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.”
With its enchanting setting, world class putting surfaces, perfectly firm turf, wide corridors, and strategic bunkering, Yeamans Hall left me more stunned after just one round than any other course I have played. My admiration for this Seth Raynor masterpiece has no bounds.
The entire property at Yeamans Hall is impressive, allowing one to feel worlds away from everyday life. Crossing the railroad tracks and passing through the front gate, the long, natural entryway passes charming homes, vast fields, ancient trees, and glowing flowers. Almost instantly, the scenery of Yeamans Hall detaches the mind and heart from anything but the round ahead.
Prior to my arrival, I had read dozens of reviews and taken countless photo tours of Yeamans Hall. As with many courses seen on television, scale is never captured in virtual imagery, and the massive scope of the property – from greens, to corridors, to bunkering – is impossible to convey electronically.
In some ways, playing at Yeamans Hall was an introduction to an entirely new sport. Yeamans Hall honors the tradition of the game’s roots exceptionally. After just a few holes, my definition of the term ‘fairway bunker’ had been turned upside down. No longer does it seem appropriate to refer to traps surrounded by rough, flanking the corridor, as fairway bunkers. The skillfulness with which Seth Raynor laid bunkers through ideal playing lines is both thought-provoking, and entirely contrary to the notion of “fair-way.” Furthermore, given their immense size, contours, and tiering, no course has forced me to think about placement on greens more than those at Yeamans Hall. The combination of these distinctive features allows for infinite pin locations, ultimately altering the challenge that sightline bunkers instill during every round. This diversity is extremely compelling.
Raynor clearly made the most of the Yeamans Hall property. The front nine, which is slightly more flat, incorporates amazing marsh views and significant cross bunkering, while the back nine provides a new adventure on a slightly rolling topography. Both enthrall the player start-to-finish. While every hole at Yeamans Hall is worthy of intense study, those which shined most during my round include:
• #1 (Plateau): Although the first tee shot seems benign, knowing the location of the pin may entirely change your strategy. The green is unlike any I have encountered before, with three massive, distinct tiers in a triangular shape and a dip bisecting the center. On any given day, the best route may be a running shot, a high aerial short-iron, or something in between.
• #2 (Leven): For many pin placements, the best angle to the second green is from the right portion of the fairway. This area is guarded by three intimidating cross bunkers and also lengthens the hole.
• #3 (Short): With gorgeous views of the Cooper River, it is easy to be distracted from the tricky shot at hand. The thumbprint green provides loads of interesting pin locations, and seaside winds may grab uncontrolled shots.
• #5 (Alps): The green is bisected into left and right portions by a steep spine, forcing players to consider pin placement off the tee. Players aiming right must either carry or lay-up to a cross bunker, while the left hand route incorporates difficult moguls.
• #6 (Redan): The putting surface at the Redan sixth is world-class. Shallow but wide, bunkers guard the front and back of this hole. The right entrance to the green is angled and steep, and a sharp spine runs along the back portion of the putting surface. Strategies to attack are virtually infinite here, and depending on the location of the pin, one can use the ridges as speed slots or backstops.
• #8 (Creek): A number of Raynor’s bunkers provide visual intimidation off the tee, and two at the eighth force the player’s eyes right when the best angle into this green is from the left. The approach shot on this hole is most likely from a slightly downhill lie which is terrifying, as there is no room to miss thin beyond the green.
• #10 (Cape): The player is presented with new challenges at the turn. While not long, a lone cross bunker directly in the landing zone at the tenth intimidates. Because the green is small, raised, and requires a shot with perfect touch and trajectory, laying-up and leaving a longer approach yardage can be a dangerous prospect. This putting surface has no preferable bail out zone.
• #14 (Knoll): This long par four plays up and over a large hill, and during my round, also was directly into a three club wind. Adding insult to injury, drives may be stunted by the uphill nature of the tee shot. Laying up is a possibility, but because the area of the green sits so far below the hole, any player chipping will not be able to see the immense, raised putting surface.
