Seth Raynor is responsible for several courses that could vie for world’s best collection of Par 3s, but Pete Dye was committed in declaring that Camargo, outside of Cincinnati, had the very best. Considering Dye often avoided anything “template,” this is telling praise.
Four of the most prized short template holes are featured at the highly exclusive club, including the Redan, Eden, Short and Biarritz (which has always been maintained with the front plateau cut to fairway length, as was its historical intent).
There are obviously Raynor layouts in Long Island and Chicagoland that many will hold as his very best, but Raynor went out near the top of his game, as Camargo ended up being one his last designs, prior to his death at the age of 44 (construction ended a year following his passing). Camargo’s eventual pro and superintendent, William Jackson, made some tweaks right off the bat, for example not implementing the second fairway at the No. 12 “Channel” hole. The core of Raynor’s design, and the rolling land it was built upon, ensured its acclaim, however.
A Robert von Hagge renovation during the ‘80s attempted to introduce a bunker style more trendy at the time, but the allure quickly lost its sparkle. Tom Doak and Renaissance Golf came in at the onset of the millennium and returned Raynor’s revered geometric aesthetic.
Camargo is a throwback and a real treat to play. A Raynor design that he never got to see the final product as he passed away before completion. Huge greens and fairways, with no water hazards, not long by today’s standards, but keep in mind it is a par 70. While most people think it is in Cincinnati, it is in the bucolic Village of Indian Hill a few miles northeast.
The first hole is welcoming and straightaway. The real challenge is the table top green with greenside bunker left. The 2nd is the first par five and is a big bender right with a bunker on the inside elbow. This is considered the Valley hole, uphill tee shot, with the 2nsd shot downhill and then the approach back up. Good scoring hole with a pot bunker short of the green and 3 bunkers left. The short par 4 3rd is considered the Leven hole. While short, it is uphill and the raised green is almost completely surrounded by trench bunkers. Another good birdie oppty. The dogleg left 4th is the number one handicap. At 454 yards it is a doozy. The mid-length par 3 5th is considered the signature hole and is considered an Eden template. The tee shot is out of a wooded chute to a green with danger right and left. The bunker on the right extends around to the back of the green and the one left is perhaps 15 feet below the putting service. Favor the right third of the green and the contour will reward you by moving the ball left. The 6th is a pretty straight forward par 4, but 7-9 are attention getters. The 7th is a long Alps hole with a Punchbowl green. Uphill tee shot and downhill and possibly blind approach. If you have played Prestwick then you know what to expect, for the rest of you there is a bunker in front of the green that you cannot see. This is a difficult but fun hole with unexpected challenges. The 8th is the 227 yard Biarritz, I hope for your sake the pin is back. One of the most exciting shots in golf. The front ends with a long par four right with fairway bunkers right, favor the left side..
The back opens with a long dogleg left with bunkers on the inside elbow. The 10th has one of the narrowest fairways. The green is domed with a deep bunker right and the green runs off back right. The good news is you can run an approach on from the left side. Tough hole. The 11th is called Short and is a classic short par 3. The large raised green sits above left, right and front bunkers. Beautiful little hole and good birdie oppty. The 12th is a long uphill par four over a ravine and tilts right. It has a split fairway The fairway is split by two long bunkers, right after each other. The next few holes are good scoring oppties starting with the short dogleg right 13th. You can cut the corner, just don’t get too crazy. The 14th has an uphill tee shot and also leans right and is wee bit longer. There is a greenside bunker right. The 15th is a mid-length Redan hole with a deep bunker front left. The 16th has one of the most generous fairways on the course. That did not stop me from duck hooking my drive into the left fairway bunker. The green is protected by a bunker short right and a bunker left. The 17th is a short reachable par five. I was told that it had originally been a par four and was a Road Hole template. I still don’t see it. Decent drive will give you a greenlight, there is a bunker short right and one greenside left. The18th is a long par four that tilts right at the end. Off the tee favor the left side to avoid tree trouble. The green is protected bunkers right and left. Good finishing hole.
This is a fantastic course. Hard to beat the par 3s.
Camargo lives up to the hype and rankings. One of Seth Raynor's finest designs on an incredible piece of property. Some of the must undulating fairways I've seen on a Raynor course, which results in some interesting decisions off the tee and uneven lies. Like all Raynor's, the greens are world class. Ohio has a lot of great courses, but this is arguably the best.
I get a chance to play on Mondays. This is a masterpiece. Perfectly maintained and conditioned. The par 3's are everything you hear about and more. Very challenging terrain changes and contours on the putting surfaces.
One challenging test of Golf. Considering the length, Camargo still offers a wonderful test of "Shot Shaping Technique".... The Course is always manicured to the max...Seth Raynor is a "Master" of Putting Green shapes and contours!! Bobby Jones was known to play Camargo on a regular basis...that speaks volumes about it quality!
The beguiling Camargo is situated on rolling terrain and has a masterful routing within a large swath of land that makes you feel like you are in a park. There are no houses surrounding the course and there is a large buffer around the edge that gives Camargo an open feel. The sweeping vistas create a sensational impression. Similar to Piping Rock on Long Island, the course was routed around a polo field. As is typical of Raynor or Macdonald courses, the design has all the prototypical holes you would expect, such as a Biarritz, Eden, Short, Redan, Road, Alps and Punchbowl. I liked the feel of Camargo right from the get go. It is an unspoiled masterpiece. Thanks to an enlightened membership, the course has changed little since it was built, and it is like being transported back in time. It's as if you are able to step back in time and play baseball at the Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field in 1922.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
Arguably the best course in Ohio and most certainly one of Raynor's best efforts. This property may well be one of the best suited pieces of land for Raynor's style in my opinion. Of course you will find all his template holes as mentioned. The course is in pristine shape, on top of that it's clearly obvious that all cylinders are firing in perfect timing there. A top notch Super, an architect that respects tradition and guides restorations/renovations in the perfect direction and a club management wise enough to lead everything in the right direction. Camargo is a treat for any lover of golf course architecture. Not a repetitive or mundane hole at the place.
It's understandable why it's known for it's par 3's as they are indeed fantastic. The Redan would have to be my favorite, even though it robbed me of my first ace by perhaps a millimeter. From the tee it just suits my eye very well. With the huge drop offs around the greens it's best to aim well to the safe side of any sucker pin placements. The challenge is that the green surfaces are enormous so it's easy to hit the green and wish you were chipping rather than attempting 50-foot putts on greens full of gentle undulations.
I played in a pretty good rain shower that lasted the entire round, but even so the course was draining perfectly and just a joy to play. Enough so that I would of loved to head straight back out, though it would of been rather cruel to my host who braved the weather perhaps only to treat me to something truly special.
I wish I could automatically put this on the must play list for everyone who loves architecture but the reality is that Camargo is very private and doesn't have that many members so it's unfortunately difficult to see. Nonetheless, it's worth a special trip in my opinion from anywhere if you have a chance to visit.