Seth Raynor designed the course at Yeamans Hall Club in South Carolina in 1925. It has been called “a time capsule in Charleston” in appreciation of it embodying all that is good in traditional golf course design (of course that could be said of all Raynor courses). And don’t let a modest course yardage fool you into thinking this is a short course, as several drives have to be played into upslopes which afford little forward ball momentum.
Yeamans Hall enjoys just about the firmest playing conditions of any course on the eastern seaboard of the United States and it is blessed with wide, tree-lined fairways and greens which are a trademark of their designer – all except two are receptive to the running approach shot.
In the late 1980s, many greens had shrunk to nearly half their original size, so the golf club restored the 1st and 13th putting surfaces to gauge the effect it would have on the membership. Such was the impact, Tom Doak was contracted in 1998 to rebuild the remaining sixteen greens and this was done over six months that year with the total putting surface area increasing from 80,000 to over 140,000 square feet.
Unique Raynor design features like horseshoe contours within the green were re-established on the 3rd and 10th putting surfaces and spines dividing greens in two were introduced on the 4th and 15th and, of course, the increase in green size now offers so many new, interesting pin positions.
A feature hole is the par three 6th measuring 180 yards called “Redan” which, as the name implies, is a Raynor remake of the famous 15th hole at North Berwick. The narrow green slopes from right to left and is framed by magnolias and oak trees bedecked in hanging moss. Three bunkers at the back are very much in play as the putting surface slopes steeply into them.
Raynor said of Yeamans Hall in 1925, “this course is going to combine the sandy seaside features… the fairways made beautiful by magnificent live oaks and large pines bordering them… to make one fall in love with golf at Yeamans Hall.”
I've wanted to play Yeamans Hall for a number of years and it was well worth the wait. This is classic old school architecture by famed architect Seth Raynor at its best. The club has been blessed by a membership that understands the unique course that they have and over the years the course has been refined and restored so that it now offers a window into great course design but remains a great challenge in the modern era.
The ambiance starts after you pass through the gatehouse and slowly make your way along the winding dirt road for almost a mile to reach the clubhouse. It is a little bit startling to come out of the trees and find yourself driving across the first fairway, with holes 6 and 7 directly to your left!
At 6725 yards from the back tees, the course doesn't seem too long but with only two par 5's off a par of 70, and only three par 4's under 400 yards this course is quite a challenge for players of all abilities. Off the tee Yeamans is a fascinating collection of wide and open fairways mixed with holes that have vexing fairway bunkers threatening to pinch in the fairways at multiple points. The 427 1st hole, for example, has ample room off the tee but the short 362 yard 2nd is protected by a series of difficult bunkers to the right. The collection of strong 400 to 450 yard par 4's dominate the course since it never quite feels like you have a short enough iron in your hand to handle the challenge of hitting into the greens. And my oh my, what greens they are. The approaches are guarded by steep slopes, false fronts, a deep depression in the middle of the par three 3rd, vertical spines on a number of greens, and steep, steep bunker faces. Besides all of these features the greens are generally massive and each area is protected so that the challenge may be different for every pin location. For example on the 405 yard par four 11th the front pin was protected by steep bunkers on both sides. My lamely played iron shot approach went into the front left bunker and I thought I hit a nice bunker shot only to find it resting in the bunker on the other side of the green!
The par three's were outstanding as well. The short 2nd had the depression I mentioned before as well as steep faced bunkers while the 6th is a beautiful redan hole with another steep bunker behind the green that will capture any ball hit pin high or longer without the requisite draw.
The routing is outstanding. Somehow they were able to find excellent gently rolling terrain in the Carolina low country and Raynor made great use of this, with very few flat holes on the course. There are a series of small loops in the layout, the first being 1 through 6, followed by a short loop from 7, 8 and 9. On the back nine a gentle counterclockwise loop of 10 through 12 is followed by a long, lazy clockwise loop from 13 the finish around the outside of the interior loop.
The combination of strategic options, incredible green complexes and the serenity and beauty of the low country setting make this one of my favorite courses that I have played recently. I think you can talk about Yeaman's Hall in the same conversation with some of the other classic old school courses I have played such as Chicago Golf Club and Old Town in Winston Salem, North Carolina. This course was a treat to play. The only downside was that it was quite wet from recent rains and I would love to come back under dry and fast conditions to experience the course at it's best. I think this site has the course ranked fairly well, although I think it is better than several of the courses ranked above it in the USA top 100 rankings.
Great to see this old classic back in terrific shape. Arguably one of the best clubs in the country with a fabulously challenging golf course. One of my favourite courses and experiences.
Seth Raynor’s template holes abound here. I find their charm not in their sameness but in the subtle differences. Here, for example, the Biarritz’s valley is in front of the green a la Fishers Island. And the punchbowl is not nearly as pronounced as the ones you’d find at courses like Mountain Lake. Moreover, not all the holes are templates.
There’s more fairway bunkering than you’d find at Fishers Island or Mountain Lake. This makes Yeamans more difficult, but not in a bad way. After a simple opening hole, numbers 2, 4 and 5 challenge the tee shot with fairway bunkers and the player has to choose the line (and the club) for the tee shot carefully. Both par 5s require thinking on the second shot as well.
The greens give plenty of challenge as well with Raynor’s characteristic spines bisecting four of them. And the thumbprint, a subtle depression in the middle of the green, shows up not once, but twice.
My favorite of this genre is Yale, but I can think of no other Raynor course I’d rather play than Yeamans Hall.
Charleston, South Carolina has retained its uniqueness and character and has resisted the homogenization that has largely swept most parts of the U.S. South Carolina is still representative of the Deep South and jealously guards its heritage. The club is very discrete and isolated, located off a street marked "No Outlet". Reminiscent of Pine Valley, you have to cross a railroad track and immediately have to stop at a guard gate. Nowhere is there an indication that this is Yeamans Hall Club; it is an un-marked, low-key entrance. After the guard verified my credentials I passed through the entrance to an enchanted setting. With a golf course designed by Seth Raynor, all the typical prototype holes present on his courses are there in classic form. The overall feel of Yeamans Hall is magical. The place has character, old-world charm and a sense of complete isolation from the outside world. More or less, everything is perfect. I like their philosophy and approach, as exemplified in their recommended pace of play, "3 1/2 hours is adequate for four ball match." After our round we had sandwiches - shades of Augusta National - I had a delicious pimento cheese sandwich. Yeamans is much more than a golf course set in an old plantation surrounded by a marsh; it is an experience in Southern charm and hospitality that is hard to beat.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs