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Golden Age

The 10 best Seth Raynor golf courses

January 10, 2024

Princeton grad Seth Raynor hardly knew anything about golf when he was hired by C.B. Macdonald to help construct the National Golf Links of America. Yet Raynor’s engineering background appealed to Macdonald’s logical approach to course design in which he sought to create the “ideal holes” inspired by the first courses in the British Isles.

Raynor continued to build courses for Macdonald after NGLA, including at Sleepy Hollow, Piping Rock, Lido and The Greenbrier. Yet Raynor also designed numerous notable courses of his own, incorporating the same philosophy of ideal holes, though in a more understated manner.

Raynor designed courses all across the country, from the Northeast to Florida to Hawaii—including Waialae Country Club, host of the PGA Tour’s Sony Open—continuing the Macdonald tradition and fueling the Golden Age of golf course architecture.

We’ve gathered his greatest designs in this guide of the best courses designed by Seth Raynor. Given Macdonald and Raynor’s frequent collaboration, in which Macdonald would design a course and Raynor would carry out the construction, experts debate over what is a true Raynor design.

For this guide, we’ve considered the amount of input Raynor had in the design to determine the best courses where Raynor was the lead man. Courses like The Creek and Greenbrier are commonly associated with both men, but Macdonald is largely responsible for the design of each.

Scroll on for the complete list of the best courses designed by Seth Raynor. Be sure to click through to each individual course page for bonus photography and reviews from our course panelists. We also encourage you to leave your own ratings on the courses you’ve played … so you can help other golfers like you make an informed opinion on where to play!

1. Fishers Island Club
Private
1. Fishers Island Club
Fishers Island, NY
4.9
263 Panelists
Probably the consummate design of architect Seth Raynor, who died in early 1926, before the course had officially opened. His steeply-banked bunkers and geometric greens harmonize perfectly with the linear panoramas of the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound. The quality of the holes is also superb, with all Raynor’s usual suspects, including not one but two Redan greens, one on a par 4.
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2. Chicago Golf Club
Private
2. Chicago Golf Club
Wheaton, IL
4.8
163 Panelists
Chicago Golf Club opened the country’s first 18-hole course in 1893, built by C.B. Macdonald, the preeminent golf expert in the U.S. at the time. Two years later Macdonald built the club a different course after the membership moved to a new location in Wheaton, Ill.: “a really first-class 18-hole course of 6,200 yards,” he wrote. Members played that course until 1923 when Seth Raynor, who began his architectural career as Macdonald’s surveyor and engineer, redesigned it using the “ideal hole” concepts his old boss had developed 15 years earlier (he kept Macdonald’s routing, which placed all the O.B. on the left—C.B. sliced the ball). For reasons of history and practicality, no major remodels have occurred since then, allowing the club to merely burnish the architecture by occasionally upgrading worn parts, adjusting grassing lines and, recently, reestablishing a number of lost bunkers that had been filled in over time.
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3. Camargo Club
Private
3. Camargo Club
Cincinnati, OH
4.7
116 Panelists
One of Seth Raynor’s last designs, it wasn’t completed until nearly a year after his 1926 death. William Jackson, who later became the club’s pro and superintendent, handled the construction and was faithful to Raynor’s diagrams with two exceptions: he turned the 16th into a par 4 and the 17th into a par 5. Robert von Hagge added flashy but incongruous bunkering in the early 1960s. They lasted over 20 years, until Tom Doak undertook a restoration in the Raynor style of geometric-shaped bunkers and greens. Curiously, the Biarritz green at the par-3 eighth has never been mowed as the 60-yard-long putting surface found on other Biarritz holes built by Raynor or his mentor C.B. Macdonald. Club officials insisted early aerial photos confirm the front half of the green was always mown at fairway height, so they continue that tradition today. Don Placek of Renaissance Golf has recently completed further renovation enhancements, including adding six acres of restored fairway to better help define the scale of the property and extending the back left section of the Road green at 17 (as well as reintroducing a second "Road" bunker beyond the first) to reclaim its original prodigious 15,000 square feet.
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4. Shoreacres Golf Club
Private
4. Shoreacres Golf Club
Lake Bluff, IL
4.5
211 Panelists
Shoreacres possesses perhaps the most fascinating topography upon which Seth Raynor ever created a golf course, with his usual collection of suspects, including No. 3 (Leven), No. 6 (Biarritz), No. 7 (Double Plateau), No. 8 (Eden), No. 10 (Road) and No. 14 (Redan) all playing along plateaus and over ravines that feed into Lake Michigan. The stretch of 11, 12 and 13, playing across a ravine, down into it and back out of it, are as unique a stretch of holes as can be found anywhere on a 100 Greatest course.
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5. Monterey Peninsula Country Club: Dunes
4.6
219 Panelists

There is much debate over whether the Dunes course is a Seth Raynor design. He routed the course in 1924 but died before its construction. Several redesigns have both enhanced and stripped away the original Raynor features.

