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The Lido Golf Club: Long Island’s Lost Links

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Another course lost to history, Long Island’s Lido Golf Club, opened in 1917 along the Atlantic Ocean in Long Beach, New York. It was built on a reclaimed marsh and swampland, commissioned by Roger Winthrop, the president of Piping Rock, who convinced Charles Blair MacDonald to take on the ambitious project. MacDonald already had notable courses such as National Golf Links (also on Long Island) and Chicago Golf Club, but stated the Lido project “was like a dream.” Construction on the Lido was overseen by Seth Raynor, the result was a course that was the most authentic loooking man made creation, as well as the most expensive.

The Lido opened to rave reviews, with players and critics alike hailing it as one of golf’s great courses. Unfortunately, its reign was short due to bad timing, as it was negatively affected by both World Wars and the Great Depression, ultimately closing in 1942. The course became known as “the greatest course you’ll never play” over the years. Its untimely demise only added to its mythical status as one of the great “lost wonders” of golf architecture.

In 2021, work began re-creating Lido Golf Club, over 1,000 miles away, at Sand Valley in Wisconsin. Believe it or not, that’s not the only one, as the Lido-inspired Ballyshear Golf Links in Bangkok opened in 2021. This post will examine the story behind Lido Golf Club, its short history, demise, and rebirth. We’ll also suggest some further reading that delves further into Long Island’s links history and selections from some of the protagonists in this story – C.B. MacDonald, Mike Keiser, and Tom Doak.

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Development and Design

The Lido was constructed on a 115-acre parcel of sandy marshland along the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first course in America in which the landforms were manufactured. To convert the site, over 2 million cubic yards of sand were brought in to shape the land into a seaside links-style course with sweeping dunes and views of the Atlantic. In 1921, the LA Times reported that the course cost over $1 million to construct and set a new record as the most expensive to date, somewhere between 10 and 15 times the amount spent on the average private course in the country at that time.

A New York Tribune article called the course “a notable example of modern golf course construction” and described the development process, detailing challenges in finding suitable greens. The Times Union wrote, “Among the incidentals, more than 2,500 tons of lime, 6,000 tons of fertilizers, and 35,000 tons of topsoil. The entire rough was planted by hand with beach grass, each in squares eighteen inches apart. Nearly a million plants were required. They hold the sand in place and at the same time afford an excellent hazard.” The course featured untamed rough and penal waste areas modeled from great European holes of the era.

The routing utilized the oceanside location beautifully, and Macdonald incorporated many famous template holes into the design, such as the Redan, Biarritz, Alps, and Eden. Echoes of St. Andrews and Prestwick could be felt in the design of some of the Lido’s most memorable holes. In 1914, an article entitled “On the Green” by Horace Hutchinson and Bernard Darwin ran in Britain’s Country Life Magazine. It requested submissions for a design contest, soliciting ideas for “an ideal two-shot hole.” No other than Alister MacKenzie was still unknown in the US then and was declared the winner. His design became “Home,” Lido’s two-shot 18th, which featured three distinct routes that could be navigated. MacKenzie stated the hole was partly influenced by St. Andrews’ “Long” hole. Today, the Alister MacKenzie Society’s “Ray Haddock Lido Design Contest” pays tribute, offering a similar opportunity each year for an up-and-coming designer.

Perhaps the most innovative hole at Lido was the par-5 4th, “Channel.” The hole featured a lagoon that created three distinct “tongues,” or playing areas for the players to navigate to the green. The hole provided risk/reward options and strategic decisions to be made with multiple forced carries required for the heroic route on the right, or they could play left and be faced with a second risk/reward decision. The hole is said to have been inspired by the 16th at Littlestone Golf Club in England. While that may well be true, it sounds like a very close replica of the 8th hole at Royal West Norfolk (Brancaster), with the Lido’s man-made lagoon substituting for the native marshland of Brancaster.

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MacDonald made it clear that he considered North Berwick’s Redan the finest one-shot hole in the world. He habitually included a replica or close facsimile on every course he designed, such as the 4th at National Golf Links of America. The Lido’s Redan was the tough 206-yard 16th. While it was considered to be of the same caliber, its length provided a considerable challenge, even if it did benefit from the prevailing wind.

