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Ron Whitten on Shinnecock

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Steve_ Shaffer:
Has he been in touch with Tom Paul and Wayne Morrison?

Jimmy Muratt:
This is a great article and really details the history and evolution of the course.  Ron details the work done by Seth Raynor and what remains today.  Here is the text:

Course Critic

by:  Ron Whitten

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y.

 One of the questions of golf design that had long nagged me was why William S. Flynn, when he totally remodeled Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in 1929-1930, retained its Redan hole, now the par-3 seventh. It's certainly a great one-shotter, with the green sloping from front to back and right to left. But it wasn't a hole in Flynn's usual repertoire. It was built in 1917 by Seth Raynor, who reproduced the trademark par 3 on nearly every design he and his mentor/partner C.B. Macdonald ever did. I can't think of another William Flynn course that features a Redan green. That didn't seem to be Flynn's style. So why did he keep it?

A quick history lesson is in order. The original 12-hole course of Shinnecock Hills was designed in 1891 by Willie Davis, a Brit who had emigrated to Montreal in 1890 and was summoned to Long Island by Shinnecock's founders. Shinnecock's club history, which credits the original design to young Willie Dunn, has it wrong. Willie Dunn was brought in after Davis moved on to lay out Newport (R.I.) Country Club in 1894. Dunn remodeled and expanded the original course to an 18-hole layout in 1895. (Dunn had previously added a nine-hole ladies course, called the Red Course.) As the New York Times reported on March 8, 1896, "After Willie Davis went to Newport, Willie Dunn, one of the most celebrated Scotch professionals that has ever come to America, was secured to take charge of the grounds, and a great deal of the excellence which they possess today, as well as some of their most characteristic features, are due to Willie Dunn's ideas."

(An aside here, relevant since Shinnecock Hills is hosting the 2004 U.S. Open. Dunn had won a four-man professional match-play event at New York's St. Andrews Golf Club in 1894, defeating, of all people, Willie Davis in the first round and Willie Campbell in the finals. Dunn always contended that made him America's first "national champion" and he had a gold medal from that victory proclaiming him as such. But the U.S. Golf Association wasn't formed until the following year, and it started the tournament to determine a national champion, the United States Open, that fall. Dunn finished second in that inaugural event, the closest he came to a real U.S. Open title. Shinnecock Hills hosted its first U.S. Open the very next year, on its Willie Dunn redesigned course. Dunn finished 12th, but he wasn't the first designer to play the U.S. Open on a course of his design. Willie Davis was, having played in the 1895 event on his own Newport Country Club design.)

Back to the evolution of Shinnecock. Charles Blair Macdonald unveiled his National Golf Links next door to Shinnecock in 1911, and the two clubs had a semi-comfortable relationship for a few years following that, even sharing a pro-greenkeeper during World War I. In 1916, Macdonald (a Shinnecock member) and his associate Seth Raynor were hired to remodel Shinnecock, but since C.B. doesn't list the course in his grand book, Scotland's Gift - Golf's, as one of the 17 courses he designed in his career, we can assume that Raynor did most, if not all, of the redesign. (Raynor, by the way, had been a 17-year-old grunt carrying rods and chains for his father David when the latter first surveyed Shinnecock during construction of its original 12 holes.)

Raynor's job was to realign the course to eliminate several holes bisected by the Long Island Railroad. He expanded the course to the northwest, closer still to National, and added his (and Macdonald's) four pet par 3s, the Short, Eden, Biarritz and Redan, as well as a version of St. Andrew's famous Road Hole, all holes they invariably installed on every one of their designs. The result was a quaint course of just 6,108 yards, par 70, a pleasant companion to National Golf Links across the fence.

But in 1928, Suffolk County announced it would route the new Sunshine Highway (now Route 27) right through the southern holes of Shinnecock. Faced with the prospect of holes bisected by a steady stream of automobiles, club president Lucien Tyng bought new land for replacement holes and hired William S. Flynn to design a new Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. That course opened July 1, 1931, on land still owned by Tyng. He didn't sell it to the club until 1948, for $20,000.

