The vision for Yeaman’s Hall Club began in 1916 when a 900 acre tract of land was acquired with the intent of developing a full scale winter resort club. The club would be located just 12 miles north of downtown Charleston, SC in Hanahan and would service wealthy northerners traveling south by train in search of warmer climates. The club plan called for two golf courses as well as an assortment of other leisure activities and amenities. As part of the resort, the master plan also included roughly 250 homesites that would be available for members of the club to purchase. Sometime shortly after the acquisition of the land Seth Raynor was invited to survey the property and he quickly determined that the land was indeed well suited for golf. In the report that Raynor wrote after his visit he stated that, without question, a “magnificent” golf course could absolutely be built on the land. That was certainly good news for the developer and investors, but for unknown reasons the project was put on hiatus for several years. Things got back on track in 1924 when the club, named after the original landowner Sir John Yeamans, was formed and construction began on the first golf course. That course, designed by Raynor, opened a year later in 1925.
Over the next four years the club enjoyed a period of growth with an expanding membership roster, homesites being sold and homes being constructed. When the stock market crashed in 1929 the development ground to a halt and, in the end, the full scope of the project was never realized. Today, Yeamans Hall Club is an ultra private affair with one golf course, a clubhouse, pro shop, guest cottages, two tennis courts (which go virtually unused) and just 35 homes on the property. That said, one part of the original plan that did stay intact is a membership largely made up of non-resident members from the north. Because the opportunity to own a home at Yeamans Hall Club is extremely limited (that’s a huge understatement) most of these members from the north take up residence in one of the guest cottages during their stay at the club. Another aspect of the original plan that stuck is that the vast majority of member activity comes during the late fall, winter and early spring months when the weather in the south is considerably more favorable than it is in the north. Even though the member activity comes during only a portion of the year the club does stay open year round and has an interesting twist. During the summer months when few, if any, of the members are using the golf course Yeamans Hall Club hosts an association of summer golfers who are able to play and enjoy this wonderful golf course. This is a unique concept that I’m not familiar with at any other clubs here in the states. I find it quite creative and mutually beneficial in many ways.
Yeamans Hall Club is a place that had intrigued me ever since I played Shinnecock Hills several years back. The gentleman who hosted me at Shinnecock is a passionate golfer who spends the year traveling between the U.S. and Scotland visiting the numerous golf clubs where he maintains memberships. As we sat on the porch chatting about his many golf travels, one of the clubs he mentioned being a member of was Yeamans Hall Club. I had never heard of it so I was naturally intrigued. When I returned home and did a little research, what I found only peaked my interest more. Yeamans Hall immediately made my short list of places I wanted to visit regardless of whether it was on any list or not. Besides, Charleston has always been one of my favorite towns, so twisting my arm into making a trip there is not too difficult.
It turns out that it was more than three years later before I finally had the opportunity to make that trip and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Although I had never played a Seth Raynor solo design prior to this year I had always been tremendously interested in his work and was anxious to finally see one of his courses in the flesh. As luck would have it, between the months of July and December I managed to find myself visiting four of his more famous designs – Camargo Club, Chicago Golf Club (a collaboration with C.B. Macdonald), Shoreacres and then finally Yeamans Hall. I always think it’s nice to get an immersion course in any particular architect and see a large volume of their work in a short time.
Below is the photo of the understated Yeamans Hall Club gate. Note the proximity of the railroad track. I would imagine in the early days of the club the members were able to exit the train right here or very near by.
Normally I am the one walking around the course clicking off 100+ photos (digital cameras make it so easy), but on this day I got a break. After a couple of holes of taking photos one of the players in my group who also had a camera offered to send me the shots he took, so I gladly put the camera in my bag for this game. Unfortunately, the few photos that I did take were lost forever when I accidentally left my shoe bag, with my camera and a brand new pair of golf shoes in it, sitting on the sidewalk in front of my house at 2AM. Note to self: items of value left on the sidewalk in a city will not be there for long. Thankfully, I was not on official photo duty for this round, so I do still have some photos to post. Below are my playing partners photos from that day. Thanks Kevin!
The first hole at Yeamans Hall Club is the home of what may possibly be my favorite Seth Raynor green. It is tough to describe it and none of the up close photos came out very clear, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. The green is absolutely crazy with all kinds of undulation and movement. I would love to know the annual number of 4+ putts that happen on this green. Below is a photo of the green taken from the fairway. The photo does no justice to the green, but it was the best one I had. Also take notice of the bunker in the foreground. More on this below.
Here is a photo taken from a different angle of the bunker in the photo above. Note the principals nose design to this bunker. Raynor was famous for using features and template holes from links golf courses across the pond in Scotland.
Below is a photo of the 1st green taken from the 2nd tee. This gives a little more of an idea how unique this green is, but still, no photo could do it justice.
The 3rd hole is the first par 3 that we played and the hole plays a scant 147 yards from the back tees. Note the deep Raynor style bunker fronting the green.
Below is a closer look at the green. The primary feature on this putting surface is a “thumbprint” which basically looks like someone with a gigantic thumb pressed down on the green left a large thumb-shaped imprint on the green. A putt that must be rolled over any part of the thumbprint to reach the hole makes for a difficult line to read.
Below we have a photo of the approach into the 5th hole which is Raynor’s Alps template. The green is protected by a series of deep bunkers that nearly span the width of the fairway. Please note the color of the turf in this photo as well as the otheres. As mentioned above Yeamans Hall Club is primarily a winter use club and the turf does become a shade of brown during the clubs peak season. While most American golfers are accustomed to lush green turf on their golf courses, this slightly brown look is what is more common in Scottish links golf. The dry and firm conditions that are maintained at Yeamans Hall Club allow for the course to be played as it was intended and makes for exciting golf as the course provides all the bounces and kicks associated with links golf.
The 6th hole at Yeamans Hall is truly a thing of beauty. At 190 yards this par 3 Redan Hole calls on most golfers to hit a long iron or hybrid which is probably not the most comfortable shot in their bag. The hole was designed for a low running shot that would bounce just in front of the green and move on the ground across the green and towards the hole. In the photo below you would want to play that shot as far to the right side of the putting surface as possible.
If an aerial attack is used here it is advisable to land the ball on the right side of the green and let it roll down the putting surface. The photo below shows the slope of the green and how important it is to execute a good tee shot. Being long is an almost certain bogey.
Tee shots that go too far to the left will result in a bunker shot that looks something like the one the photo below.
Below is a photo taken from the right side of the 10th green that illustrates how deep the greenside bunkers can be here.
Below is another great example of typical Raynor style bunkering – long, thin, flat and with a significant grass lip to be carried. This one sits on the left side of the 11th hole.
This view below looking back down the 11th hole gives an idea of what the golf course feels like. Amazingly, its not near as tight as it would appear in the photo. Although some of the fairways are tree lined a ball that goes off track is easily found and usually can be put back in play with relative ease. I know I didn’t lose a ball all day and I’m pretty sure that no one in my group did either.
This photo from the 14th hole is another look at one of Raynor’s flat bunkers. I find these difficult to play out of. Compared to making a bunker shot from a slightly uphill lie I find a bunker shot from a dead flat lie to require better execution. Especially if playing to a short sided hole location like in the photo below
The photo below, taken on the 14th green, gives a view of the South Carolina Lowcountry topography. There are acres and acres of swampy marshland that become flooded with the comings and goings of the tides.
Below is one last look at the golf course taken from the rough on the left of the 18th fairway. Note the spanish moss dripping from the live oak trees behind the green. You can’t get much more of “Lowcountry” look than this.
Yeamans Hall Club is without question one of the special places in golf. The course is tremendously fun and offers great playability for high handicappers as well as a sufficient challenge for the single digit crowd. I thought the Lowcountry setting added a special touch with the huge spanish moss covered trees and swampland vistas which give the course a very southern and genteel vibe. When you consider how good of a golf course this is and add in the extra intangibles, I don’t know how Yeamans Hall Club cannot be ranked on the Golf Digest Top 100. In my opinion, the exclusion of Yeamans Hall Club is a glaring omission. That said, and also just my opinion, I’m sure the club doesn’t care. That, among many other things, is what makes Yeamans Hall Club such a cool place.