Short History

In 1928, a six-story clubhouse and hotel was constructed on the water’s edge, and the Lido Golf Club quickly earned a reputation as one of the finest courses ever built. Golf writers heaped praise, with Bernard Darwin calling it “the finest course in the world” in 1921. Walter Hagen ranked the course as one of the “big three,” alongside Pine Valley and Cypress Point, as the best in the country throughout the 1920s. Claude Harmon, the 1948 Masters champion, called Lido “the greatest golf course ever.”

A 1922 Times-Union article described the course, “On two holes at high tide, the surf scatters spray over the greens, while the ocean seems scarcely more than a drive, a brassey, and approach from any of the tees. The course proper covers 115 acres, over seven of which flows the lagoon, an artificial lake dredged twelve feet deep with made-land in the center constituting the island hole… The home hole was built after the design of the best of more than one hundred plans submitted in a prize contest conducted in England for the best two-shot stretch.”

The club struggled due to World War I and the Great Depression, was forced to lower dues, and WInthrop eventually sold in the late 1930s. It remained open until 1942 when the property was purchased by the US Navy for use as a training center during World War II. The Navy bulldozed the course for buildings and runways. This is a fate shared by many of Great Britain’s seaside links during the war. Courses like Prince’s and Deal were dropped from the Open Rota due to damage and disrepair. Those courses were eventually restored but would never host another Open.

After the war, in 1953, a new course was built near Lido Beach, designed by Robert Trent Jones, and it is still open today. While different from the original, the Trent Jones course features a replica of the original “Channel” hole but otherwise bears no resemblance to Macdonald’s masterpiece.

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Rebirth

Bandon Dunes founder Mike Keiser had a long-standing interest in reviving Lido. As early as 2002, he called golf historian George Bahto to look into rebuilding and later explored a tribute course in Oregon. Architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina struggled with finding the proper routing for the Lido on the Bandon property and decided to take a page out of MacDonald’s playbook. Rather than copying the Lido, they developed Old MacDonald, a course inspired by MacDonald in the same way that MacDonald reimagined and paid tribute to classic British templates in places like National Golf Links and Lido. A decade later, Keiser’s sons Michael and Chris decided to take on resurrecting the Lido at their Sand Valley resort in Wisconsin.  

In 2021, work began on painstakingly recreating Lido at Sand Valley, led by architects Tom Doak, Brian Schneider, and Renaissance Golf. They utilized historical photos, documents, and even a 3-D computer simulation of the course by golf historian Peter Flory. Flory spent years studying the original course’s design and developed an impressive photorealistic model. Doak and his team have recreated every contour and feature in the same exact dimensions and positioning as the original Lido layout.

The resurrected Lido opened as a private club in 2023, with limited public play for Sand Valley guests. It has been met with huge fanfare and anticipation, as golfers can finally experience C.B. Macdonald’s lost masterpiece brought back to life after over 80 years. The Lido has already been selected as the site of the USGA’s 2026 U.S. Mid-Amateur. It is expected to quickly join the ranks of the top courses in the country, continuing its legacy as one of the towering achievements of golf’s Golden Age.

Visit Sand Valley’s “The Lido” online at https://sandvalley.com/thelido.

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PuttView Golf Books

PuttView Books are detailed yardage and green maps designed to help golfers save strokes, especially under tournament conditions. They offer precise visual representations of courses, including topographic slope percentages, fairway arrows for slopes over 4%, and a dual view of greens accurate to the millimeter. The books are printed on high-quality waterproof paper, sized to fit traditional yardage book covers, and are USGA legal. 

Customers praise PuttView Books for their stunning detail, stylish presentation, and the confidence they instill in decision-making on the course. With 30,000 courses represented, your home course is bound to be available, as are the Lido in NY and the new Lido at Sand Valley.

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Further Reading

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America’s Linksland: A Century of Long Island Golf
by William Quinn

Summary: Whenever golf “meccas” are discussed, you can be sure that Long Island, New York will not be mentioned. But it should be. And the reasons are clear in America’s Linksland: A Century of Long Island Golf, by William Quirin. In size, Long Island is small; it measures a mere 1,200 square miles. In terms of golf history, however, it’s huge. The first famous golf course in this country, The National Golf Links of America, is located there. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the site for the first playing of the U.S. Open, is located there. The site for the 2002 U.S. Open, Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, is located there. And the history goes on an on. 

