Investors take another swing with golf course

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The owners of a Westhampton Beach golf course are gambling that the odds are in their favor to create another successful, yet still affordable, private golf club on eastern Long Island.

Barry Beil and Stanley Pine, co-owners of the Hampton Hills Golf Course in Westhampton Beach, have partnered with father-and-son investors Michael and Carl Ashkin and are hoping to parlay their $60 million investment into a premier golf facility and real estate development in Baiting Hollow.

The high stakes investment in the former Fox Hills Golf and Country Club, which has been under the ownership of Mr. Beil and Mr. Pine for the last 12 years, could be a sure bet for the pair who met at a college poker game some 40 years ago. The longtime friends have been partners on East End real estate projects since the late 1990s.

Their latest venture, newly christened as the Baiting Hollow Club, includes the revitalization of a Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed golf course, as well as the construction of a new clubhouse and the building of a high-end subdivision featuring 30 homes. The annual fee for membership to the golf club is $12,000.

Mr. Jones, the original creator of the course, was a legendary golf architect who designed or remodeled more than 500 courses in his 70-year career. The prolific designer holds the distinction of creating 80 American courses to host national championships such as the U.S. Open.

In addition to owning the golf course, in 2006 the business partners purchased 52 acres adjoining the 18-hole course to accommodate more amenities and a luxury residential subdivision. Planned improvements include the construction of a brand new 25,000-square-foot clubhouse, 30 new homes and continuing upgrades to the 138-acre course.

Mr. Beil and Mr. Pine, who try to get out on the tees themselves a few times a week and have been hitting the links for the last 20 years or so, enjoyed some good-natured ribbing about their golf games in a recent interview.

“Ask him how long he’s been playing well and he’ll tell you the answer is soon,” Mr. Beil joked of his partner.

“True,” Mr. Pine responded. “At my level of game, I could be playing hockey.”

Built on the bluffs overlooking Long Island Sound, the vista-rich golf course is a challenging combination of links and woodland. It boasts five large water hazards and approximately 80 sand traps. At one time, it was ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Courses in the nation by Golf Digest, according to John Hines, who is the golf director at Baiting Hollow.

Mr. Hines noted that the course boasts one of the best layouts on Long Island and the fees are a steal compared to similar nearby courses. “We’re very similar to Shinnecock, which is the number one club in the world in my opinion,” Mr. Hines said.

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was ranked second in the 2007 Golf Digest 100 Greatest Courses. That club has hosted the U.S. Open four times.

Initiation and membership costs for many premiere Long Island clubs can run well beyond $100,000 annually. Friar’s Head Golf Course, the nearest private course to Baiting Hollow that offers similar amenities, charges fees in the $300,000 range, according to information obtained from a Wordhampton Public Relations spokeswoman.

The biggest changes on the Baiting Hollow golf course are restorations to the original design conceived by Mr. Jones back in 1966. With the assistance of Columbus, Ohio-based golf course designer team Hurdzan-Fry, the 18-hole course will revert to its original shape and measure 6,850 yards from the back tees. It will be a par 70 course.

Though the upgraded course is not yet rated, Mr. Hines reported that the likely slope rating will be 135—a difficult to fair challenge to golfers of all levels. The ?420-yard seventh hole will also return to a par four design, while the former 14th hole will switch with the current 18th hole to become a 465-yard, par 4 finishing hole.

In the past, the course has hosted tournaments such as the 2006 New York State Open qualifier, the 2002 U.S. Open qualifier and the 1999 Long Island PGA Championship. Mr. Hines predicted that the renovated course will see much more tournament action once it is finished and re-rated. He said he anticipates hosting the Metropolitan Open Golf Tournament in July 2009 as a qualifier.

Designed by Manhattan-based Hart/Howerton, a global architecture and design firm, the cedar shingle and stone clubhouse will be created in the style of a grand North Fork manor house. It is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The three-story clubhouse will be rich with amenities, including five fireplaces and multiple flat-screen televisions, according to Mr. Beil. He also noted that there will be fireplaces in both the ladies’ and men’s lounge areas in the building.

Interior designs for the clubhouse were created by Searles, Stromski, Associates, Architects Planners PC of Rocky Point. The main floor of the clubhouse will contain the men’s and ladies’ lounge areas. The upper level will house a pro shop, a 56-seat restaurant called the Grille Room, a 22-seat bar and lounge area, and a covered porch and terrace that will overlook the practice green. Cart, bag and pro shop storage will be housed in the lower level.

Currently, crews are cutting roads for the 30-home subdivision, which is expected to be completed in the next year. The luxury golf-lifestyle focused development will also include amenities such as a clubhouse, gym and various social areas. Property sizes will range from two-thirds of an acre to an acre, Mr. Beil reported. Estimated prices for the residences will be just under $2 million each.

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