Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yeamans Hall Club

Occasionally, one of the courses I go to play takes me completely by surprise. Several "below the radar" courses have made a lasting impression on me thus far - Cruden Bay, Woodhall Spa and Myopia Hunt Club, in particular. Yeamans Hall Club now joins this group.

Located in Charleston, South Carolina, Yeamans Hall Club (ranked #92 in the world) is a treasure. This part of the country has retained its uniqueness and character and has resisted the homogenization that has largely swept most parts of the country. South Carolina is still representative of the Deep South and jealously guards its heritage. Tucked away just north of Charleston, the club is very discrete and isolated, located off a street marked "No Outlet". Reminiscent of Pine Valley, you have to cross a railroad track and immediately have to stop at a guard gate. Nowhere is there an indication that this is Yeamans Hall Club; it is an un-marked, low-key entrance. After the guard verified my credentials (I got in based on my charm and good looks), I passed through the entrance to an enchanted setting.


The entry gate at Yeamans Hall

Driving in you are greeted by a sign that says, "please drive graciously," and it is not hard to do in this setting. You drive on a long and winding dirt/gravel road for about a mile through an idyllic low country setting. The property is full of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, loblobby pines and native grasses and flowers. Yeamans Halls is an intensely private place. There are 250 members, and the club is owned by 35 "proprietary members" who have houses on the 900 acre property.

The majestic entry drive at Yeamans

The club takes its name from a previous landowner, Sir John Yeaman, who was colonial governor of South Carolina. When you drive through and approach the clubhouse, you pass the first and seventh holes and immediately get a sense that the golf course is going to be as special as the overall property is. The master plan for this property was put together by Fredrick Law Olmstead, Jr., son of New York's Central Park designer. He originally laid it out for 250 houses, two 18 hole golf courses and a hotel. Thankfully, due to the depression, these never got built. Instead, we are left with a sprinkling of houses throughout the property and one hell of a golf course. When you turn right into the drive that leads up to the clubhouse, the intimacy and beauty of Yeamans Hall keeps getting better. There are a dozen or so imposing live oaks set around a circular driveway. Around the driveway are low-slung wooden buildings housing the clubhouse, locker room and pro shop. The trees provide a welcoming shade to keep the area cool from the sun beating down and enclose the entire area under a canopy that gives it the feel of a very large outdoor room.

Live oak with Spanish moss

 The Golf Course

Yeamans Hall was designed by Seth Raynor in 1925, and he did a masterful job. The first hole is now a personal favorite. The fairway, like all fairways at Yeamans, is wide; generously accepting of a nicely hit opening drive. The second shot plays over the dirt entry road to one of the most dramatic greens you will ever play. There is a large, false front to the green and a couple of huge humps on this "double plateau" Raynor signature hole. Hopefully, the picture below does it justice, and you can pick up the severity of the contours on the green.

The first green at Yeamans Hall

Over time, the greens had become reduced in size and otherwise changed from their original state. Tom Doak was brought in several years ago to restore the greens back to Raynor's original designs and he did a fine job. Yeamans has one of the best stretches of starting holes in golf. The first six holes provide an exciting start that showcase a unique design style.

All the greens at Yeamans Hall are as large as I have seen anywhere except the Old Course at St. Andrews. This picture of the 2nd green below is indicative of the greens here. I found Yeamans Hall particularly pleasing because I had played Harbour Town the previous day. I went from playing a course with extremely narrow fairways and tiny greens to a course with generous fairways and huge greens. There is probably no greater contrast in course styles and designs, and it was a welcome change to be able to swing more freely again.

yh2nd green
Approach to the large 2nd green

The third hole at Yeamans (a classic "Short" hole) is a par three that plays out toward the river. It is a spectacular hole with the beautiful marsh grasses serving as a back-drop. The green has a horse-shoe shape in the middle. Raynor squared off many of the greens at Yeamans, as you will see, many are cut at 90 degree angles to bunkers and fairways. Most of the holes at Yeamans Hall feature a geometric shape on the green.

