Green Keeper: Tim Davis

Once upon a time, on a beautiful piece of property along the shore of Lake Michigan…

If this sounds like the beginning of a storybook tale from a bygone era, that’s because it is. To complete the tale, the year was 1918, the piece of property was in Lake Bluff, Illinois, along Chicago’s north shore. The founding members of Shoreacres hired Seth J. Raynor to construct a course worthy of its setting.

Raynor's typically steep and deep bunkering is evident here at the seventeenth.

Making the turn at the discreteShoreacres – Members Only sign, one can feel a connection to the early 1920’s when Raynor laid out this course. The journey into the Club is a definite part of the overall experience as the drive passes the third fairway and thesecond green withthe creek wrapping around it.One languidly proceeds through an avenue of trees. To the north is the first fairway and to the south is the miniscule practice field. The road again bends to the left by the practice putting green and the eighteenth green and past the David Alder white clubhouse perched on the bluff. The professional’s shop is further around to the west, closer to the course.

By now,any of life’s worries have melted awayand the golferis just itching to play. Best yet, the course does not disappoint.

Shoreacres and Camargo, which also opened in 1921, were Raynor’s first great solo design efforts. Their immediate success assisted Raynor as being the preferred architect at such remarkable sites as Yale, Fisher’s Island, and Cypress Point in the second half of the 1920s.

Shoreacres is as original a Seth Raynor design as exists.Green KeeperTim Davis has been at Shoreacres for over twenty years and knows his course as well as any Green Keeper in the country.Working in collaboration with Tom Doak’s Renaissance Design Firm, they havethoughtfully restoredevery Raynor feature possibleto its original state.Over time, the greens have been returnedto their initial size, in some cases increasing the green size by more than one third. A direct consequence of such a restoration is that many of the most interesting hole locations are brought back into play along the outer parts of the greens.

Though Raynor in general produced broad greens, getting at hole locations in their far reaches is a study in shot making. For instance take the fifth green. A front left location is diabolical as anything in the middle of the green leaves a putt sloping fiercely downhill and off the green. The golfer may be better off to miss the green left with a draw and have a straightforward chip shot into the green slope. Conversely, a back right hole located a top one of the plateaus requires a running cut shot to scamper all the way back.

Everybody talks about the stretch from the tenth tofifteenth and many feel that it represents Raynor’s very finest work – high praise indeed. Most of Raynor’s favorite type holes are to be found on this course, as we see below.

Holes to Note

Second hole, 345 yards; Because of the hole’s modest length, the golfer will rarely have more than ashort ironapproach. The green is an extension of the fairway and is open in front. The golfer feels that he should make something happen. And yet when they start moving the hole locations toward the back and left, apprehension creeps in as a creek loops across the back and down the left of the green. A golfer in control may attack the flag while the less sure will tentatively play toward the front and hope for a two putt par. Regardless, the hole is a good barometer of the nerves of one’sopponent and the state of his game.

Down the left of the second is where all the trouble lurks.

As seen from behind the green, left hole locations such as this one bring the creek well and truly into play.

Fourthhole, 370 yards; A Capetee ballwith a creek zigzagging across the tee line. The green itself is quite big and is bunkered left and right. The optimal angle into it is – you guessed it – from as near to the creek as possible. This green is another beneficiary of the reclaimed greens as some very interesting hole locations are found on the upper back left and right areas.

The approach from the swale after this long hitter carried the ditch on the Cape tee shot.

Sixth hole, 190 yards; A shorter than usual Biarritz hole that has both the front and back halves as green. The green itself is eighty-three yards long and features a two foot swale approximately in the middle. The Club has not always maintained the front half as putting surface. Interestingly enough, all the greens at Shoreacres have an original cinder base and when Tim Davis went to reclaim the front half, there was no cinder. Perhaps Raynor never intended the front half to be green but the hole is infinitely more interesting because it is.

The full length Biarritz green, complete with swale, as seen from behind the sixth green.

Tenth hole, 455 yards; A terrifying version of the Road Hole that embodies many of the best characteristics of the original. Out of bounds is all down the right. The brave line off the tee is to flirt with a small ravine on the right in order to shorten the route home. A greenside bunker covers the left third of the green and a long bunker occupying the space of the road on the original version is ominous indeed.

The landing area at ten is pinched on the right, both by this gully and the out of bounds which lines the hole.

A true Road Hole green complex: the false front, Road Hole bunker, the shallow green and a deep bunker over all conspire to make this a very difficult target to hit on one's invariably long approach.

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