This is a fictional course creation on a real plot. The plot is in my hometown, and the current resident of this plot is the course that I grew up playing on, and played in high school as our home course on the golf team. Were I fortunate enough to some day purchase the course and have the budget to completely overhaul, Raynor Farms Municipal represents the route I would take.
The important thing to know about the original course is that it sucks. It’s 27 holes, which all together barely add up to 7000 yards, and they all suck. The plot is nearly dead flat, and every single green tilts straight back to front. The only feature of note is a ditch that cuts through and along the perimeter of the course, and it’s extremely poorly utilized. There are also man-made water hazards throughout the course, and they are gross. The sign for the course advertises 3 things: golf, food, and liquor. Even the people who play the course, which is called Twin Oaks, affectionately refer to it as Twin Jokes.
I have been working with this idea since before TGC1, and I originally routed this 18-hole course in the APCD for Links 2003:
Since I routed that initial course, I feel like I have grown a lot as a designer, and I have become a lot more interested in architectural styles that I previously had no experience with. I have been wanting to do a design for awhile now that was inspired by the “Template” design theory made popular by C.B. MacDonald and Seth Raynor. A MacRaynor style course fits quite perfectly here, as it’s one of the best ways to create interesting architecture on a flat plot, as evidenced best by MacDonald’s Chicago Golf Club.
After diving back into this plot and my original design again, I realized that the ditch actually presents several routing problems, making it hard to fit 18 in here. I took a second look at my routing from Links, and started to think about which templates would fit into the places of the routed holes. This process actually led me to reuse my original Links routing, but with the creation of all new template holes in place of my original design:
Below I will focus on each hole’s design concept in detail, and compare it to the final result in the published course.
Hole 1 – Par 5 – Double Plateau
The first hole is a par 5 version of the Double Plateau. All but the strongest tailwinds will require a layup before the ditch, while the second shot must contend with a Mac/Raynor staple on Double Plateau holes, which is the Principal’s Nose central hazard. After the tee shot, the ditch continues down the right side of the hole and snuggles up against the Double Plateau green, which features a front left and back right plateau. A pretty standard 3-shotter here, where an accurate wedge will set up the first birdie opportunity of the day.
Hole 2 – Par 4 – Reverse Redan
This is the first of two holes taking inspiration from Raynor’s Blue Mound in Wisconsin, and the inspiration here is the idea of using a Redan, in this case a reverse Redan, on a par 4 hole instead of the standard par 3.
Since this course is taking the place of a course that serviced almost exclusively high handicappers, I wanted to include elements to make the course friendlier for those golfers. In this case, for those who choose to lay back off of the tee rather than challenging the bunkers or ditch, as well as those who simply don’t have the length to do so, the reverse Redan green allows them to play long shots in without having to challenge the ditch directly on the approach. The low handicapper, on the other hand, must decide if they wish to challenge either bunker to shorten the approach in.
A fairly accurate drive challenging the bunkers will result in the second opportunity of the day to attack the green with a wedge. Be cautious of what side of the hole you are playing your approach to, as the green is heavily sloped.
Hole 3 – Par 4 – Leven
Working from the green backwards, a set of two large mounds in the front left makes for a semi-blind approach shot for all tee balls that find the left side of the fairway. Add in the angle of the green, which makes it shallower when approaching from the left, plus the water hazard behind, and it is easy to see why the right side is by far the preferred approach angle. To achieve that angle, players must aggressively take on as much of the diagonal fairway bunker as possible.
Hole 4 – Par 4 – Road
The Road Hole needs no introduction. This one entices the golfer to carry the right fairway bunkers, as opposed to the Old Course’s hotel and OB, for the right angle into a shallow and angled green guarded in front by a deep bunker. At 431 from the back, it should not be as hard as St Andrews, but certainly is designed to be one of the harder holes on the course. The other tees besides the back tees are all up far enough to give players at every level a chance at trying to clear the bunkers, but a little room to bail short and left, at an albeit horrible angle into the green.
Hole 5 – Par 4 – Bottle
This hole features one of the more dramatic departures from the original sketch. I realized that the approach shot was too short, negating the strategic options off of the tee, and I was also underutilizing a huge space in front of the clubhouse, so I pushed the green to the other side of the ditch.
