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Golf Course at Yale


tightdraw
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Thought I would say a bit about my home course for the past 35+ years.  The YGC is a classic design, the handywork of CB Macdonald, Seth Raynor and Charlie Banks, though Macdonald is usually given most of the credit for it.  I have played nearly all of the courses attributed to Macdonald, including National Golf Links, Piping Rock, Mid Ocean, St. Louis CC and more. As far as layout goes, only the National is Yale's equal, and the National bests YGC on other dimensions, including naturalness, and captivating beauty. Routing is not Macdonald's greatest forte, but Yale is an exception.  Yale is also a more intimidating and rugged layout.  Many golf courses are eminently forgettable; few are memorable.  Of the memorable ones, few are memorable because the holes taken in groupings of 3 make incredible sense, not just individually but in relationship to one another; and their is a continuity among the holes overall that is nearly unequaled in my experience -- which is substantial but by no means the equal of many others on this or other forums.  Many modern masterpieces are like playing golf constructed out of a series of holes designed to grace calendars, not to make a lasting impression on a golfer.

The topography of the course is one of its strongest attributes.  It is very hilly, but not artificially so.  There is a balance between the up and downhill holes, just as there is between those that play into the prevailing winds and those that play with it.  There is a spring wind and a summer wind and they differ.

From the black tees the course plays close to 6800 yards, but it is nearly impossible to play at that length because unless you know where to find the real tee on #18, you will not be able to play the hole to its distance of 621 yds.  The par is 70.  When I first began playing the course as a student many years ago, the course was poorly maintained which made it penalizing beyond what was acceptable.  The rough was deep and unkempt; the bunkers guarding the greens unplayable and worse the steep slopes of rough between green and bunkers -- which are in some cases 10=15 yards below green level -- absolutely unbearable.  A wayward iron that falls a bit short and to the left of the second hole for example would land between the green and bunker, never trickle into the bunker and would be unlikely to be found.

I had grown up playing Bethpage Black in tournaments and it was also poorly maintained.  It's a tougher track but considerably less enjoyable and strategic.  It's a brute.  Bethpage reflects only some of the Tilinghast DNA -- to my mind his courses with the exception of Quaker Ridge are very 'manly'- Bethpage is decidedly so.  Macdonald's courses have a feminine dimension; they are seductive and much be approached with care.  It has taken many years for the groundskeeping at Yale to allow the course to reflect this feature.

The highlight holes for me in order of seductiveness are the 10th, 8th, 12th, 17th, 4th.  The signature hole is the Biarritz 9th.  I think the hole is uneven in that if the pin is on back center or back right it is a great and very difficult hole.  It is a very good hole with the pin front right, but other pin placements reduce the interest of the hole.  The 13th is the Redan and it has been mistakenly redesigned adding a stretch of green in the front that goes against the Redan design.  The two other par 3s are good but not great.  The greens on the 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 17th are spectacularly good in design.  The 1st, 2nd, 4th,14th (Knoll), 15th are very strong; the 3rd keeps the hole from being a classic; the 5th would benefit from being narrowed; the 6th would benefit from protection in front; the 16th is too large for a short par 5; and the 18th provides no challenge of interest, which makes a certain amount of sense after the long trek up and down the mountainous 600yarder.  If you are not finished by the time you reach the 18th, the hole will finish you.  To me it is out of character with the rest of the course.

 

There is no fairway roll on drives; the course plays its distance.  It was not designed to play this way.  It was designed to play fast and to have large, fast greens, but the drainage is only adequate and makes the fairways play long and soft and the greens relatively slow. 

 

I have taken over 100 people over the years to play the course and eveyone leaves takken by the beauty, difficulty and brilliance of the design and its execution.    Narrow the fairways,  lengthen the rough, lengthen a few holes, add a few bunkers in strategic places, reduce play for a year to get the greens suitable for speed (for a short period of a week), and put the pins in their more difficult locations, and you have a golf course that would be a challenge for the best players in the world. 

 

Best news,  as both an alum and a retired faculty member, I can help arrange for others to play the course.

