Fishers Island Club
8th hole, 470 yards; As at the last hole, the closer one drives to the trouble (i.e the shoreline down the right), the better angle of play one has intothe angled green. This half par hole was voted by GOLF Magazine in the 1980s as among the very best in the country.Raynor and his playing angles had a tremendous impact ona young golfer named Pete Dye.For instance,a hole like the 8th favors a fade on the tee ball and a draw on the approach. Pete Dye repeats this ‘switch back’ design on numerous holes throughout his design career.
9th hole, 365 yards; Raynor’s Double Plateaugreenjoins the Home green as being the mostsevere on the course. How close is the green to Fishers Island Sound? Raynor’s back bunker has been abandoned due to erosion by storm waves.
10th hole, 400 yards; Fishers is famous for its lack of fairway bunkers but such a fact is a sure indication of plenty of topography.
11th hole,165 yards; The green is on an exposed knob and is an outstandingtribute to the ‘Eden’ at St. Andrews. ‘Steam Shovel’ Banks form is evident with thetwelve foot deep bunker that wraps around the left side of this green. Crucially, one of the key terrors of the original Eden hole is the fear of going over the green and that fear is perfectly replicated with this horizon green.Certainly Raynor/Macdonald’s finest Eden, and the finest in the U.S. as well,with only the home hole at Garden City Golf Club as a possible rival.
12th hole, 390 yards; The essence of good golf design is to give the golfer something to do. The more fearsome the hazard, the more rewarding a sense of accomplishment. However, too many modern architects ruined this simple principle by building every hazard hard while failing to give the golfer any way around them. At the 12th, Raynor’s fronting bunker is indeed frighteningly deep butRaynor in turn banked the entire back of the green to push balls toward the middle and right hole locations.
13th hole,400 yards; The golfer has just played as attractive a stretch of green complexesas one can imagine but even the 10th green is raised above the natural grade. Raynor shifts gears here with lower profile greens at the 13th and 14th, reflective of the fact that the property has flattened out a bit.
16th hole, 145 yards; One of Raynor’s most scenic Short holes, it nonetheless needs the wind to stiffen the challenge as the green is not as fiercely defended ala his Short holes at Lookout Mountain and Camargo. In addition, though good, the interior green contoursare not in the same leagueas the Short at Chicago Golf Club or Saint Louis Country Club.
18th hole, 475 yards; A thrilling Home hole that replicates the playing angles of the Road hole at The Old Course at St. Andrews, the length of this hole makes it a great half par hole for deciding the match. Instead of railroad sheds, the golfer plays over a finger of East Harbor and further the carry he is willing to take, the better the angle into the elevated green with its dominate left central ‘Road’ bunker along this kidney shaped green.
If the 15th through the 17th offered just slightly more compelling shots, Fishers Island certainly would beamong the author’s dozen favorite courses in the world. Regardless, Fishers Island is blessed withthe key ingredients of an awe inspiringsetting, a superb routing along the edge of an island, and a classic set of holes.
Importantly, another major attribute that it enjoys over almost every course of significance in the United States is that it lacks a fairway irrigation system. Green Keeper Don Beck and his crew do a superb job of keeping the grass barely alive during the summer and the resulting firm playing conditions are ideal for golf. The author is reminded of Bill Coore’s conversation with an Australian Green Keeper, who told him,’The problem with you Americans is that you concentrate on growing grass. Here in Australia, we focus on keeping it from growing.’ Just as the golfer delights in seeing his ball bounce all over the place when Royal Melbourne West’s fairways arebaked in the summer, the same applies here at Fishers. All in all,there are precious few spots a golfer would rather find himself.
As the crow flies, the course is close to Shinnecock Hills on Long Island. Coupled with Maidstone, Friar’s Head and National Golf Links of America, thesefive coursessurely comprise thefinest cluster of courses in a forty mile radius. Fishers is neither the longest nor hardest of thefivebut it does enjoy the most romantic setting and is as delightful to play as any. No higher praise in the golf world is possible.