Seth Raynor

Full Name
Seth Jagger Raynor
Year of Birth
1874
Year of Death
1926 aged 52
Place Born
Manorville, New York, USA
Place Died
West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

“He scarcely knew a golf ball from a tennis ball when we first met,” wrote C.B. Macdonald in Scotland’s Gift – Golf, “and although he never became much of an expert in playing golf, yet the facility with which he absorbed the feeling which animates old and enthusiastic golfers to the manner born was truly amazing."

Long Island-born Seth Raynor graduated in 1898 from Princeton University with a degree in Engineering and Geodesy and subsequently went on to run a successful landscape and surveying business in Southampton.

“His introduction to golf design came quite by accident,” wrote Geoff Cornish and Ron Whitten in The Golf Course, “when he was hired by Charles Blair Macdonald in 1908 to survey the property that would become The National Golf Links of America. Raynor so impressed Macdonald with his engineering knowledge that he was hired to supervise construction of The National. Once it was completed, Raynor went on to construct several more courses for Macdonald, including Piping Rock, Sleepy Hollow, The Greenbrier, and Lido.”

“He scarcely knew a golf ball from a tennis ball when we first met,” wrote Macdonald in Scotland’s Gift – Golf, “and although he never became much of an expert in playing golf, yet the facility with which he absorbed the feeling which animates old and enthusiastic golfers to the manner born was truly amazing, eventually qualifying him to discriminate between a really fine hole and an indifferent one.”

“Unlike the wealthy Macdonald, who never accepted a fee for his work, Seth had to run his business to earn a profit.” Wrote George Bahto in The Evangelist of Golf. “C.B. was usually fortunate to have selected the land himself. Raynor, on the other hand, was obliged to use what each club gave him. Often that land proved to be a trying challenge.

It was here, in difficult circumstances, that Raynor’s brilliance shone brightly. On courses like Chicago’s Shoreacres, his gift for visualizing routings and adapting classic strategies on awkward terrain helped create some of his most enduring work.

If any observation can be made on the differences between a Macdonald and Raynor course, it would be that their tendencies mirrored their personalities. Many of Raynor’s interpretations of Redan, Alps, or Cape were more understated, with a smoother and less of a defiant appearance.

When the volume of work became overwhelming, Raynor enlisted the help of two academicians, Ralph Barton from the University of Minnesota and Charles “Josh” Banks, a Yale graduate and professor at the prestigious Hotchkiss Preparatory School where Raynor was designing a course.”

“In 1926, Seth Raynor died of pneumonia,” wrote Cornish and Whitten, “leaving his assistants Charles Banks and Ralph Barton to complete his in-progress projects and to carry on the Macdonald tradition.”

Snippets

In the book The Evolution of Golf Course Design, author Keith Cutten has this to say when profiling the architect: “Seth Raynor was an engineer-turned-designer, whose exposure to golf course design through Charles Blair Macdonald provided an ideal foundation. Macdonald averred that around [only] twenty-one designs of golf holes existed throughout the world; and that the best variations of each should be used to guide the creation of the ideal course. This logical approach to design must have struck a chord with Raynor’s engineering mindset, allowing him to balance form and function. Template holes, used frequently by both Macdonald and Raynor, include the Redan, Alps, Biarritz, Road, Short and Leven.

Macdonald affectionately recounts his partnership in Scotland’s Gift – Golf: “Raynor built courses in every climate, in Puerto Rico, the Sandwich Islands, three or four in Florida, two in California and numberless elsewhere. He was a world builder. I had given him all my plans and only occasionally was I asked for advice.

Sad to relate he died ere his prime at Palm Beach in 1925 while building a course there for Paris Singer. Raynor was a great loss to the community, but a still greater loss to me. I admired him from every point of view.”

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Courses designed by and courses remodelled and added to by Seth Raynor

Blue Mound

8th Wisconsin - Best in Area

Gene Sarazen won the USPGA Championship at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club in 1933, seven years after Seth Raynor had set out an 18-hole course crammed with replica holes such as a Biarritz and an Eden.

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Description: Gene Sarazen won the USPGA Championship at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club in 1933, seven years after Seth Raynor had set out an 18-hole course crammed with replica holes such as a Biarritz and an Eden. Rating: 4 out of 6

Camargo

1st Ohio - Best in Area 23rd USA Ranking 24th North America Ranking 49th World Ranking

The Camargo Club is set amidst undulating countryside on the edge of Cincinnati in the State of Ohio. It’s a Seth Raynor jewel which opened for play in 1925.

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Description: The Camargo Club is set amidst undulating countryside on the edge of Cincinnati in the State of Ohio. It’s a Seth Raynor jewel which opened for play in 1925. Rating: 5.7 out of 6

Country Club of Charleston

22nd South Carolina - Best in Area

A classic old Seth Raynor course from 1921, the fairways at the Country Club of Charleston are laid out amongst the marshland of Ashley River.

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Country Club of Fairfield

2nd Connecticut - Best in Area

Dan Jenkins reckons "Seth Raynor's best work is the Country Club of Fairfield... It's short but covered up with charm."

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Description: Dan Jenkins reckons "Seth Raynor's best work is the Country Club of Fairfield... It's short but covered up with charm." Rating: 5.5 out of 6

Dedham

25th Massachusetts - Best in Area

At 6,223 yards, the Seth Raynor-designed layout at Dedham Country & Polo Club is a little short, thanks largely to it having only two par fours in excess of 400 yards and one par five longer than 500 yards.

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Essex County Country Club

9th New Jersey - Best in Area

Essex County Country Club is one of the elder statesmen of American golf, incorporated way back in 1887. The course that’s played today goes back to 1918, the work of a rookie golf course designer, A.W. Tillinghast.

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Description: Essex County Country Club is one of the elder statesmen of American golf, incorporated way back in 1887. The course that’s played today goes back to 1918, the work of a rookie golf course designer, A.W. Tillinghast. Rating: 5 out of 6

Fishers Island

3rd New York - Best in Area 12th USA Ranking 12th North America Ranking 21st World Ranking

Fishers Island Club is set romantically on a narrow island that is a mere two miles wide and eight miles long.

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Description: Fishers Island Club is set romantically on a narrow island that is a mere two miles wide and eight miles long. Rating: 5.6 out of 6

Fox Chapel

5th Pennsylvania - Best in Area 94th USA Ranking

The affluent Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel is home to one of Seth Raynor’s best, yet least celebrated designs... Fox Chapel Golf Club.

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Description: The affluent Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel is home to one of Seth Raynor’s best, yet least celebrated designs... Fox Chapel Golf Club. Rating: 5.7 out of 6

Greenbrier (Greenbrier)

Gem USA - Best in Area

The Greenbrier course suffered major flood damage in June 2016, so Phil Mickelson Design was commissioned to renovate eight original holes and build ten new ones. The new course is expected to open in 2019.

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Greenbrier (Old White)

3rd West Virginia - Best in Area

The Old White was the first of three 18-hole golf courses to be constructed at the famous Greenbrier resort, opening in 1913.

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Description: The Old White was the first of three 18-hole golf courses to be constructed at the famous Greenbrier resort, opening in 1913. Rating: 5 out of 6