 

 

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Thought I would say a bit about my home course for the past 35+ years. The YGC is a classic design, the handywork of CB Macdonald, Seth Raynor and Charlie Banks, though Macdonald is usually given most of the credit for it. I have played nearly all of the courses attributed to Macdonald, including National Golf Links, Piping Rock, Mid Ocean, St. Louis CC and more. As far as layout goes, only the National is Yale's equal, and the National bests YGC on other dimensions, including naturalness, and captivating beauty. Routing is not Macdonald's greatest forte, but Yale is an exception. Yale is also a more intimidating and rugged layout. Many golf courses are eminently forgettable; few are memorable. Of the memorable ones, few are memorable because the holes taken in groupings of 3 make incredible sense, not just individually but in relationship to one another; and their is a continuity among the holes overall that is nearly unequaled in my experience -- which is substantial but by no means the equal of many others on this or other forums. Many modern masterpieces are like playing golf constructed out of a series of holes designed to grace calendars, not to make a lasting impression on a golfer.

The topography of the course is one of its strongest attributes. It is very hilly, but not artificially so. There is a balance between the up and downhill holes, just as there is between those that play into the prevailing winds and those that play with it. There is a spring wind and a summer wind and they differ.

From the black tees the course plays close to 6800 yards, but it is nearly impossible to play at that length because unless you know where to find the real tee on #18, you will not be able to play the hole to its distance of 621 yds. The par is 70. When I first began playing the course as a student many years ago, the course was poorly maintained which made it penalizing beyond what was acceptable. The rough was deep and unkempt; the bunkers guarding the greens unplayable and worse the steep slopes of rough between green and bunkers -- which are in some cases 10=15 yards below green level -- absolutely unbearable. A wayward iron that falls a bit short and to the left of the second hole for example would land between the green and bunker, never trickle into the bunker and would be unlikely to be found.

I had grown up playing Bethpage Black in tournaments and it was also poorly maintained. It's a tougher track but considerably less enjoyable and strategic. It's a brute. Bethpage reflects only some of the Tilinghast DNA -- to my mind his courses with the exception of Quaker Ridge are very 'manly'- Bethpage is decidedly so. Macdonald's courses have a feminine dimension; they are seductive and much be approached with care. It has taken many years for the groundskeeping at Yale to allow the course to reflect this feature.

The highlight holes for me in order of seductiveness are the 10th, 8th, 12th, 17th, 4th. The signature hole is the Biarritz 9th. I think the hole is uneven in that if the pin is on back center or back right it is a great and very difficult hole. It is a very good hole with the pin front right, but other pin placements reduce the interest of the hole. The 13th is the Redan and it has been mistakenly redesigned adding a stretch of green in the front that goes against the Redan design. The two other par 3s are good but not great. The greens on the 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 17th are spectacularly good in design. The 1st, 2nd, 4th,14th (Knoll), 15th are very strong; the 3rd keeps the hole from being a classic; the 5th would benefit from being narrowed; the 6th would benefit from protection in front; the 16th is too large for a short par 5; and the 18th provides no challenge of interest, which makes a certain amount of sense after the long trek up and down the mountainous 600yarder. If you are not finished by the time you reach the 18th, the hole will finish you. To me it is out of character with the rest of the course.

 

There is no fairway roll on drives; the course plays its distance. It was not designed to play this way. It was designed to play fast and to have large, fast greens, but the drainage is only adequate and makes the fairways play long and soft and the greens relatively slow.

 

I have taken over 100 people over the years to play the course and eveyone leaves takken by the beauty, difficulty and brilliance of the design and its execution. Narrow the fairways, lengthen the rough, lengthen a few holes, add a few bunkers in strategic places, reduce play for a year to get the greens suitable for speed (for a short period of a week), and put the pins in their more difficult locations, and you have a golf course that would be a challenge for the best players in the world.

 

Best news, as both an alum and a retired faculty member, I can help arrange for others to play the course.

I've had the opportunity to play Yale many times over the years.

 

 

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Rick

 

 

Left Hand, 

Driver; Titleist TSi2, Kuro Kage 50 gr R2

5 Wood; Cally Steelhead 

5 Hybrid; Cally Steelhead, Hazardous Vista Pro R2

Irons; Ping G710 6-GW, Recoil 460 R2

Putter; Waaay too many to list

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Thought I would say a bit about my home course for the past 35+ years. The YGC is a classic design, the handywork of CB Macdonald, Seth Raynor and Charlie Banks, though Macdonald is usually given most of the credit for it. I have played nearly all of the courses attributed to Macdonald, including National Golf Links, Piping Rock, Mid Ocean, St. Louis CC and more. As far as layout goes, only the National is Yale's equal, and the National bests YGC on other dimensions, including naturalness, and captivating beauty. Routing is not Macdonald's greatest forte, but Yale is an exception. Yale is also a more intimidating and rugged layout. Many golf courses are eminently forgettable; few are memorable. Of the memorable ones, few are memorable because the holes taken in groupings of 3 make incredible sense, not just individually but in relationship to one another; and their is a continuity among the holes overall that is nearly unequaled in my experience -- which is substantial but by no means the equal of many others on this or other forums. Many modern masterpieces are like playing golf constructed out of a series of holes designed to grace calendars, not to make a lasting impression on a golfer.

