The club's ladies dominated the earliest national women's championships. In the very first Women's Amateur, in 1895, Mrs. C. S. Brown of Shinnecock shot 69, paused, and then played the back nine in a very nifty 63 to win by two strokes with 132. The next three Women's Amateurs were won by Beatrix Hoyt, a granddaughter of Salmon P. Chase, who was Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury and later Chief Justice of the United States. Miss Hoyt, the game's first female teen-age phenom, won the first of her three consecutive titles when she was 16 and gave up competitive golf at 20. She eventually became a landscape painter and a sculptress of animals.
When it came to constructing a clubhouse, Shinnecock's founding fathers didn't fool around. In 1892 they erected the first (undisputed) building commissioned as a golf clubhouse. They selected the elegant and brilliant Stanford White as their architect. White's original building has been enlarged since 1892, but the renovations were done with care and taste. When you play the par-5 16th, walking directly up the slope of a superb golf hole toward White's handsome structure, it's hard not to think, "When and why did we start to build ugly buildings and golf courses in America?"
The Shinnecock course also had to be altered at the end of the 1920s because much of it lay in the path of an extension of the Sunrise Highway. The club's governing body purchased adjacent land and the firm of Toomey & Flynn was engaged to lay out an entirely new course. Partner Bill Flynn handled the design. Flynn, who had much to do with the evolution of precious old Merion outside Philadelphia, had more than a touch of genius. The Cascades Course at Hot Springs, Va., this country's most treasured course in a range of mountains, is a Flynn work. In addition, Flynn redesigned both The Country Club at Brookline, Mass. and Cherry Hills, near Denver, next year's U.S. Open site. Shinnecock also benefited from the gifts of Dick Wilson, who was to do important golf-course design on his own. Wilson was the field construction chief for Toomey & Flynn on the Shinnecock job.
Only a handful of minor changes have been made since—a few bunkers added and two tees extended. There is just one water hazard, a pond between the drive zone and the green on the par-4 6th. Played from all the way back, as it will be for the Walker Cup Match, Shinnecock will have a par of 70 and be only 6,740 yards long. How big is the Mona Lisa?
The Match will mark the first time Shinnecock Hills has been widely exposed to public view. Not that the club hasn't had other chances. It passed, quickly, an opportunity to entertain the ill-fated Dow Jones Open, a one-year $300,000 classic, and was later asked by Pro Tour Commissioner Deane Beman whether it might be interested in entertaining the recently revised version of the World Series of Golf. The club said it might consider the opportunity if all the administrative burdens were handled by the pros, because Shinnecock's membership is relatively small and predominantly seasonal. Beman said his group didn't have the manpower, either.
Shinnecock's president, H. Virgil Sherrill, says the club asked the USGA to bring the Walker Cup competition to Shinnecock, because "we wanted the satisfaction of seeing a group of very good players on what we consider one of the nation's best and most classic courses." They will and it is.