Fishers Island Club is often cited as Seth Raynor’s masterpiece. Certainly Raynor was the beneficiary of a stunning piece of land. And his sinuous routing along the eastern end of the island affords stunning views of both Fishers Island and Block Island Sounds as well as fine golf. Fisher’s is one of only four U.S. courses I can think of with ocean views from every hole.
Most of the Raynor template holes are here, though the choice of hole names is interesting. The Biarritz (# 5) takes its name not from the usual swale in the middle of the green (there is a swale but it’s short of the green), but from the trouble one’s tee shot must carry—as at the French original. And the 18th is more of a Road Hole than the 8th, with the role of the railroad sheds played by East Harbor.
The green complexes are the most interesting feature here and the course’s stoutest defense—particularly the bunkering, with many 10 feet (or more) deep. Few, however, come into play from the tee. Only at the ninth is the player faced with a choice as to the line of her/his drive. In fact, on half of one’s tee shots (#s 1, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13 15 and 17) there are no strategic choices to be made—any landing spot in the fairway is as good as any other. The lack of dogleg holes (only at #s 3, 9 and 14) contributes to the lack of lines of charm.
One thing some may find charming is irrigation. Only the tees and green complexes are watered. As a result, many liken the course to the links of Britain and Ireland (though there is none of the gorse claimed by Larry Berle). This contention extends to the slower greens, which ran at 9 on my stimpmeter in September 2016. But here the similarity ended for me. Unlike links fairways, those at Fishers were bumpy……..I’d have taken four preferred lies had that maneuver been allowed. And the heavy watering in front of the greens made the use of a links-type running shot impossible, despite the fact that Raynor left the front of twelve holes unguarded—to encourage that type of approach.
I can think of a number of less renowned Raynor courses (Mountain Lake and Fox Chapel are two that come immediately to mind) I would be just as happy to play.
P.S. Instead of hanging around at Silver Eel Harbor waiting for your ferry, why not stop by the Hay Harbor Club for a quick nine? Hay Harbor is the island’s original course and the majority of its members are also members at the Fishers Island Club. You’ll find one of the few courses in the world with vegetable gardens behind half the tees as well as two holes—the second and fifth— that would not be out of place at its more storied neighbor.
Date: September 29, 2016