The topography of the course is one of its strongest attributes. It is very hilly, but not artificially so. There is a balance between the up and downhill holes, just as there is between those that play into the prevailing winds and those that play with it. There is a spring wind and a summer wind and they differ.

From the black tees the course plays close to 6800 yards, but it is nearly impossible to play at that length because unless you know where to find the real tee on #18, you will not be able to play the hole to its distance of 621 yds. The par is 70. When I first began playing the course as a student many years ago, the course was poorly maintained which made it penalizing beyond what was acceptable. The rough was deep and unkempt; the bunkers guarding the greens unplayable and worse the steep slopes of rough between green and bunkers -- which are in some cases 10=15 yards below green level -- absolutely unbearable. A wayward iron that falls a bit short and to the left of the second hole for example would land between the green and bunker, never trickle into the bunker and would be unlikely to be found.

I had grown up playing Bethpage Black in tournaments and it was also poorly maintained. It's a tougher track but considerably less enjoyable and strategic. It's a brute. Bethpage reflects only some of the Tilinghast DNA -- to my mind his courses with the exception of Quaker Ridge are very 'manly'- Bethpage is decidedly so. Macdonald's courses have a feminine dimension; they are seductive and much be approached with care. It has taken many years for the groundskeeping at Yale to allow the course to reflect this feature.

The highlight holes for me in order of seductiveness are the 10th, 8th, 12th, 17th, 4th. The signature hole is the Biarritz 9th. I think the hole is uneven in that if the pin is on back center or back right it is a great and very difficult hole. It is a very good hole with the pin front right, but other pin placements reduce the interest of the hole. The 13th is the Redan and it has been mistakenly redesigned adding a stretch of green in the front that goes against the Redan design. The two other par 3s are good but not great. The greens on the 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 17th are spectacularly good in design. The 1st, 2nd, 4th,14th (Knoll), 15th are very strong; the 3rd keeps the hole from being a classic; the 5th would benefit from being narrowed; the 6th would benefit from protection in front; the 16th is too large for a short par 5; and the 18th provides no challenge of interest, which makes a certain amount of sense after the long trek up and down the mountainous 600yarder. If you are not finished by the time you reach the 18th, the hole will finish you. To me it is out of character with the rest of the course.

 

There is no fairway roll on drives; the course plays its distance. It was not designed to play this way. It was designed to play fast and to have large, fast greens, but the drainage is only adequate and makes the fairways play long and soft and the greens relatively slow.

 

I have taken over 100 people over the years to play the course and eveyone leaves takken by the beauty, difficulty and brilliance of the design and its execution. Narrow the fairways, lengthen the rough, lengthen a few holes, add a few bunkers in strategic places, reduce play for a year to get the greens suitable for speed (for a short period of a week), and put the pins in their more difficult locations, and you have a golf course that would be a challenge for the best players in the world.

 

Best news, as both an alum and a retired faculty member, I can help arrange for others to play the course.

Nice write up. I'm in...let me know when a good date for you is?

 

 

Sent from my iPad using MyGolfSpy

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Sounds too hard for me.

It's so hard - I played there a few times as a kid because my friend's Dad was on the faculty and he took us.

 

Everything's written about it by tightdraw is true. I played there and Bethpage before its redo. I wish they had left it alone - that would have been a fun US Open to watch.

 

I missed it in the write up is the course kept in better shape now? Those bunkers were ridiculous - you'd get in a green side bunker and couldn't see the green. I seem to recall some over long flag sticks so that you at least had an idea of where to hit it.

 

Thanks for the memory.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using MyGolfSpy

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It's so hard - I played there a few times as a kid because my friend's Dad was on the faculty and he took us.

 

Everything's written about it by tightdraw is true. I played there and Bethpage before its redo. I wish they had left it alone - that would have been a fun US Open to watch.