Flynn's design is the course that exists today, with a few modifications. He retained only three holes from the Raynor design, the present third, seventh and ninth. (He also followed existing corridors in designing the first, second and eighth, but made different holes of them.) The third is a fine, strong par 4, only slightly rebunkered by Flynn by the addition of carry-bunkers off the tee. The ninth, the least beloved hole on an otherwise universally-admired U.S. Open course, was a strange one to retain, with its roller coaster fairway and its half-blind green perched 40 feet above the landing area. But it was originally the 18th, on both the Raynor layout and the Flynn plan (the nines were switched in the early 1930s), so we can assume club members insisted the course finish right in the shadow of their 1893 Stanford White-designed clubhouse. The ninth, too, was rebunkered by Flynn. As for the Redan hole, he filled in a long strip bunker behind the green, but otherwise left the hole intact.

The proof is in Flynn's sixth hole at Shinnecock Hills, a long dogleg-right par 4 with alternate fairways and a pond in a hollow well short of the green. That hole is an unabashed imitation of the classic "Channel Hole" at Lido Golf Club, the ill-fated 1917 Macdonald & Raynor design that didn't survive World War II. Some say that course was their greatest effort. It certainly was a great engineering feat, built on sand dunes pumped from Reynolds Channel onto a barrier island of the Atlantic, and featuring a great combination of imitation holes and bold originals. The Channel, one of those originals, was the 505-yard par-5 fourth, proclaimed by Macdonald as "the greatest two-shot hole in the world." It had a boomerang fairway to the left, and an alternate, narrow, gambling fairway dead ahead, both guarded by tidal lagoons.

On Shinnecock's sixth, except for a retention pond well short of the green, Flynn substituted sand dunes for the lagoons of the original, but otherwise his design, and the options of play, are clearly copies of the Macdonald & Raynor Channel Hole, although he always intended it as a long par 4. Unfortunately, the dunes were subsequently grassed over (probably during World War II, when maintenance was minimal, since a 1938 aerial still shows the dunes), and more conventional bunkers now delineate the optional routes. But it's still a remarkable golf hole. (All the more remarkable: photos of Shinnecock's sixth taken soon after completion even show a beach bunker extending across the front of the pond, a design feature not seen again in American golf architecture until the 1980s.)

Until I closely studied Shinnecock Hills, I had no idea that Flynn admired Macdonald & Raynor. I can find nothing written by Flynn that praises their work. I can find no other course of his design where he consciously copied any their ideas. But he clearly did so at Shinnecock, perhaps because he was remodeling one of their courses and felt a slight obligation to honor their work. Whatever the reason, Shinnecock Hills is better for his decision to retain the Redan hole, and for his idea to fashion the sixth hole into a tribute to what may well be the most provocative Macdonald & Raynor's hole of all time.

(One last aside. The present Lido Golf Club is a Trent Jones design of the 1950s, on land near, but not atop, the original Lido. On that design, Trent also fashioned a version of the Channel Hole. It says a great deal about the esteem with which architects hold both C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor that both Flynn and Trent Jones would consciously copy an otherwise extinct Macdonald & Raynor concept.)

A terrific piece by Whitten. Congrats Ron. I hope you will do more like it.

Makes me want to re-up my Golf Digest subscription.

Heck, it's so so good that about half way through I wondered if I wasn't reading a GCA post by Wayne or Tom. ;)


The wildest read on Golf Digest's web site is this whopper on
Trump and his desire to get a U.S. Open (check out the pic
of Tom Fazio mock-cutting Trump's infamous 'do):

egofest within

Dan Kelly:

--- Quote from: Jimmy Muratt on June 14, 2004, 03:00:17 PM ---The ninth, the least beloved hole on an otherwise universally-admired U.S. Open course, was a strange one to retain, with its roller coaster fairway and its half-blind green perched 40 feet above the landing area.
--- End quote ---

Really? The least beloved hole on an otherwise universally admired course?

If so: Why?


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