The Bottle template, in short, provides a smaller and smaller landing area off of the tee as you progressively get farther from the tee. I modeled this one as an inverse version of the Bottle hole at Old MacDonald. Shots taken up the left side will face a smaller landing area as the drive gets longer, and less than a driver may be required in most cases. The other option is to try and clear the cross bunkers, while avoiding the right fairway bunker, for the shortest approach in. The fairway cross bunkers are hidden from the tee, so a series of “chocolate drops” on either side guide the golfer off of the tee.
The green features a “buried elephant” in the middle, and should be one of the more difficult on the course.
Hole 6 – Par 5 – Long
The Long template comes from the 14th hole at St Andrews, so I am very familiar with this one. The cross bunker guarding the second shot is the Hell bunker, although it may not be as hellish as the original. Like the St Andrews green, this one is very shallow, with a runoff in back. The prominent ridge on the left side of the green makes it a reverse replica, and will affect most shots in, while a front bunker protects pins on the right side of the green. The ridge and the back runoff together make this a very fun green with some fun pins.
Hole 7 – Par 3 – Eden
This Eden, like the 11th hole at St. Andrews, has several defining features, the first being that it is a mid-length par 3 intended to challenge a player’s mid-irons. The green is fairly shallow, with a severe back-to-front slope, making shots that go over the green face near impossible up and downs. The original Eden features a large swale behind the green, while most MacRaynor Edens use an “Eden” bunker behind the green, as this one does. The “Hill” bunker guards the front left, while the “Strath” bunker guards front right. An existing pond on the plot has been retained along the right side of the green, punishing shots missed severely to the right.
Hole 8 – Par 4 – Tittabawassee
This is an original hole and not a template, so it has an original name: Tittabawassee. That is the river that runs through the nearby town, and the road that runs along the 15th, 17th, and 18th holes serves as the boundary for Tittabawasse Township (on the other side, the course is not in the township).
This hole was in my original Links routing, and as originally intended, this is a short and in some cases potentially a drivable par 4, making use of the existing ditch on the property. It was important to me to have multiple ways to play this hole, especially for less skilled players. The green is heavily sloped from left to right and back to front, so that will factor in the line of play.
From long to short, the playing options are to take a shot at the green, which is guarded on each side. The longest layup must clear the last fairway bunker, but remain short of the ditch. A ball that finds the bunker faces a treacherous shot over water. Mid-length layups must navigate a path between both fairway bunkers, while a short layup faces the longest approach to the green. The pitch of the green demands distance and spin control, and downhill putts are treacherous.
Hole 9 – Par 3 – Biarritz
The Biarritz is probably one of the most recognizable template holes, due to the huge swale bisecting the middle of the green. This hole reuses the green site of an existing short par 4, along with parts of the existing fairway to accommodate the 60+ yard deep green. The green features two pins on the back half and two on the front, after I abandoned my original idea to include a pin in the middle of the swale, which caused too many awkward putts.
Hole 10 – Par 5 – Hell’s Half Acre
Technically I think Hell’s Half Acre may not be a MacRaynor template, with the original inspiration for the name coming from Pine Valley. The idea of a “great hazard” on a par 5 has deep roots, however, and another famous rendition would be the 4th hole at Bethpage Black.
This hole uses the original tee location of the existing 10th hole. Tee shots must clear the diagonal bunker in most cases to attempt finding the green in two. There is a short amount of fairway lead up to the green, but tee shots finding a bunker or the rough will most likely have difficulty clearing the great hazard, which in this case is a large fairway split of heavy rough.
The green emulates the par 3 10th at Chicago Golf Club, and features a “double thumbprint” design. The right side thumbprint catches a lot of approaches, making putting to other areas of the green difficult, so keep this in mind when attempting an approach to the green in two.
Hole 11 – Par 3 – Redan
The Redan is one of the most commonly used templates, based on the original at North Berwick. The worst shot you can play here is one aimed directly at the hole, which is a concept that may cause some a lot of trouble. The best approach here will be played at least one club short, and anywhere from 10 to 20 feet right of the target.
Hole 12 – Par 4 – Blue Mound
This hole brings us to the northwest corner of the property, which has two short par 4’s in close proximity with the 12th and 14th. This hole is not strictly a template, but is based on Raynor’s 6th hole at Blue Mound. There are 3 different possible landing areas off of the tee, all of which face their own obstacles. Decision-making might be the best defense for a short par 4, while giving shorter hitters a fair chance at the hole, so I like this hole’s position here.
