Raynor, along with Macdonald and fellow protege Charles Banks, is responsible for the concept of “template” golf course design. On every Raynor course, nearly every hole is named after a famously influential hole from the British Isles. Par threes are a particularly memorable platform for the “MacRaynor” templates of “Redan,” “Biarritz,” “Eden” and “Short.”
The Redan, inspired by the 15th at North Berwick, is the most famous of all templates: a par three whose green is shaped to run from front-right to back-left, such that a well-struck, right-to-left mid-iron shot will have the ball run across the green lengthwise in order to access an otherwise dangling rear-left hole location. Famous Raynor Redans include the 17th at Waialae Country Club (recently restored by Tom Doak) in Hawaii and the sixth at Yeamans Hall outside Charleston, South Carolina. Another noted example of the template is found at the 11th hole at Mountain Lake Club in Lake Wales, Florida.
Perhaps Raynor’s most famous contribution to the art of golf course architecture came at The Course at Yale where, alongside C.B. Macdonald, he and his crew blasted away tons of rock from a massive site to create one of golf’s boldest courses. Many templates are present here, but so too are several one-off marvels, like the par-4 10th with an ingenious three-level green in the sky; and the wild 621-yard par-5 18th, which requires golfers to play around, up and over a 40-foot hill. One of the most controversial Golden Age holes, it is a perfect recap of the adventure that is a round at Yale, and an engineering marvel. Unfortunately, Raynor passed away at the age of 51 in early 1926, months before the course would open.
Ginella: Top 5 Seth Raynor designs
An architect with no golf background
Perhaps the most intriguing fact of Raynor’s story is that he did not play golf himself. A trained civil engineer and surveyor – Raynor met Macdonald while Macdonald was preparing to build his famous National Golf Links of America in 1908 – Raynor nevertheless had a deep understanding of effective golf course architecture, and was able to manufacture both compelling and functional courses in a variety of settings, from the rocky soils of New Haven, Connecticut to the flat seaside of Palm Beach, Florida, where his final design, The Everglades Club, was built.
The majority of Raynor’s courses are private – many particularly exclusive – but there are some courses he worked on that the public may enjoy. They include the Old White TPC at The Greenbrier (with Macdonald), Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda (also with Macdonald), the courses at Thousand Islands Country Club in northern New York and the nine-hole Hotchkiss School course in Lakeville, Connecticut.
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