John Paul Newport visits The Bridge and chats with founder Robert Rubin about his club and what he sees as the future of clubhouse design.
Easily the most dramatic expression of the club's idiosyncratic nature is the clubhouse, which opened just this month and occupies the highest point of land on the eastern end of Long Island. It has four angular glass-and-steel "blades" that swirl outward from a central hub and feels more like a postmodern museum perched in the hills above Los Angeles than it does anything traditionally associated with golf.Gosh I love the Hamptons.
According to the architect, Roger Ferris, the blade-like design picks up on both the "dynamic tempo" of a golf swing and on the impeller assembly of a turbo-charged racing engine.
In any case, the 280-degree views of the Rees Jones-designed golf course, which has been open for several years, and Peconic Bay beyond are spectacular.
"The world has enough shingle-style, McMansion clubhouses," says Mr. Rubin, who effectively controls all but 25% of the shares in the club. (The rest are held by his acquiescent business partner, Gary Davis.) "What we're creating here, we think, is a model for the 21st-century golf club."And...
The basis for that model is Mr. Rubin's interpretation of how people actually use golf clubs these days.
"The clubhouse at Shinnecock Hills perfectly reflected its time and place," Mr. Rubin observes, referring to the famed 116-year-old golf club only seven miles away and its classic Stanford White structure. Messrs. Rubin and Ferris consciously imitated the way the Shinnecock clubhouse dominates its landscape and is grandly visible from many locations on the course. But functionally, Mr. Rubin contends, the old clubhouses are no longer relevant, even though a lot of new clubhouses still reflexively ape them.
Another thing that Mr. Rubin noticed is that modern golf-club members like to sit around in their locker rooms after a round and schmooze, so he decreed that the locker rooms should have the nicest views. As a result, the entire front walls of both the men's and women's versions are floor-to-ceiling glass, 24 feet tall in places, and they open out directly onto the club's wraparound stone terrace. Standing around in a towel is a great way to enjoy the view.And just think of the clubhouse view for golfers.
But none of this has kept him from finding members, even at $750,000 a pop (the earliest memberships went for a mere $500,000). Mostly they are self-made men (and a handful of women) in finance, hedge funds and real estate, with a couple of doctors and lawyers thrown in (he calls them his "scholarship guys," although they get no discount) and a few in entertainment (including hip-hop mogul Lyor Cohen and artist Richard Prince).
"It can sound like a ridiculous amount of money, but a lot of members justify the cost by thinking of the club as the extra room they don't have to add onto their house," Mr. Rubin says.
You know it's funny, but I just budgeted an add-on to my second home in Malibu. Low and behold, $750,000 for that extra room. Which is why I could see where Newport was going with this:
In an area where houses routinely cost $5 million, and the really good ones near the ocean go for $10 million or more, this argument holds some logic, especially since membership will cap, at least for the time being, at 150. Currently the count is 129. He describes the club, with its cool, minimalist architecture, and its astounding views, as a place to appreciate the more meditative aspects of golf, which too much traffic would spoil.
Traffic? In the Hamptons? No!