Among the first things Steven Lee did when he became director of golf last year at Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack was trim the huge hedges in front. He wanted to make sure everybody driving by on Montauk Highway could see that there still was a public golf course there -- in the Hamptons, amid some of the world's most famous, exclusive private clubs.
What he also noticed early on was the crest that said the Poxabogue was established in 1964. "I asked, 'Does anybody realize the 50th anniversary is coming up?' I wouldn't have known it if they didn't put it on the logo," he said in the pro shop last Thursday, which was supposed to have been the day for a big anniversary celebration with Southampton Town officials.
Bad weather early in the day caused the outing to be scrapped until September, which was no problem. The fact that Poxabogue still is around for its birthday was cause for celebration enough. The charming par-30, nine-hole course was closed in 2002 and rescued only after golfers begged for someone to save it. Southampton and East Hampton bought the 39-acre property for $6.5 million in 2004. The latter town, burdened by debt, sold its half to Southampton for $2.2 million two years ago, contracting the golf operation to Lee, the head pro at Calverton Links for 15 years.
"I would describe it as a family- friendly, welcoming kind of place. It's casual, it's fairly priced and there are no carts. It's a good walking course," said Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera, the town board's liaison to the Parks and Recreation Department.
Yes, there is a lot to be said for little Poxabogue: the new mats on the expansive driving range, the reconditioned bunkers, the Colonial bent grass fairways overseeded by superintendent Jeff Seeman, the weekday rate of $18 for Southampton and East Hampton residents, the fact you can play in an hour and 20 minutes.
But there is more than meets the eye. The host of "The Tonight Show" plays there. Sure enough Jimmy Fallon once brought Justin Timberlake along. Jon Bon Jovi brings his son for lessons. Or you might see Giants chairman Steve Tisch or reality TV star Bethenny Frankel. Alec Baldwin and Alan Alda are known to frequent the course's restaurant, which is open year round for breakfast and lunch. The other golfers just let them be.
"Fun is fun, no matter who is having it," Scalera said. "You can be as casual as you want. There are no frills, no formalities."
And even that doesn't tell the whole story. Truth is, Poxabogue has some serious golf chops. The course was designed by Alfred Tull, whose credits include Bethpage Yellow, Muttontown, Wheatley Hills and Port Jefferson Country Club. His redesign resume includes Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, where Tiger Woods and other PGA Tour pros are playing this week.
Rob Corcoran, one of the teaching pros at Poxabogue, was a contender all week at the national club pro championship in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He qualified through his tie for a 12th-place finish for a spot in the PGA Championship. He shot 61 in a Met PGA tournament last year.
Caddies from the top East End private clubs come and play Poxabogue, Lee said, as he gave a tour down the third fairway. "They call this mini-Merion.
"I played with some hedge fund guys at a pro-am in Westchester last week. I told them where I was from. They said, 'If we had a place like this in Westchester, we'd join it,' " said the director of golf, who wants to put Poxabogue in position to celebrate a 100th anniversary.