to the elevated green with views of St. James Bay. When I attended as a member guest with Dixon, after the round and lobster dinner, “the greats” (I was not one) teed up on the patio for the longest drive to the fairway below. The assistant pro determined who was farthest as he sat in his cart on the fairway.

You do not want to drive the ball into the hill on the right — I have been there many times. On this glorious, clear and cool late-summer day, John took that route, causing us to search for his ball. For those in the fairway, nail your best shot to the green; you will be short but very chippable. Bob and I were short on our chips but two-putted for par. John stormed back with an impressive and unconventional par, and Jimmy shot a bogey.

Hole 17 | 207 yards, par 3
Over the years, I must have lost hundreds of balls in the tidal marsh around what is deemed one of the most beautiful holes on Long Island. Embarrassingly, not one of us found the green. It should not be that difficult with an elevated tee box down to a postage-stamp green. I can hear Dixon telling me to hit another — things have not changed!

The fairway at Hole 18 © Francis X. Gallagher

The fairway at Hole 18 © Francis X. Gallagher

Hole 18 | 406 yards, par 4
After walking away from 17 with your tail between your legs, welcome to the closing hole. I have seen player after player, including yours truly, hug the right side simply to find it too long to clear and end up in the reeds and marsh. Instead, favor the left for a clean approach to the green. My years of experience at Nissequogue came in handy, and I did that very thing. I am sure I saw a few re-tees from the team as they were sucked into the swamp on the right. My next shot was a near-perfect 3-wood at the left side of the green, but due to the elevation, it stopped just short of the greenside bunker. John sailed in like a wild cat, bouncing on the back of the green and off into the thicket. That ball stayed at Nissequogue along with my memories of a great golfer and friend — Dixon Hunter.

Nissequogue Golf Club

21 Golf Club Road
St. James, NY 11780-2159
tel 631 584 7733
nissequoguegolf.com

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