Museum Moment: Reclaiming the Architectural Integrity of a Seth Raynor Masterpiece

May 05, 2011

Yeamans Hall’s “Design Evolution Report” Sets the Mark

By Dunlop White III

In recent decades, golf clubs around the world have acquired a greater sense of pride and appreciation for their course’s architectural heritage. Golf course restorations have proven to be the leading development in golf architecture, as the caretakers of countless classics have attempted to recapture the look, shape and playing character of their original design. It’s all part of a larger movement to recover the traditional design values of the game.

As part of the process, club officials have been busy with archival research — the exercise of tracking down any evidence that helps reveal how their golf course was meant to look and play in the beginning. At Yeamans Hall Club in Hanahan, S.C., longtime superintendent Jim Yonce discovered Seth Raynor’s 1925 design plan while rummaging through the clubhouse attic. Yonce also uncovered a Raynor letter that describes his vision for every hole of the course. Today, these rare finds serve as the cornerstone to their ongoing restoration.

But golf courses always evolve from their original state over time. It's difficult to notice this transformation in any one season, but over the course of 85 years, countless Golden Age layouts have gradually lost much of their original design character.

For example, Donald Ross’ Pinehurst No. 2, originally known for its generous fairways and sandy terrain, entered a period of misguided renovation in the 1960s. The fairways were significantly tightened, reducing a player’s angle to the green, and the sandy areas that lined the fairways were replaced with long Bermuda rough, which not only eliminated recovery shots but kept errant drives from rolling into more interesting trouble in the pines.

Recently, however, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore redesigned Pinehurst No. 2, restoring its natural feel with wiregrass and hard-packed sand, just awaiting wayward drives off the fairway. The player is faced with a variety of possibilities: their ball could end up against a wiregrass tuft, on pine needles or in a clean, firm lie in the hard-packed sand. “We wanted to restore the uncertainty,” said Coore.

To help visualize transformations such as this over several decades, Yeamans Hall, for one, has created a “Design Evolution Report” which meticulously traces the historical pedigree of every hole dating to Raynor’s 1925 design plan.

In a 68-page booklet — a digital copy of which has been donated to the USGA Museum’s Architecture Archive — Yonce and Jeffrey Frain, a former assistant pro, collaborated to produce historical illustrations of all hole configurations. They color-highlighted and captioned key design features — distinguishing those that were authentic from those that had been added, adjusted or removed through the years. Today, Yeamans Hall is among a growing number of golf clubs engaging in this type of documentation and study.

Archival research cannot be complete without examining the lifeworks of the architect. Seth Raynor was born on May 7, 1874, a year to the day before noted contemporary A.W. Tillinghast. In the case of Raynor, he embarked in the discipline of golf architecture in 1907 as the construction engineer and surveyor for architect Charles Blair Macdonald. During his apprenticeship, Raynor learned the craft of taking distinct design features from famous holes of the British Isles and reproducing them at classic venues, such as National Golf Links of America (Southampton, N.Y.), Piping Rock (Locust Valley, N.Y.), Sleepy Hollow (Scarborough, N.Y.), St. Louis (Mo.) Country Club, The Greenbrier Resort (White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.) and Lido Club (Lido Beach, N.Y.).

As a practicing architect in the early 1920s, Raynor continued to employ Macdonald’s “famous hole renditions” on a variety of American landscapes, including Fishers Island (N.Y.), Carmargo (Indian Hill, Ohio), Shoreacres (Lake Bluff, Ill.), Mountain Lake (Lake Wales, Fla.) and Yeamans Hall. Today, architects Jim Urbina and Tom Doak are relying upon Yeamans Hall’s Design Evolution Report in their efforts to reclaim the architectural integrity of Raynor’s hole themes as listed below:

• Hole 1: “Double Plateau” – Inspired by the 11th green at National Golf Links of America

• Hole 2: “Leven” – Inspired by the seventh hole at Leven Links, Scotland; similar to the fifth hole at Piping Rock

• Hole 3: “Short” – Inspired by the fifth hole at Royal West Norfolk, England; similar to the sixth Hole at National Golf Links of America

• Hole 4: “Bottle” – Inspired by the 12th hole at Sunningdale, England

• Hole 5: “Alps” – Inspired by the 17th hole at Prestwick Golf Club, Scotland; similar to the 13th hole at The Greenbrier Resort (Old White)

• Hole 6: “Redan” - Inspired by the 15th hole at North Berwick Golf Club, Scotland

• Hole 7: “Road” – Inspired by the 17th green at St. Andrews, Scotland

• Hole 8: “Creek” – Inspired by the 11th hole at Lido Club

• Hole 9 – “Long” – inspired by the 14th hole at St. Andrews, Scotland

• Hole 10: “Cape” – Inspired by the 14th green at National Golf Links of America.

• Hole 11: “Maiden” – Inspired by the sixth green at Royal St. George’s, England

• Hole 12: “Narrows” – Inspired by the 15th hole at Muirfield Golf Club, Scotland

• Hole 13: “Eden” – Inspired by the 11th green at St. Andrews, Scotland; similar to the 13th green at National Golf Links of America

• Hole 14: “Knoll” – Inspired by the fourth green at Scotscraig Golf Club, Scotland

• Hole 15: “Lido” – Inspired by the 15th hole at Lido Club

• Hole 16: “Biarritz” – Inspired by the third green at Biarritz Golf Club, France; similar to the 9th hole at Piping Rock

• Hole 17: “Punchbowl” – Inspired by the 16th green at National Golf Links of America

• Hole 18: “Home” – Inspired by the 18th hole at National Golf Links of America

For more information on Macdonald and Raynor design themes and to review Yeamans Hall’s Design Evolution Report, visit the USGA Architecture Archive website.

Dunlop White III is a member of the USGA Museum Committee and part of the Architecture Archive working group. Email questions or comments to dwhiteiii@triad.rr.com.

Seth Raynor (USGA Museum)


The 11th tee at Yeamans Hall Club (USGA Museum)


The 14th green at Yeamans Hall Club (USGA Museum)