The Rules and Traditions of Shinnecock Hills
WHEN a golf club decrees on its website that “tank tops” are not admitted anywhere on either the course or the clubhouse, it seems a fairly safe bet that its committee members are, how shall we put it, a little stuck in the past.
Seriously - when was the last time that you saw anybody wearing a tank top, far less somebody who would attempt to grace the grounds of Shinnecock Hills, venue for the 2018 US Open. For that is where we are talking about.
If you find yourself with an idle moment or two, you really should Google Shinnecock’s website.
Should you fancy a quick 18 holes at one of the most iconic golf courses in the United States then you will need to find yourself a member to play with because guests are not permitted to play without one. Not only that, but guests “may not pay cash for any charges in the clubhouse; they must sign the host member’s name”. Nor are they allowed to tip the staff - other than the caddie master and locker room attendant. And if you hire a caddie for the day, then your agreement is with him, and only him. The club doesn’t go into gender specifics, but it is safe to assume that all caddies are male.
Naturally, mobile phones (or cellular phones, as Shinnecock Hills describes them) and all other communication devices are not only banned but cannot even be displayed. The exception is the car park, but only if you are sitting inside your car. Oh yes, and inside the “telephone room” in the clubhouse. Every golf club should have one.
Hole by Hole Guide to Shinnecock Hills
Returning to the subject of attire, hats can only be worn with the skip forward and must be removed when entering the clubhouse. And, just for the record, the following items of clothing are banned on the practice ground, course and clubhouse: T-shirts, tank tops, sports jerseys, jeans, cut-offs, sweat suits, jogging and other short shorts. Flip-flops and sandals are not permitted. And all shirts should remain tucked in.
These self same rules were probably in existence, almost word for word, when the club opened for business in 1891. Shinnecock Hills is the oldest incorporated golf club in the United States and was one of the five founding member clubs of the USGA. The Clubhouse, built in 1892, was the work of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, and remains virtually unchanged in appearance. However, it underwent a major restoration in 2016, when it is rumoured that they discovered some of the original members, still sitting in their leather armchairs (they didn’t really).
It began life as a 12-hole course, designed by Willie Davis, before being expanded to 18 in 1895. These links were revised four times before the present course, designed by William Flynn and built by Dick Wilson of Toomey and Flynn, was opened in1931.
Shinnecock makes the most of the natural topography and has the look and feel of a true British links course. It is, without doubt, one of the top courses of the world, and has been the scene of notable USGA events, including the second US Open Championship and U.S. Amateur in 1896, the Women’s Amateur in 1900, and the Walker Cup in 1977. The US Open was held at Shinnecock again in 1986, 1995 and 2004. It has already been given the championship again in 2026.
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