The par three 3rd at Yeamans

The horse-shoe 3rd green

The 5th is Yeamans rendition of an "Alps" hole, modeled after the "Alps" at Prestwick, although more suited to the terrain here, which is pretty flat. There are hazards in the middle of the fairway as you can see below, which creates a nice optical illusion off the tee.

yh5th tee
"Alps" hole from the tee

The green on the fifth hole is also very large with big humps running through it and a ninety degree angle at the corner.
yh5th green
Squared off green on the 5th

Raynor used his imagination and the terrain to great effect at Yeamans Hall. See the big dip in the 11th fairway below, a "Maiden" hole, modeled after the original at Royal St. George's.

"Maiden" hole at Yeamans

The "Biarritz" hole, the 16th, is a super rendition of this classic hole with a large swale protecting the front of the green.

"Knoll" green at Yeamans Hall

The overall feel of Yeamans Hall is magical. The place has character, old-world charm and a sense of complete isolation from the outside world. More or less, everything is perfect. The small building that houses the locker room is understated and has the feel of a small hunting lodge (seen below). I like their philosophy and approach, as exemplified in their recommended pace of play, "3 1/2 hours is adequate for four ball match." After our round we had sandwiches - shades of Augusta National - I had a delicious pimento cheese sandwich.

Yeamans is much more than a golf course set in an old plantation surrounded by a marsh; it is an experience in Southern charm and hospitality that is hard to beat.

I have previously been a critic of Raynor's design, particularly at Fishers Island, which is generally viewed as his masterpiece. I still think Fishers Island is over-rated relative to its merits. It has a half dozen really good holes but I think it gets too much credit as being great simply because it's on the water. To me, Yeamans Hall is a much better design and I would rate it as Raynor's masterpiece, particularly because the conditioning of the golf course here is so fine.

Raynor hit the nail on the head when he wrote, "one is bound to fall in love with golf at Yeamans Hall."

The unique tee markers of Yeamans are cut-up railroad tracks

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Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call them that unique. We have the same thing at my club called Station Creek and it is has nowhere near the stature Yeamans does and I have seen them at alot of other clubs as well.

Anonymous said...

Actually,your last green photo is #14-"Knoll" not #16.Everything else is correct.Glad you enjoyed your round. Jim Yonce YHC Greenkeeper

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of playing Yeaman’s Hall on my yearly family beach trip to Isle of Palms. I say without reservation that this was the greatest golf experience of my life. This is how golf should be enjoyed. The staff was magnificent; the course in excellent shape, the weather was perfect. I will value this experience for the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great blog. I have been invited to play Yeamans Hall this afternoon. The weather is perfect ~80, light wund and sun. I hope I can breathe when we get to the first tee.

Anonymous said...

I had an opportunity to enjoy this beautiful, classic course last Thursday afternoon. A windy, clear day and we saw only one other group on the course.

Your descriptions were dead on. My day was made even better by the company of 3 great friends.

This setting reminds me of two other very private places I hope you have a chance to play. The first is another top 100 course called Crystal Downs Country Club in Frankfort, MI. The second is a course near London, Ontario, Canada called Redtail Golf Course. This is a Donald Steele design that is built on an olf farm in rural Ontario. Beautiful, traditional course and club house. If you can get on, it's worth the trip. You would be with and two hour drive of Toronto and some other gems like Angus Glen and Glen Abbey.

I really enjoyed your review of YHC.

Play away!

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of working for Jim Yonce at Yeamans Hall Club and I just want to say it was without a doubt an experience of a life time. love and respect to Jim and his staff, they do a wonderful job. Yeamans is a special place.

Anonymous said...

Nice review...YHC is definitely a special place, but you cannot call it Raynor's masterpiece without having played Shoreacres or Camargo....

Steve Dixx said...

Just played Yeamans today, can't say enough about it, one of the best experiences in my life. Tremendous golf course, with unbelievable charm, and a unique layout. An absolute gem by Raynor, one of the absolute best courses in the south, and in the country.

Anonymous said...

I played 27 holes at Yeamans today! Great course and kudos to Jim Yonce and his staff!!!
Yeamans is the best track in Charleston, by far!

