With a major championship less than a year away, you would think that Sebonack Golf Club would be awash in projects such as moving earth, building tee boxes, cultivating rough and downing trees. You would be mistaken. Sebonack is pretty much ready for the 2013 U.S. Women's Open right now.
"They keep it in wonderful shape year-round," said Ben Kimball, the U.S. Golf Association's official in charge of the Women's Open. "So most of the things that we're doing are just tightening screws: minor detail items."
"Their place looks like this," Kimball said, referring to Blackwolf Run, site of this year's Women's Open, "every single day."
So with this year's Open starting Thursday, the countdown begins for the club on Peconic Bay in Southampton. It is a busy, anticipatory countdown, just not a frantic one. "Sebonack is only seven years old and it's still evolving. But what we're pretty much doing between now and the Open, other than overseeding some primary rough, is just improving and maintaining the quality of what we have," said Garret Bodington, the club's superintendent.
He added that on weekends these days, the course's greens are running between 11 and 12 on the Stimpmeter, so it will not be a stretch to get them to 13 for the biggest tournament in women's golf next June 27-30. There won't be a whole lot of rough to grow because the USGA is looking for a wide open Open, with the challenges being posed by the wind and the speed and contour of the greens.
"Here at Sebonack, there are over 50 acres of fairway. At Olympic, there were only 20," said Bodington, who worked on the Bethpage staff for the 2002 U.S. Open and attended the men's Open at San Francisco's Olympic Club last month. "Some of our fairways are 100 yards wide, and a majority of them are 60 to 70 yards wide. I think it's going to be all about longer hitters and anyone who has a good short game."
The only major change will be in the routing, Bodington said. The current second hole will be No. 1 for the Women's Open and the relatively short No. 1 will become No. 9. The latter can be set up so to be a drivable par 4, something the USGA would not attempt if it were the opening hole. Also, this way, the ninth and 18th greens will be near each other.
For fans, many logistics will be the same as those used for U.S. Opens at Shinnecock Hills (the Shinnecock Hills clubhouse is visible from the course at Sebonack). For instance, there will be buses from the Long Island Rail Road station to the public entrance, near the 13th hole. In a new wrinkle, officials are trying to line up public parking in Southampton, rather than at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton.
Fans will notice other differences, too. A Women's Open is much smaller in scope than a men's Open: smaller crowds, less noise, fewer corporate tents. Then again, it is a national championship. Championship director Laura Caleal said 5,000 bleacher seats will be built. She expects excitement to keep building, too.
"Ticket sales have been terrific," she said on the porch at the Sebonack clubhouse last week. "Long Island is just so golf-savvy. People here understand major championships. There are 150-some odd golf courses here. I think that says a lot. I also think Sebonack has such an allure, especially among people who really understand golf."