The Templates: Biarritz Redux

The use of C. B. Macdonald's Biarritz template in modern architecture


Among the architecture cognoscenti, a prevalent viewpoint is that the Biarritz has seen its day and should be left to the MacRaynor classics. Modern architects appear to disagree with this position as they continue to employ the template green in new and interesting ways — on holes of varying distance and par — and at angles never explored by Charles Blair and his proteges.

Like C.B. Macdonald before them, today’s architects are well versed in the architecture of the British Isles. Many of those architects consider North Berwick among their favorite courses. Although CBM’s primary source of inspiration for the Biarritz was the Chasm hole at Biarritz Golf Club, North Berwick’s 16th seems to be having an influence on modern versions of the template with its more naturalized contours and dearth of bunkering.

The elevated back and front plateaus of the 16th at North Berwick - Photo Credit: North Berwick website

With contours this bold, there is no need for bunkering - Photo Credit: North Berwick website

As lovers of variety, quirk, and thrills, we celebrate the rebirth of the Biarritz and look forward to seeing a continued stream of creative takes on the classic template.

Bandon Dunes – Old Macdonald Course – 8th – Par 3 – 181 yards

Tom Doak and Jim Urbina’s tribute to C.B. Macdonald at Bandon Dunes features all of Macdonald’s famous templates, including their take on a Biarritz one-shotter. The elevated tee and typically firm and fast conditions makes this hole play much shorter than the yardage implies. The downhill nature of the front portion makes the hole conducive to a low running shot, a rarity with the game’s technological advances.

The view back from the rear plateau, with the elevated tee on the ridge - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier

Black Creek Club – 17th – Par 3 – 243 yards

Another modern course that has adopted a traditional Biarritz hole is Black Creek Club in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Designed by Brian Silva, a Macdonald and Raynor expert, Black Creek’s 17th is one of the best versions in modern design. The hole stretches to a strong 243 yards and features a deep swale with nasty bunkers that run down the right and left side.

Short of the imposing green on the 17th at Black Creek - Photo Credit: Black Creek Club

Streamsong Red – 16th – Par 3 – 208 yards

The best modern rendition of the biarritz I have seen is at Coore & Crenshaw’s Red Course at Streamsong. The hole is a jaw-dropping display of modern scale and is reminiscent of the great biarritz at Yale Golf Club. The hole’s bold characteristics include a 7’ deep front bunker, a 20’ deep swale left of the green, a 6’ deep swale in the green, and a 72-yard green complex that allows the hole to play anywhere from 170 to 240 yards. My favorite aspect of this hole is how difficult the front pin can play because of the deep bunker. This puts risk and doubt in a player’s mind and they typically pick the extra club to be safe.

The jaw dropping 16th at Streamsong Red is a marvel of modern scale - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Sweetens Cove – 8th Par 4 – 387 yards

Modern day architects are taking Macdonald’s templates and adapting them to fit different holes. One of my favorite examples is at Sweetens Cove in South Pittsburg, TN just down the road from Black Creek. Architect Rob Collins used the Biarritz style green on the par-4 8th hole. Not only is the complex used here on a par 4, but Collins also included a unique twist by angling the green thirty degrees. Drives down the right edge of the large fairway are rewarded with a straight shot to the pin. The swale is large enough to accommodate a middle pin and has a false front in the swale that repels shots that fall short.

The bold green with pinnable swale on Sweetens Cove's 8th - Photo Credit: Sweetens Cove

Tobacco Road Golf Club – 3rd – Par 3 – 157 yards

The Mike Strantz masterpiece in the Pinehurst area has one of the more unique modern takes on the Biarritz hole, which is not surprising given Strantz’s creative genius. The hole’s front half is green and is a typical Biarritz hole, but the back half has a redan shoulder allowing players to funnel shots in from the right side. Playing much shorter than the traditional Biarritz, Strantz infused his creativity into a classic design.

An aerial view of Strantz's Biarritz, with the front of the green at the top of the photo and redan kick slope center left - Photo Credit: Sugarloaf Creative Lab

Mount Prospect Golf Club – 16th – Par 3 – 225 yards

Architect Dave Esler did a fantastic job renovating Mt. Prospect Golf Club into a public course outside Chicago that everyone should play. Here Esler built a Macdonald/Raynor inspired course filled with their famous templates. The 16th is a Biarritz that plays close to the original intention with back pins stretching the hole to 240 yards. The swale is about 5’ deep and it also possesses the great trench bunkers on either side.

The classically styled green at Mt. Prospect GC

Cabot Links – 2nd – Par 3 – 247 yards

Another modern Biarritz can be found at Rod Whitman’s Cabot Links. At 247 yards, the 2nd hole plays close to Macdonald’s original intent. Depending on the wind and the pin position this hole, can force players to hit driver and run the ball up to the back pins. The left side features a design twist as it feeds shots into the green rather than a collecting them with a traditional bunker.

From the back right of the 2nd green at Cabot, with the feeder slope on the far side

The Loop at Forest Dunes – 2nd (Red course) /16th hole (Black Course) – 551/428 yards par 5/par 4

At Tom Doak’s reversible golf course, The Loop, the Biarritz green is used on a par-5 on the Red Course and on a par-4 on the Black Course. As a par-5 green, it orients sideways. This design tests players looking to get home in two. Excellent accuracy and distance control are required in order to find the proper plateau of this green.

On the Black course, the hole plays as a par-4 to a traditional Biarritz orrientation. The front portion of the green is slightly larger than the back. In order to keep an approach on the front portion, it is wise to land shots short of the green. A miss right of the green will tumble down a severe slope. Listen to the podcast with Tom Doak discussing The Loop here

The green from above, which creates interesting challenges for players on the ground

Arcadia Bluffs (Bluffs Course) – 5th – Par 5 – 578 yards

Architect Warren Henderson employed the Biarritz green to punctuate the dramatic par-5 5th that tumbles downhill toward Lake Michigan. To gain an advantageous angle on the approach, players must play their second shot as close to the bluff as possible.

The approach into the gorgeously set 5th green at Arcadia Bluffs - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier

The Sandbox – 8th – Par 3 – 98 yards

The Coore & Crenshaw crew built a version of the Biarritz for the par-3 course at Sand Valley resort that is as much fun as you can find under 100 yards. This rendition may be a miniaturized version of the template, but it presents full sized challenges.

The approach to the 8th on The Sandbox from above, with deep bunkers standing guard