William F. Kabourek said...

Raynor has another masterpiece in lake wales, FL. Mountain Lake Club appears similiar to Yeomans Hall. Ohlmsted's dis designed the community of only a fe homes and clubhouse. Worth finding a way on.

xyz said...

Unique? Raynor, etc.?

Almost an oxymoron,that. However YH is special, especially for that part of the world.

I rather like the CCC for its openness. YH gets all the press, however. "Top ##" is so subjective.

Anonymous said...

I just came back from Charleston, was lucky enough to play a round at Yeamans with my great friend Ryan Yonce. He showed me all the wonderful projects that Jim Yonce and the crew had completed, rebuilding the tee complexes. The course was in excellent shape! It was a great pleasure to visit. A Seth Rayner masterpiece! Jonathan Shampine CCC Agronomy crewmember july '09

Anonymous said...

Played Yeamans Hall today for the first time. Luckily get to play it the next two days as well. What a wonderful design. The fairways and greens are in perfect condition. The rough and edges are left pretty much to themselves so stay in the wide lanes. Great bunkers. Can't wait for tomorrow to come.

Mike Synor said...

I had the great pleasure of playing YHC with one of my best friends...and what an unbelievable day! Nothing better than stepping on the grass of a classic golf course, beautiful still brings smiles to my face. The pro was very gracious and a fine host. I hope to play again in the future.

Anonymous said...

I am supposed to play YHC for the first time tomorrow - weather permitting! I appreciate your blog. It's made me even more excited about seeing the property and the golf course.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

That last post is absolutely tasteless and unnecessary. You show your intelligence by referring to Yeamans Hall Club a glorified MUNI and personal attacks show your weaknesses. It shouldn't be a surprise that you're no longer employed at a club that's way over your head.

Anonymous said...

Played last week and loved it. The bald eagle soaring over the driving range while I warmed up was a nice touch! The Raynor greens can be maddening....would love to play again. They really do it right at Yeamans Hall.

Unknown said...

I caddied at YH from 1963-65 and probably walked the course at least a 100 times..always impressed with the beauty of the course, the houses and setting including an occassional snake or aligator on the course!

Anonymous said...

played again yesterday.

the more i play, the better it gets. i'm a member elsewhere but i go to yeamans every chance i get.

by the way, the new tee on 4 is going to be quite the something.

anyway, i love the place. it makes me happy just to be there.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Yeamans Hall has a caddy program. I am moving to Charleston and caddied at various clubs in the southeast. Response is greatly appreciated

Mike Lambert said...

A caddy program would be great there, but they don't have one. I played there today and it is a tremendous course to walk...

mrp said...

I think the prior post that said, "it makes me happy just to be there" sums it up well. Great club!!

Ken Vilcheck said...

I played Yeamans Hall in a State Am qualifier 17 yrs ago. I had a hard time finding it and was close to missing my tee time, but I drove through the front gate and went about 100 yards, stopped and looked around in awe and thought I was in a time capsule 100 yrs.earlier. Never had that feeling before or since. Son is a college golfer now and told him this is one place he has to play. Can't say enough about the entire experience,awesome!Would love to play the Doak redo.

Anonymous said...

Just back from my first round @ YHC. What a spectacular experience. Very playable tee to green. Better have your flatstick in order.

par4par said...

A member arranged for me to play, even though he was not in town. As everyone says, you feel "lucky" to be there! I nervously asked the pro where to change shoes and he said "most guys just sit on their tailgate" and, indeed, they did, after getting their pull carts out. For a club of such prestige to take it golf so seriously but not itself is a refreshingly wonderful attitude! I agree it is a wonderful 18 holes but I cannot believe no one has mentioned Rayner's cross bunkering in the fairways. They're everywhere!

Harry said...

Absolutely one of the finest golf experiences on the planet, and I completely agree about the Opening Hole. It is my favorite opening hole in golf, surpassing Pine Valley, Royal Dornoch, Kinloch, Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay, Machrihanish, and many other great opening holes.