Carefully researched and beautifully written, America’s Linksland is a heart-felt tribute to one of golf’s most historic places. Vintage photos of golf in the early days, and spectacular color photography by L.C. Lambrecht of some of Long Island’s best courses, add even more to its appeal.

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Long Island Golf
by Phil Carlucci

Summary: When the European sport of golf found its way to Long Island and took root in the Hamptons at Shinnecock Hills in 1891, its journey across the Atlantic served as the opening drive of a recreational era that now spans three centuries. Home to more than 130 golf courses, the area boasts prestigious American clubs overlooking picturesque Atlantic bays and inlets, along with public layouts climbing and descending the region’s sloping terrain. Long Island is home to the most popular municipal golf facility in the country, the centerpiece of which is Bethpage Black, “the People’s Country Club.” Celebrated architects like A.W. Tillinghast, Devereux Emmet, Seth Raynor, and C.B. Macdonald built many of Long Island’s famous courses, which have challenged the brightest of golf’s stars. International tournaments and star-studded exhibitions have all been decided on Long Island turf, helping it grow into one of the world’s most prominent golf settings.

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Summary: While it’s hard to imagine that famed Pebble Beach Golf Links would ever be dug up and turned into a residential community, similar fates have happened to other great courses in the past. Thankfully, due to the exhaustive research of Daniel Wexler, the full details on 27 of these exceptional layouts can be found in The Missing Links: America’s Greatest Lost Golf Courses & Holes

Through the use of period photographs and detailed maps, Wexler takes the reader on a hole-by-hole guided tour of some of the most famous courses—designed by some of America’s most famous architects—that no longer exist.

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The Nature of the Game
by Mike Keiser

Summary: The Nature of the Game chronicles how businessman and avid golfer Mike Keiser discovered his passion for authentic links golf in Scotland and Ireland and embarked on a mission to bring that pure golf experience to America through Bandon Dunes.  Keiser details his philosophy of “dream golf” – walking-only courses routed naturally through windswept landscapes that embrace the origins of the game.  The book provides an inside look at how Keiser partnered with architects like Tom Doak to make the dream golf vision a reality at Bandon and other sites, pioneering a back-to-basics movement in course design.  At its core, The Nature of the Game shares one man’s journey to recapture golf’s essence by creating minimalist, natural links-style courses focused on fun and camaraderie.

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Scotland’s Gift, Golf
by Charles Blair MacDonald

Summary: Scotland’s Gift, Golf is a masterpiece of early golf literature, written by the Father of American Golf Course Architecture, C.B. Macdonald. Considered by historians to be the most important book ever written on early American golf, this book details the birth of golf in the United States in the late nineteenth century and the formation of the U.S.G.A. in 1894.

In addition to a detailed summary of the characteristics of an ideal golf course, this guide provides rare insight into the methods and philosophies that Macdonald used to design some of the world’s most renowned courses, including the National Golf Links of America, Mid-Ocean Club, Lido, and Yale Golf Club. It also includes personal anecdotes and correspondence describing the development of the rules of golf, as well as the evolution of the modern golf ball and golf club.

Written in 1928, this book features 56 black-and-white photographs from the author’s personal collection, including rare photos of Bobby Jones, Young Tom Morris, and Francis Ouimet. Also included is an appendix which highlights the oldest surviving rules of golf from 1754, as well as the amended version from 1858.

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Sand and Golf
by George Waters

Summary: “Sand and Golf” explores how sandy terrain uniquely suits golf, studying similarities and differences between courses worldwide with sandy features. It examines all aspects of the relationship between sand and golf, from the sport’s origins in Scottish coastal dunes to its global spread onto sandy sites. Written by golf architect George Waters with a preface by renowned designer Tom Doak, it details through examples and illustrations why firm, rugged, windy sandy terrain makes creative shot-making integral to the game. The book appeals to knowledgeable golfers interested in course design and architecture, analyzing the art and science behind why golf belongs on sand.

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Anatomy of a Golf Course
by Tom Doak

Summary: The book explains the thought process and strategies used by golf course architects in designing courses, including factors like hole length, placement of hazards, and routing. It aims to help golfers understand why certain design choices are made so they can better approach playing the course. Written by acclaimed golf architect Tom Doak, it appeals to both knowledgeable golfers and beginners interested in course design and architecture. The book also includes an appendix with examples of noteworthy golf courses that are worth studying.


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