Atlantic History
Rees Jones
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Atlantic Golf Club History

"The only shots you can be dead sure of are those you've had already."

- Byron Nelson

For more than a century, the fashionable Hamptons at Long Island's East End have been a favorite summer watering place for New Yorkers looking to beat the heat of the city. As time has gone on, however, and more and more people have discovered the allure of the area's enticing summer breezes and beautiful unspoiled beaches, the summer residents of the region have become keenly aware of the threat to their ecological and social stability presented by overcrowding, and have vigorously resisted new developments, housing or otherwise.

One consequence of this resistance is the limited number of private 18-hole golf courses in the Hamptons, a list that includes such hidden gems as Hampton Hills, Noyac, Southampton, and Westhampton as well as the revered triumvirate -- Shinnecock Hills, Maidstone and National. In fact, most of the memberships that become available each season are quickly grabbed by offspring members who have "come of age" and for newcomers to the East End, obtaining membership in a private club is nearly impossible.

Lowell Schulman, a successful developer of corporate office parks in Westchester County, was one such person who loved the Hamptons but found its lack of golf courses and available memberships disconcerting. He played to a single-digit handicap at Old Oaks, possessed an extensive collection of golf memorabilia - and a deep reverence for the game and its traditions.

Schulman spent a weekend in the Hamptons in August of 1988 and, ever the developer, decided then and there that he would build his OWN club, and indeed make it the finest golf club possible. That very weekend, he looked at four parcels of land, the last of which literally cried out to him, "Play Me." It was the 204-acre Equinox Farm of the fabulously wealthy Francesco Calesi, off Scuttle Hole Road north of Bridgehampton. As farmland, it was just marginal, and was ticketed for residential development. But its glacial topography, ridges and swales, wetlands, and a number of deep kettle ponds with a distant view of the ocean four miles away, excited Schulman. He quickly summoned the architect Rees Jones, best known for his brilliant restoration work at the Country Club for the 1998 US Open and for his environmentally sensitive work at Haig Point, South Carolina. Jones and Schulman were "in sync" immediately. A traditionalist like Schulman, Jones quickly confirmed the developer's opinion that a world-class golf course could be built on the land indeed, that many of the holes were already there, waiting to be found.

Fortunately, Calesi needed little persuading that a golf course was a better alternative than more housing - a feeling no doubt shared by most Bridgehampton residents. Despite the high cost of the land - $7.5 million - and the estimated cost to build the golf course - $15 million - Schulman was able to move quickly, largely because he had little trouble attracting future members who were willing to invest $100,000 or more to join a club that would truly be something special.

Although the financing went smoothly, Schulman did meet with resistance from the environmentalists. To convince them that his intentions were noble, however, Schulman engaged Tom Julius, an environmentally sensitive associate, to shepherd the project full time. Julius prepared perhaps the most comprehensive environmental study ever done for a golf course, in the process consulting with scientists from a dozen different fields.

Permission to build the course was finally obtained in February of 1990, and construction began in March. In the meantime, Jones' routing plan had been changed several times to satisfy environmental concerns. Indeed, much of the unwanted native grasses allowed to grow wild between and preceding fairways were mandated by the environmentalist to protect the natural habitat of two endangered species, the Northern Harrier (a bird of prey) and the tiger salamander. Despite the delays and required changes, Atlantic is today a shining example of how a golf course can not only exist in harmony with the environment, but actually improve the property's environmental value.

The course Rees Jones built at Atlantic can best be described as "links-like." Most of the holes are framed by a stunning array of knobs, mounds and moguls that look as if they had been crafted over time by the hands of nature. The land rises and falls, rolls and ripples like the swells at sea, with tall fescue rough swaying and shimmering in the ever constant breezes and ever-changing lighting. Moguls to accentuate the target, and for the most part feature subtle rolls, rather than bold contours frame the greens. Large bunkers that take away half the entrance create a "dogleg" effect on the approach to most holes generally protect greens. But Jones, among the fairest of the strategic architects, has also carefully crafted alternate routes to the flag and leaves the decision of how to play the holes to the golfer. While the course has nary a water hazard to speak of, it does have wind. An ever-present whistling breeze that can kick up and change direction - in a heartbeat, which ultimately demands that a player have a full repertoire of shots to call on.

Atlantic opened for a preview weekend in October of 1991, but regular play did not begin until 1992. The course opened to unanimous rave reviews, winning Golf Digest's award for the "Best New Private Course" for 1992. The pro shop was ready for 1992, but the clubhouse, a Hart Howerton design, a traditional Long Island shingle style with deep porches and dormers, would not be ready until the following season. It was worth the wait, however, for like everything else at Atlantic, the finished product looks as if it had always belonged there. Simple, yet elegant, warm and welcoming, the clubhouse offers a breathtaking view of the course from a cozy front porch across which the wind almost always blows.

Atlantic was chosen to host the Met Open as its first major championship. The great history of this tournament and the quality of the competitors in the Met Area established Atlantic as an instant classic. It was surely the first chapter in what is destined to be a long and distinguished history linking Atlantic with the best in championship golf.