Yeamans Hall is simply an amazing place. Was sponsored by a member to stay 3 nights in a cottage and what an experience it was. One of the best 3 days of golf of my life.

Played Thursday at The Ocean Course at Kiawah and, comparatively speaking, the difference was between CORPORATE crap and INDIVIDUAL class.

Yeamans is spectacular.

Anonymous said...

Lived in North Charleston in the late 60's and early 70's.Had the good fortune to be able to play her many times.what a great property hope I get to play again some day.Does anyone remember the Pro for those years?Believe his first name was Mike?Remember him being so down to earth and very professional. A perfect fit forYHC.

Anonymous said...

I think his name is Mike Powers

Anonymous said...

This is a great article about one of the true gems in the country. With that being said, as an intern here I have to say that this does no justice to the true Yeamans Hall. From the facilities to the course, with no exception to the staff:) Yeamans is the finest facility in South Carolina. Due note though that this article sums up a guest experience at the club. Im glad you had a great time.

Anonymous said...

How did you forget about the 'Redan" hole #7 ???

Anonymous said...

The "Redan" number 7 is by far the best hole on this course, especially with a left front pin placement. What a beautiful old masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

I have played Yeamans Hall on a number of occasions. It is a gem that always leaves me with such wonderful feelings, the kind reserved for having been somewhere and done something that is holistically cleansing and spiritually satisfying at the same time. If ever in New England you might want to consider playing Ekwanok, Walter Travis 1899 and Prouts Neck, Wayne Stiles 1907 both classically understated historical golf treasures.

Anonymous said...

Please note that the Redan hole is number 6 not 7. The course is a marvel and continues to get better with time. The range which was out of character for such a mgnificent course was redone in 2013 and adds to the class of this timeless gem. Do anything to play this course!

Anonymous said...

Shot my best round ever at YHC (73), the third time I played the course and the second 18 of 36 holes played that day. I love the place for it's simplicity and classic layout.

Anonymous said...

Yeaman's is on the upswing as there is a new superintendant and he has brought new and revitalized enthusiasm to the course. Jim Yonce did a wonderful job and the new superintendant has taken it to a new level with greens that are consistantly running at 11+. Last time I played they were running 12. This is making the course play 4 shots tougher. A true once in a lifetime experience.

AC said...

Wow - thanks for the insightful input Dr. Downer.

I have had the opportunity to play YHC, and it's truly breathtaking. Southern charm is abundant there, and you truly feel the spirit of those that played there before you. I hope I am fortunate to play the club again - it was an amazing experience.

Anonymous said...

How difficult is it to get on? I am a member of a club in Raleigh NC and will be vacationing in Isle of Palm in early July.

Top 100 Golfer said...

easier to get on in the summer when the full-time members don't play as much. best bet would be to have your pro contact the pro at Yeamans and see what they will do. Would be very difficult during the winter, so better odds now.

Jim Yeatrakas said...

Yeamans had a special program for the locals. I was lucky to be allowed to play all through the 80's when Mike Powers was the Pro, Paul Piedmont the asst Pro and Jim Yonce was the Superintendent. Back then we could play any time during the Summer and for those of us with Winter playing privileges, from Noon till 4 tee times. Being dumb, young and immortal, I did not realize what a honor it was to be able to play there. But there was a special bonding between all of us 'Summer' members. Weekend Blitz's brought some of the best players from around the low country to compete with our best. Some exciting matches and some of the best golf you could imagine were played out at Yeamans Hall.

During the Masters (Mr Milliken of Milliken textiles is an owner) many of the players would drop by and sharpen their game. Number 6 was especially sought out as a real test.

I can no longer play, but visited this past weekend to meet with Claude Brusse, the new head Pro. They have upgraded the pro shop. Small but very prestigious. He made me feel like I did back in the old days. Very warm and welcome. Claude has been there for 25 years now and has been part of some of the restoration. I mentioned I had made a video of the damage done to the course by Hurricane Hugo that I gave to the club back in 1989 and suggested they digitize it to memorialize the old versus the new.

Anyway, it was a great day and I enjoyed this article.