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Glen Head CC stands test of time

The pro shop at the Glen Head Country

The pro shop at the Glen Head Country Club. (April 28, 2010) Credit: Photo by Howard Schnapp

Glen Head Country Club's official history says that in the early 1920s, members of the nearby Creek Club "no longer wanted women golfers, most of whom were their wives, intruding on their private domain."

So the men purchased land in Glen Head and commissioned the building of Women's National Golf and Tennis Club. They never imagined that the result would be a course so creatively designed that, 90 years later, it still is a test for male pros.

Women's National, the club, did not make it through the Great Depression. But the course dreamed up by women's golf pioneer Marion Hollins and laid out by prolific architect Devereux Emmet still is big enough and relevant enough to host the Long Island PGA Championship next week.

Glen Head Country Club, its official name since 1947, had a successful trial run with a qualifying round Monday. The cut was 6-over par 77, a high number that testified to the challenge.

"It is a very formidable older golf course that can hold a championship, and [Monday] proved it," said club pro Scott Hawkins, in his 15th year as Nunzio Ciampi's successor. "As one of our members said, 'The little ladies' course held up pretty well.' "

Even when it was 5,914 yards with a women's par 77 (eight par 5s), it never was little. Hollins made sure of that. The daughter of Long Island baron H.B. Hollins and a former U.S. Women's Amateur champion, she always knew whom to hire. She tapped Emmet, known for designing Garden City Golf Club and many other top courses, and added Seth Raynor as a consultant. Legendary teacher and author Ernest Jones was the club pro. Among the names on old scorecards is "Pratt," one of Long Island's elite families.

The course on Glen Cove Road became so well known that Alister Mackenzie didn't hesitate when Hollins asked him to design her West Coast dream, Cypress Point (out there in the early 1930s, Mackenzie played with Hollins and Bobby Jones; things went so well that Mackenzie agreed to design the course that Jones was planning in Augusta, Ga.).

Modern golf could take a lesson from Women's National, what with a recent study showing that courses today are not set up to allow most women to reach par-4 greens in two. At the time, though, there was no way to keep it running. A group of golfers from Soundview Country Club at Great Neck Estates, looking for a place to play when their course was sold to a developer, bought the property from The Creek in 1947.

Glen Head has had its moments: Tour pro George Bayer once hit his tee shot into the greenside bunker on what was then the 340-yard first hole. Ciampi worked there for 52 years, starting as a caddie and having a long run as pro. He and longtime superintendent Joe Graham built a 19th hole, an extra par 3 that is used for practice and as an alternate 16th hole for outings.

Still, Hawkins believes the present is as good a time as the club ever has had. He cited the upgrades made in 2007-new pro shop, teaching area, women's card room. "Jeff Weingarten was our president then and he had a vision to improve the place and bring in a lot of young families," said the pro, whose father, Loring, is the former pro at Spring Lake, and father-in-law, Don McDougall, is the former pro at Shinnecock Hills.

Four of Glen Head's holes have been recently lengthened, making the place a tournament-worthy 6,600 yards without making it a chore for members. Superintendent Lynn O'Neil had the greens rolling at 12 on the Stimpmeter Monday. "The greens are the defense of this golf course," Hawkins said. "You can have this as a nice course to go out and shoot a nice score and you can make it into a bear."

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