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.
Date: May 24, 2020