The famous 9th green with the six foot deep swale running through the middle! (courtesy of George Bahto)
Yale Golf Course was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor. The construction was managed and completed by Charles Banks. It was by far the single biggest surprise that I have had in a very long time. The scale of the course is enormous, the risk taking was incredible, the site was almost too severe for a golf course – and yet the golfing ground is some of the finest the game has to offer. I wish I was a member at Yale.
The opening four is a wonderful introduction. The rolls in the fairway are enormous, the corridor is massive, the bunkers at the green are wildly deep and the green is incredibly undulating. Welcome to Yale, because that hole is actually one of the more sedate ones!
The audacity they had to build a 30 foot deep bunker on the left of the second green. The third requires a blind approach into the punchbowl beyond the hill. It begs to question whether convention is the biggest problem with modern architecture.
The 4th is definitely one of the finest holes in all of golf with an angled carry around the lake followed by an exacting shot to an outstanding plateau green site. I loved the bunkers surrounded by fairway on the right side. The short 5th was fine, but less than expected due to site lines. The sedate 6th was well placed and should not to be overlooked for its seemingly simple architecture. It was a nice set-up for the wild run that was about to follow.
The 7th was a super cool valley hole played up to a high plateau green. The wild lumpy ridge on the right of the landing was a particularly interesting feature with a great elevated green as the focus for the hole. The 8th hole plays back over the rest of that wild and lumpy ridge into a valley leaving a semi-blind approach to a peninsula green with a massive four foot shoulder down the right side. The green is flanked on the left by a 20 foot deep bunker and on the right by a30 foot bunker on the wrong side of the green shoulder. A ball down there is best lost. The finisher to the nine is one of the most unusual and interesting threes in golf. The target 200 yards away across the pond is a Biarritz green with a central swale that is an incredible five feet deep in the centre.
The 8th green was my favourite with a 20 foot deep bunker on the right and a 30 foot deep bunker on the right!
The back nine opens with one of the wildest fours I have ever seen. Your option is to play to the top plateau and hit an uphill long iron to an even higher plateau where the green resides, or play over the ridge and down into the valley beyond leaving a short iron played 50 feet up to the same green site. Both options are tough when you consider the 20 foot bunker that sits directly in front of the green!
The 11th is a beautiful respite. The short almost drivable four is played off an elevated tee and through a nice valley with an approach leading down onto the green. The contrast that follows with the wild Alps hole is jarring. The uphill four requires a strong tee shot to carry the ridge and then a long uphill iron over the hill in the distance to a blind green beyond. Like the original Alps there is a hidden bunker between you and the green making this one tough hole.
The Redan may not fall off in the left but it is of the better examples in golf
The Redan that follows is one of the finer versions with a spectacular high shoulder on the right. The flatter surface made for much easier pin positions and offers me a variation that I think I like to use more than the actually Redan green which slopes out back and left. The 14th was a great driving hole that climaxed at a simple green raised about five feet off of native grade (much more in the back) and played as a plateau with no other features to defend the site. The idea is simple and effective enough that I wondered why it wasn’t done more.
The Edan was a gem and good balance for the Redan because the angles of approach ran the opposite to each other. The first five comes at the 16th, which was fine, but was likely a much better long four. The lack of hazards struck me as odd. The 17th was an excellent long four finishing at a double plateau green. The final hole was once the only five and is a wild up and over a small mountain on your way down to a green in the valley beyond. I didn’t dislike the hole as others have, but I did find the hole a little odd. The finish represents where the money ran out during construction and it makes me wonder what the finish would have been like.