 

The Dunes Course, long in the shadow of its big brother Shore Course (ranked 62nd), was originally routed by Seth Raynor, who died before construction. It was completed by Robert Hunter, a partner to Alister MacKenzie (who did not participate in the work), and Raynor's ideas for the greens were altered before they were even built. In the 1990s, Rees Jones remodeled the course and reshaped holes to mimic the Raynor look, to mixed reviews. In 2016, Tom Fazio was brought in to make the Dunes as appealing to members as the gorgeous Shore Course, though it was former associates Tim Jackson and David Kahn who conceived of and carried out the details of the plan to give the Dunes a MacKenzie look. Sandscapes now frame most holes, fairways now zigzag around jagged bunkers and nearly all the greens are oriented diagonal to lines of play. The Dunes Course now lives up to its name.

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6. Yeamans Hall Club
Private
6. Yeamans Hall Club
Charleston, SC
Though it contained a classic collection of Raynor favorites, including a Road Hole, a Biarritz, a Redan and even a Prize Dogleg (based on an entry from a 1914 magazine design contest), Yeamans Hall suffered from benign neglect for 50 years, with bunkers overgrown and greens both shrunk by mowing habits and mushroomed by topdressing. But in the later 1980s, the course superintendent discovered Raynor’s original plans in the clubhouse attic. Architect Tom Doak and his then-associate Jim Urbina used the plans to faithfully restore Raynor features. Urbina continues to implement restoration touches and Yeamans Hall today is one of the country's most polished and evocative examples of Raynor's architecture on a relatively flat piece of Lowcountry land.
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7. Fox Chapel Golf Club
Private
7. Fox Chapel Golf Club
Pittsburgh, PA
When Fox Chapel hosted the 1985 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship (won by Michiko Hattori), some observers were disappointed that its Seth Raynor design seemed so ordinary. Greens had become circular, many bunkers were overgrown and those that still existed bore fancy modern shapes. Most alarming, the Fox’s 17th, originally a Biarritz hole, had the front portion of the green and trench mowed as fairway. In the early 1990s, architect Brian Silva was called in to restore Raynor’s features. He reclaimed green dimensions, including the Biarritz, and recaptured original bunkers, particularly the necklace wrapped around the front of the 11th (“Short”) green. Tom Marzolf, of Tom Fazio Design, has continued to refine and draw forth more Raynor-inspired shaping and bunkering--this latest work debuted in the fall of 2020 with profound enhancements to the Punchbowl second (a par 5), Redan sixth, the Lions Mouth green complex at nine, Bottle 16th and the Redan.
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8. Mountain Lake Country Club
Private
8. Mountain Lake Country Club
Lake Wales, FL
Seth Raynor built Mountain Lake, a millionaires’ winter retreat, in two stages, completing one nine in 1917 and the other four years later. As he did on all his projects, Raynor produced some “template holes” and some originals. At Mountain Lake, his par-3 fifth sports a very authentic Biarritz green and the seventh is recognizable as a Road Hole. But the par-3 11th, designed with a canted, slanted Redan green, has been reworked in recent years, with the front half of the putting surface flattened to create pin positions just above a 10-foot-deep frontal bunker. Restoration expert Ron Prichard and his associate Tyler Rae have been reclaiming Raynor features for over seven years, working most recently on perfecting the unique “circus ring” contour in the middle of the ninth green.
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9. Yale Golf Course
Private
9. Yale Golf Course
New Haven, CT

Yale has always been something of a sleeping giant. For a variety of reasons the course has rarely lived up to its full potential, either due to inconsistent conditioning or some ill-considered changes through the decades that moved the architecture off its brilliant 1926 C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor design. Given the handicaps, it's remarkable Yale has continued to be so breathtakingly profound. The Leviathan-sized golf course bulges with magisterial holes like the Road, Cape, Knoll and the world’s best Biarritz chiseled onto the rocky, tumbling site. Recently made public, it's one of the few places in the U.S. (notably alongside the Old White course at The Greenbrier) where the general public can experience true Macdonald/Raynor architecture. The sleeping giant is about to awaken as Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner have started work to the original hole concepts and will be upgrading turf and drainage. It's a safe guess to assume Yale will rise up this list once the extensive renovations are complete.

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10. Blue Mound Golf & Country Club
Private
10. Blue Mound Golf & Country Club
Wauwatosa, WI
4.2
121 Panelists
Blue Mound Golf & Country Club is a hidden gem among the more talked-about Seth Raynor original designs, but one of his rare Midwest layouts with great history, having hosted the 1933 PGA Championship won by Gene Sarazen. The routing starts with a unique par-4 Redan then is followed by a number of other great templates: a Double Plateau, a Biarritz, an Alps then a Road hole. Other notables include a Punchbowl at the par-4 eighth hole, the difficult par-4 10th, one of Raynor's best Prized Dogleg templates with a fabulous putting surface, a terrific 14th dubbed Garden City and two great par 3s on the back—another Redan (the par-3 13th) and a terrific Eden hole for the 17th. Blue Mound continues to earn recognition and deserves to be in the conversation with the Midwest's best classic courses.
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