At the green, an existing pond will slightly threaten any heavily pulled approach shots to the left. The green is somewhat severe, with back left and back right ledges, a small ledge in the front right, and a bowl leading into a false front at front left. The pitch of the green and the deep bunker behind make long the worst miss here.
Hole 13 – Par 4 – Hog’s Back
The best Hog’s Back holes use the natural land to divide the fairway, but that will not be the case here, so I have built up some mounding to introduce strategy into the tee shot. The fairway is divided into a safe right side option and a more aggressive left side option that must clear two cross bunkers. The mound can be used in combination with a draw as a springboard to steer shots around the cross bunkers and into the shortest approach shot. Tee shots to the right side will face a much longer approach, but can use the fairway mounding feeding into the right side of the green to avoid taking on the front left bunker. Undecided tee shots that head down the middle will likely find the centerline bunkers.
In addition to the right side mounding, the front left bunker and a middle mound will influence all approach shots to the green, and have resulted in some fun pin positions. As usual, positioning and avoiding downhill putts are advised for the best birdie opportunities.
Hole 14 – Par 4 – Chicago
This hole emulates the 11th hole at Chicago Golf Club, a MacDonald original. There is somewhat of a Bottle element to this hole, as the fairway narrows as it gets closer to the green, with water guarding the right side and bunkers on the left and right. The green is not likely drivable under any scenario, but carrying the left side bunker is an option to get close to the green. Layup shots to the right or short of the bunker will have to contend with the narrowing fairway and water, so an iron off of the tee might be appealing to some.
Much like the 8th, this short hole features a large but severe green. The general pitch is from back to front, with a slight ridge in the middle that sends balls towards the edge of the green on either side. OB lurks behind the green, and the steep slope should kick balls in that direction, so avoid going long at all costs.
Hole 15 – Par 5 – Shoreacres
The last par 5 of the day also draws inspiration from Chicago, but this time it is Raynor’s 18th hole at Shoreacres. The fairway and greenside bunkering concept follows an inverse version of Raynor’s hole, and encourages tee shots to the left, while shots that flirt with the bunkers will provide the best angle to the green. Like Shoreacres, the green here features a large raised portion in the front left that influences all shots in. The cross bunker and leftside bunker next to the green, in combination with the mound, make attacking anything on the leftside of the green in two impossible.
Hole 16 – Par 3 – Short
Like many of the more well-known Short hole templates in existence, the green here features a “thumbprint” in the middle of the green, making for very severe pin placements and putts. The most famous thumbprint green may be at the recently restored 18th at TPC Old White, which you will see on TV during the Greenbrier.
The raised green is protected on the left, back, and right by bunkers, and by the ditch in front. This will also be a unique greensite, with the 18th green in close proximity on the right and the putting green on the left.
Hole 17 – Par 4 – Punchbowl
The layout for this hole was mostly inspired by the Punchbowl at National Golf Links. The first cross bunker can be easily cleared from the back tee by all players, and the closer tees are also situated to give each player a chance at the thrill of clearing a crossing hazard. The follow-up bunker on the right makes distance control a priority, however, unless the player can fully clear the cross bunker on the left. The deep bunkers in front of the green will threaten any tee shots that find a fairway bunker or rough.
I tried to incorporate some subtle ridges into the punchbowl, like Raynor did at Fishers Island. In general it is still very punchbowl-ish and forgiving, as long as you don’t go way offline and hit the wrong quadrant of the green.
Hole 18 – Par 4 – Home/Old White
Like the nearby 16th green, this hole takes some inspiration from TPC Old White. The fairway bunkering design is slightly reminiscent of the 12th hole at Old White. Taking on the cross bunkers on the inside of the dogleg goes a long ways toward shortening the hole, while short and right shots must face a difficult clearing of the ditch in front of the green. For high handicappers, there is a fairly ample layup area short of the ditch should they not have the distance to clear it.
You will see from the original design that an existing small pond was removed, due to the 18th and 16th greens being so close. The green is heavily sloped from back to front, and features a diagonal ridge that separates the back left and front right green portions.