• #17 (Punchbowl): The most direct line to this handsome punchbowl green is from the right portion of the fairway. Raynor tempts the player strategically with two bunkers crossing the fairway diagonally – the more aggressively one aims to the right, the more potential room there is to hit it long.
• #18 (Home): The more golf courses I play, the more strongly I feel that finishing holes should present a fair test, rather than punish. If you are in a match, would you rather win with a birdie opportunity, or because your opponent fell apart on a brutal hole? If you are about to set your personal record, do you want your mindset to be stepping up to make great shots, or conservatively avoiding double-bogey? And from the course’s standpoint, do you want members to leave feeling deflated or proud? The finisher at Yeamans Hall offers this positive mindset while still providing strategic options. Players must hit a reasonably solid drive to surpass two cross bunkers. The lay-up zone is thought-provoking. More conservative players have a wide area between two sets of bunkers, while more aggressive players can only miss to the right, leaving them with a more difficult angle.
On a recent podcast, Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg explained that if a course has eighteen fantastic green complexes, it is destined for greatness. Yeamans Hall fits this description perfectly, and the course is elevated to an elite status thanks to an incredible puzzle of architectural artistry. The sum and the parts are exceptional at Yeamans Hall.
When I reflect upon the ~3,500 unique holes I have played to date, there are only a select handful of green complexes that are deeply etched into my memory. Yeamans Hall stands out for providing eighteen putting surfaces that are unforgettable. The challenges showcased vary tremendously from hole-to-hole thanks to the scale of the greens, gentle topography, coastal wind, and breadth of shot options. The course conditioning is immaculate, and the welcome I received from members and staff demonstrated an ingrained culture of generosity. Simply put, Yeamans Hall presents a test rarely experienced in the game today, and for that, it stands out in the top architectural echelon of world golf.
I played the Yeamans Hall Club for the second time on 11/5/2019. Due to the rain in the morning, we saw standing water on two fairways as we arrived. In addition, we were told that the greens were being over-seeded this year to ensure pristine surfaces for the upcoming season. I mention this because the green speeds were slow, feeling like there were 7-7.5.
This golf course, designed by Seth Raynor, is all about the greens and the green complexes. A second issue was the heavy amount of mosquitos due to the morning rain and cloud cover. Our threesome felt like we were under siege all day. Eventually on the 15 hole, despite the 70 degree temperature, I put on a rain jacket to keep their attack confined to my face and neck. So for me, given those green speeds and mosquitos, I felt as though I did not get the true experience.
Because it is a wonderful experience on practically any other day.
I was eager to go back remembering how much I had enjoyed it when I played it in late October, 2006. Since then Tom Doak and Jim Urbina have both worked on restoring the golf course with Mr. Urbina getting appropriate credit for much of the recent work. The condition of the golf course has substantially improved from my previous visit as a result of different grasses and tree clearing.
This golf course and club are a step back in time with a lovely clubhouse, a separate building for the locker room and another separate building for the pro shop. The entrance to the clubhouse has wonderful large oak trees in the circular drive. It is beautiful, much like the golf course is also beautiful.
The fairways seem wider than most of the other courses designed by Seth Raynor. There is plenty of room available to you off the tee on this 6783/6280 yard course. We opted for the 6280 after talking with the head pro as he said it would play around 6600-6700 due to the conditions.
The course is primarily straight with only a couple of dogleg holes. There are few, if any, blind shots either from the tee or with the approach shot. This course has everything right in front of you. It is an easy walk with only a few rises and falls in the fairway as you work your way around the golf course. Much like Secession Golf Club, this is one of the more pleasant walking experiences one will have on a golf course.
As mentioned, the “star” of Yeamans Hall Club are the green complexes which are varied, maddening, tricky, and fun. Nearly all of the greens are squared off and many of them also have severe false fronts. The amazing greens begin with the very first green which has a huge punchbowl swale in the middle of this very large green. This swale is not as dramatic as some of his other punchbowl greens such as at Fox Chapel but it is deep enough to vary much influence the type of shot or putt you have to hit depending on pin location. One can run their ball onto the first green or if you want to come in via air, the size of the green can mean a difference of 2-3 clubs. The first several greens do not have false fronts but have swales to consider.
