Yeamans Hall Club
South Carolina, United States of America

Thirteenth hole, 195 yards, Eden; As patterned after the eleventh on the Old Course at St. Andrews, the classic Eden hole is exposed to the elements and enjoys long views beyond the green. In the United States, the eleventh at Fishers Island is preeminent for those reasons. Here, the hole is laid across the property’s high portion, making it well exposed to whatever wind is about. As part of Yeamans’ relentless march to do the right thing, small pines and brush behind the green were removed, exposing more long views to the savannah as well as increasing the wind’s impact. Relative to other Edens, a differentiator here is another of those wonderfully soft north/south spines. Consequently, the hole is rarely in the middle section of this wide green. Yet, to drop a ball into the Hill bunker left or the Strath bunker right is to not understand the opportunity that the architect affords at the green to work a fade or a draw off the spine. Shaping shots like this tee ball or a draw off the second tee, a power fade at the fourth, a drawn approach at the seventh, etc. remains an art form at Yeamans.

Though a great admirer of the Eden at St. Andrews, C.B. Macdonald felt the hole had one weakness and that was that the golfer could putt the ball from tee to green. Thus, bunkers were placed short of the green complexes on many of his, and subsequently Raynor’s, adaptations of the hole. True to Raynor’s original design, these short bunkers were restored in 2004.

Fourteenth hole, 410 yards, Knoll; A ridge confronts the golfer in the tee ball landing area, insuring that a level stance is rare as well as robbing the ball of needed run. This is unsettling because the approach shot is the course’s single most intimidating shot. More dirt was moved in the creation of this green pad than on any other. The result is striking, with a twelve-foot deep bunker diagonally across the left and a seven foot deep bunker down the right. More than a few members consider this to be not only the course’s best hole but also the finest hole in the Palmetto State, which is saying something for a state with the Ocean Course at Kiawah and Harbour Town. Named Knoll, its length has increased thirty yards since Raynor’s day. Most Knoll holes are short, so Bahto considered this to be a standalone long version of a Knoll.

The 14th plays across two valleys, a shallow one off the tee and a more pronounced one for the approach thanks to the massive amount of dirt that Raynor pushed up starting forty yards shy of the putting surface.

Imagine trying to recover from this deep left greenside bunker in the days of the niblick!

Scrub pine obscured this view and robbed the hole of its sense of place as recently as 2016.

Fifteenth hole, 450 yards, Lido; As explained in George Bahto’s Feature Interview , the Lido, also referred to as Raynor’s Prize Dog-Leg, is often the hardest two shotter on a course, so when it is sandwiched between the bruising Knoll (long version) and a Biarritz, the player’s mettle is sure to be tested. A friend of no man, the hole’s length generally means that most pars are the result of a one putt. If the drive doesn’t find the fairway, just clearing the two central hazards that now wall off the fairway 80 yards shy of the green becomes problematic. Urbina’s installation of these bunkers in 2017 was among the last central hazards that begged to be returned to their former glory. For decades, it was felt the hole was difficult enough without them and certainly, a weak Green Committee wouldn’t have the constitution to proceed. Yet, to think that golfers playing with hickories cracked on with such central hazards in place while modern players whinge is surely a poor testament of the modern golfer. It probably highlights too the difference between beating your mate in match play versus today’s fixation with medal play. Up ahead, the underrated hog’s back green is the final ‘salt in the wound’ to prevent the desired score.

Two bunkers extend across the fairway in the exact position that golfers wish they weren’t.

Sixteenth hole, 225 yards, Biarritz; The original intent of a Biarritz green design was to allow the golfer to hit a low running three wood, see the ball disappear in the trough, and then reappear on the green. There is no denying the fun derived from such a well executed shot. To have the word ‘fun’ linked to such a long one shotter is a tribute to the lasting merit of the Biarritz design. The sixteenth at Yeamans enjoys one attribute that other Raynor Biarritz holes are losing with the march of technology, namely the ability to continue to lengthen it so that Raynor’s desire for the golfer to play a fairway wood into a green can be preserved. Several other of his Biarritz holes are ‘stuck’ in the 200 yard range, merely a mid iron for a low marker today. There is a good thirty yards back toward the fifteenth green that the Club can utilize, should it so desire, which would even reduce the green-to-tee walk.

As seen on a winter’s morning, the task is to negotiate the swale …

… as well as to end up on the same side of a vertical spine as the hole.

Seventeenth hole, 420 yards, Punchbowl; The start of a perfect finish, with the harder hole being the penultimate one. The punchbowl green is deeply bunkered front left, along the right and behind, leaving one to marvel as to how Raynor created such depth on relatively flat land without seemingly disturbing the surrounds. As seen below, the hole is littered with hazards from tee to green and they all interconnect and play off each other. As such, a game at Yeamans distills into a chess match with Raynor.

A tee ball down the right …

… opens up this fine view of the mammoth green. Meanwhile, a drive down the left renders …

… a distinctly more complicated approach thanks to Urbina’s recent bunker work. With the restored front left bunker once again flush against the putting surface and its wall of appropriate height, it combines with …

… the deep back wrap around bunker to provide a true Punchbowl effect. The irony of both an Alps and a Punchbowl on flattish ground is rich. It certainly shows Raynor’s inventiveness at interpreting Macdonald’s design concepts.

Eighteenth hole, 530 yards, Home; A reachable three shotter (e.g. Pebble Beach, Castle Stuart) or a drivable two shotter (e.g. Durban, The Old Course) are magnificent ways for a course to conclude as anything from an eagle to a double bogey awaits. The author thinks the one at Yeamans is ‘on par’ with those four mentioned and sure enough, this is my favorite hole on the course. The extended tee area coupled with the restored serpentine bunkers at the sixty yard mark from the green dictate prudent tactics. The last hundred and twenty yards feed down into a natural amphitheater where the golfer is surrounded by azaleas, live oaks and the white clapboard cottages near the clubhouse. Meanwhile, the high back left to lower front right slope on the green is appropriately the most severe on the course, and the match is not over until that final ticklish putt drops. This finish – charming, thoughtful, and well laid out – is the kind that the course deserves. Interestingly enough, Raynor originally had it as a long two shotter from the forward tee. Going back to the fourteenth, and playing the eighteenth as a two shotter, these five holes comprise the most difficult stretch of holes that the author has seen on any Raynor course. Indeed, though ‘charming’ is the word most closely associated with Yeamans Hall, Bahto considered this course to be among Raynor’s three ‘toughest’ designs when the courses originally opened for play (the other two being Chicago Golf Club with its relentlessly deep bunkers and Yale Golf Club with its heaving, rocky topography).

One of the most heavily bunkered areas on the course is the last 130 yards of the Home hole. It is rare indeed to find a second shot on a three shotter of equal interest.

There you go – Beethoven would be proud of the four movements. Here’s the thing: with a symphony, a single artist creates a composition and demands it be played as the notes prescribed on the sheets. Raynor could never have envisaged the Great Depression nor the outrageous improvements in agronomy. Raynor’s only thought was that his course was one ‘movement’, i.e. his original work. And yet, as Yeamans Halls exists today, surely he would celebrate the joy that his work of art brings to all. It is the best it has ever been.

Very few clubs possess the understanding and can muster the conviction to enter into the all important fourth movement. The famed line from Lampedusa’s The Leopard comes to mind: ‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.’ By the early 2000s, the Club had gained a clear sense of how good the course had become yet knew what remained. The absurd four feet of rain that fell in the fall of 2015 helped set the stage for the final push for it was in this fourth movement that the most controversial features were dealt. In the case of Yeamans Hall, there was tree and branch removal as well as the insertion of central bunkers in the positively most annoying, confrontational places. Coupled with the agronomic improvements, Yeamans Hall is simultaneously more fun (wider playing corridors, loads more short grass) and more difficult (firm playing surfaces, who put a bunker there?!). What a neat trick that is. If ever one wishes to know why Golden Age courses are put on a pedestal, come study here as it strikes the perfect balance of enjoyment and challenge for all.

Everyone is sitting up and taking notice as to the attention of detail in how Yeamans Hall is being presented.

Appreciating what an important time this is in the evolution of the course, member Charlton deSaussure has penned a nearly 100 page book titled The Golf Course and Grounds of Yeamans Hall that will be published in 2018.  He traces the founding of the Club and the progression of the course. In a book full of fascinating insight and lines, one of the best is at the very start. A key driver to the formation of the Club was Thomas Lamont, who followed J.P. Morgan Jr. as the Chairman of Morgan Bank in 1943. deSaussure’s research reveals, ‘Upon his death in 1948, The New York Times wrote of Tom Lamont’s “unremitting search for the good, the full and the gracious life.”‘ If any line – the good, the full and the gracious life – can accurately convey a sense for a place, that’s the one.

Yeamans Hall’s clean scorecard reads, ‘Yeamans Hall Club, Charleston, South Carolina, Seth Raynor, Designer, 1925.’ Raynor himself best summed up its virtues in 1925 when he wrote, ‘I would say this course is going to combine the sandy seaside features and the rolling dune effects so desirable in the coastal area. The fairways are made beautiful by the magnificent live oaks and large pines bordering them. The encircling trees give a warmth to the course in the wintertime which is very delightful. This, combined with the invigorating climate and all the other fine features this spot contains, is bound to make one fall in love with golf at Yeamans Hall.’ Those sentiments have never been more true than they are today. Raynor’s vision has been comprehensively reinstated on playing surfaces that are firmer, faster and more uniform than anything the Maestro could have envisaged.

The founders of Yeamans Hall saw the potential to expand upon an environment that would delight the senses. Time has proven their vision correct and over the past thirty years, the Club has elevated the course to possess an appeal every bit as timeless as that of the lowcountry itself.

The End