 

I missed it in the write up is the course kept in better shape now? Those bunkers were ridiculous - you'd get in a green side bunker and couldn't see the green. I seem to recall some over long flag sticks so that you at least had an idea of where to hit it.

 

Thanks for the memory.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using MyGolfSpy

Rev

You're right I kinds forgot about Yale. When I played it was early in my golf career. What I do rent, some memories similar to you is cavernous bunkers like the one on left side 1st hole. I believe the 9th par 3 had a big swale thru middle of green and if you got on the wrong side there was trouble making par. Course had other old school features like split fareways. When I played it I thought it was a great layout that was in terrible shape. Would like to give it a go again sometime but not going to happen. I'm too old Nd too far away!

 

 

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Rick

 

 

Left Hand, 

Driver; Titleist TSi2, Kuro Kage 50 gr R2

5 Wood; Cally Steelhead 

5 Hybrid; Cally Steelhead, Hazardous Vista Pro R2

Irons; Ping G710 6-GW, Recoil 460 R2

Putter; Waaay too many to list

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some quick responses to the comments. First, anyone nearby who would like to play should contact me through private messaging.  In my experience it is the second best Macdonald course behind National.  It is also a Raynor design and it is his second best effort after Fisher's Island.  The course is much better maintained but it is not maintained at the level warranted by its design.  To be fair it is also a very hard course to maintain well. First, the bunkers are old style and cannot be maintained by machines.  In the past, the rough was brutal, but it is mowed now and playable.  The greens would need major work on the substructure and then be rebuilt to be championship level.  Drainage is always a problem on the lower lying holes.  So what you have now is a course whose design is among the best in the US, a layout that is exceptional, maintained to the level of a good public course.  On the other hand, for the design to be fully realized the course would have to be maintained, not just better, but in keeping with the design intention which is something altogether different and harder.  it is a treasure that is not fully realized, but playing it with an eye to the underlying majesty of the design is something whose value to a golf enthusiast with an interest in architecture is immense

 

As to the comments:  it is not a hard course like the Ocean Course is; or like Bethpage Black is now.   I doubt I could break 90 at the Ocean Course, whereas a single digit handicapper with some familiarity with the course should regularly score in the mid to upper 70s at Yale.  Scoring better than mid 70s, however, is another matter altogether!  Under par, much more difficult still.   A long hitter (I have never been) would have had to play 3wds and driving irons on many holes to stay safely in play on a risk/reward calculus in the old days, but now he or she could overwhelm many of theholes without fear.  A short hitter will find the course very difficult, but still very playable.  Everyone will find it memorable.

 

It is the exact opposite of Bellerive in this regard.  Great PGA event; name a memorable hole.  I've played it.  It is a boring golf course, and almost entirely without visual or architectural interest.  That said, Bellerive is much more of a test for the pros than Yale would be.That's the way it is with most classic designs.

 

The split fairway is the 18th where one can choose the upper or lower fairway:  upper to the left; lower to the right -- both come into play only after the drive, which from the back tee has to carry at least 220 yards to the left or 240 to theright side of the fairway over a mound that encompasses the entire fairway and goes from 20yds wide at its narrowest to 45 at its widest.  Hitting into the mound means you will not find your ball. Period.  You have to carry 290 or more to get on the second flat spot that will allow you dream of hitting the green in two.  YOu won't get rollout at 290 or so since after about 310 it is straightup hill for the next 150 yards.  BUT you can drive to the right and play the lower fairway which is level from about 300 to 475.  In the old days, clubs wouldn't allow you to hit the ball far enough to reach the flat plateau of the lower fairway on your drive. And if you could your path would be excruciatingly narrow as the area between the lower and higher fiairways was entirely dense foot high rough and the right side of the lower fairway would be protected by a veritable forest.

 

I am sure the likes of Dustin Johnson and Bruce Koepke would play to the right with less fear as the rough is mowed and thus presents a different challenge: a stance that rules out going for the green in two: not a lost ball or an unplayable lie.

 

The big swail referred to in the comments is the defining characteristic of a Biarritz hole. Legend has it that Sam Snead's shot landed on the front part of the green to a pin placement back right.  It is impossible to putt close to a back right pin from anywhere on the front, so he hit a wedge from the front to the back.  He did not take kindly to being criticized for gouging a hole in the green; and is reputed to have responded to such criticism by complaining that if the architect was stupid enough to build a hole likke that then he had every right to be stupid enough to play a wedge from one part of the green to another.

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