The bunkers are typically edged off but are shaped in a way to offer a chance at redemption.
One of the few doglegs is the short par 4 second hole, going to the left with three bunkers down the right side and one on the left side of the fairway. But there is a lot of room between these bunkers on this par 4. The green has a ridge line running through it.
The third hole is the shortest par 3 on the golf course at 144/127 surrounded on all sides by bunkers with a view of the Cooper River behind it. The green is sloped back to front with a bit of a swale in the middle.
The fourth is a long par 4 of 494/410 with three bunkers to consider for the tee shot, including a narrow gash bunker in the middle of the fairway. There is another bunker well short of the green and two to either side. This green has the first false front on the golf course. It is a difficult golf hole due to the green, which is large but treacherous.
Five sends you back towards the first green completing a circle of holes 2-5. Bunkers are scattered throughout this medium length par 4 with another raised green and false front. The fairway bunkers do offer a chance to go for the green unless you are too close to the mounds on the backside of them.
Six brings a sort of redan green at 186/173 with a steep bank on the back side of the green bringing a ball back down to the middle or front of the green. It is not a pure redan as the green is not tilted much right to left. There is a bunker both front and back of the green. It is a fun hole.
Seven is a par 4 of 428/409 playing about 30 yards longer as it is uphill. It requires a tee shot over water but the pond is mainly for looks. The two bunkers in the fairway are the real danger on the tee shot. The green is once again large and has a false front. A left side pin placement requires an approach shot to carry the small bunker on the left front.
Eight is a downhill par 4 of 427/402 with another bunker in the fairway and left side. This might be the only hole on the golf course where a long drive might lead to a blind second shot due to the valley before the next fairway bunker. The green has fall-offs on all sides and has a lovely view of the Cooper River. It is a more difficult hole than its 11 index would imply.
The front nine is completed by going back up the hill in the opposite direction on the first par 5 of 527/508. After the drive, the rest of the hole is on level ground with a fairway bunker right an obstacle for the second shot. The green is almost a perfect rectangle with bunkers on either side, with another false front and a slight tilt to the right.
Ten is a short par 4 playing straight to a raised green protected by two bunkers. I felt this was the easiest hole on the course.
Eleven is another straight par 4 to another perfect rectangular green with a bunker left and behind the green. There is another false front on this green.
Twelve is a short par 4 with a green protected by three bunkers. The green is raised with a false front. It was perhaps the easiest green to read since the third hole.
The thirteenth is a longer par 3 of 196/161 protected by two bunkers well short and a steeper false front.
Fourteen is likely the most famous hole on the golf course. This straight par 4 of 409/380 has a very elevated green so if you miss short left or in the bunker left side front of the green you will have a blind shot. The green tilts right to left and front to back a bit. It is the best green complex on the course.
Fifteen is a longer par 4 of 448/425 requiring a slight uphill tee shot to avoid the two bunkers on the right. This is a very squared green with bunkers right and left side and a false front.
Sixteen is the longest par 3 at 227/194 with a false front and two bunkers on each side of the green. A miss to the right can bring trees into play.
Seventeen is a par 4 with fairway bunkers to consider to this slightly raised green which also has a swale.
The second par 5 ends the round with a downhill tee shot and second shot requiring one to navigate around some bunkers on this 532/504 hole that normally plays shorter than the yardage when it is dry and fast. There is a large bunker right and a smaller bunker left of the green which has a tier in it as well as a false front.
The Yeamans Hall Club is a second shot golf course. A good player on a good weather day can do very well here, but if you get offline with your approach just a bit, recovery becomes very tricky.
The routing is very good in terms of moving in multiple directions and taking advantage of the few changes in terrain. However, I do wonder whether a few more holes with doglegs would have helped the interest. Placing fairway bunkers in the fairway does give the appearance of having a dogleg with a suggestion as to which side might be better, but I did find that I stood on nearly every tee and said, "just go straight."
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