There is nothing quite like turning into the entrance of a great golf club. Winding your way up a long, tree-lined drive to the clubhouse produces elation in me and the expectation of a day filled with golf and gambling in a setting of quiet beauty. Here on the Gold Coast of Long Island, we are blessed with many such glorious clubs.
This weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to a brunch at Pine Hollow Country Club being hosted by David Sickman, publisher of both Long Island Tennis Magazine and New York Tennis Magazine. The brunch is an annual event and kicks off the Tennis Expo and the New York State Open at the Nassau Coliseum held in February.
As I drove up the ½ mile driveway, I passed by all the towering oak and pine trees and looked out in envy at the recently redesigned Gil Hanse golf course. Hanse has become one of the go-to guys in golf course design and was mentored by the king of minimalist design Tom Doak.
Hanse has redesigned such tracks as The Country Club at Brookline, Tokyo Golf Club and was the chief designer of the Rio Olympic Golf Club in Brazil.
The trees were barren of any leaves and the grass was not a brilliant green but I could see that this course was just like a beautiful woman without any makeup, still breathtaking and awesome to gaze upon. I finally reached the clubhouse which was another thing to behold. I knew that this was the former Consuelo Vanderbilt estate set atop a hill overlooking 130 acres of rolling hills and surrounded by ornate gardens.
This 42-room Vanderbilt mansion is in the style of French Norman and has been visited by the likes of Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle and the Duke of Windsor.
The Vanderbilt’s made their fortune in shipping and railroads and have built some of the great East Coast palaces including the Biltmore Estate in Asheville North Carolina and the Breakers in Newport Rhode Island. Most people know of the name Gloria Vanderbilt who was a multitalented actress, model and fashion designer and whose son is the one and only Anderson Cooper of television news fame.
When a group bought the estate back in 1955 they added a two-story wing for locker rooms and dining and voila, we have Pine Hollow Country Club.
Before going to brunch in the main dining hall I wandered around the place and felt safe and sound along all those secrets path leading to ponds and formal gardens, tennis courts and an Olympic size swimming pool. This is a club that evokes the feel of the F. Scott Fitzgerald magnum opus “The Great Gatsby” and I half expected to see Daisy Buchanan lounging poolside with the strains of a jazz band playing in the distance.
All of a sudden I felt like I was in the movie set of “Midnight in Paris” which was Woody Allen’s homage to the Belle Epoch, where he was transported back to a better time.
In the past, the club has hosted the Pepsi-Boys Club Open won by Arnold Palmer and its former head professional was the flamboyant Larry Laoretti who went on to make a big splash on the Senior Tour.
I took a few photos, made my way to the brunch where I quickly sat down between David and his pretty wife (whose name is not Daisy) and as I slowly enjoyed some fresh waffles with strawberries and whipped cream I secretly said a prayer to God above, thanking him for all these American blessings.
Thank you David Sickman, Pine Hollow Country Club and of course the Vanderbilt clan for creating such a magic setting. The members of Pine Hollow Country Club must surely know that, much like Jay Gatsby, they are living the great American Dream thanks to sheer American drive, will power, passion and a deep desire to be surrounded by perfect beauty.