7/7/16

The Templates: Biarritz

A history and analysis of C.B. Macdonald's Biarritz template

by

History

Who said the French never gave us anything? In 1888, Willie Dunn Jr. designed the Biarritz Golf Club and the par-3 3rd hole which was dubbed “the chasm”. The chasm was adopted by C.B. Macdonald as a template hole and named “the biarritz.” Fellow architects were slow to grow fond of the bold and controversial putting surface that Macdonald was employing and called it “Macdonald’s Folly” in the early years.

Characteristics

Biarritz holes are long par-3s designed to test a player’s ability to hit accurate long shots – a typical yardage is 210-240 yards. Its defining characteristic is the massive green that at some courses stretches nearly 80 yards. The large green is bisected by a deep swale in the middle that is usually 3-5 feet deep and is protected by narrow bunkers that run down the right and left side. As you will see below, in some cases the front section of the Biarritz is fairway rather than green, as the best pin positions are on the back portion protected by the deep swale. While Macdonald and Raynor limited the biarritz green to par-3s, modern architects have begun to use the it on par-4s and 5s, making the swale large enough to accommodate a pin position.

A sketch of a biarritz from Zac Blair, PGA Tour player and future architect of The Buck Club. Follow him on Twitter @z_blair

Strategy

The Biarritz is a fantastic design, as it tests the skill and accuracy of a player with their longer clubs. Originally, the hole required a driver, but with technology advancements, today it stands as a great long-iron test. It presents a bevy of shot options and a variety of yardages. Due to their immense size, a Biarritz’s distance can differ by 60-70 yards on a given day, changing it from a birdie opportunity to a tough par. The green allows a player to hit any type of shot in, a low running shot or a high shot are both equally effective. It is extremely important to hit your shot to the correct level as putting through the swale is difficult.

Piping Rock – 9th – 227 yards

Macdonald’s first implementation of the Biarritz template came at the Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, New York. Here the tough, long par-3 closes out the front 9 and the front half of the Biarritz is kept as fairway. A couple of unique aspects of Piping Rock’s biarritz are its front bunker and the way the back portion’s rough juts in on the left side.

Piping Rock's 9th hole from the tee - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

From the right side, with the deep swale guarding the front - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

From behind the 9th green at Piping Rock - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Chicago Golf Club – 3rd – 219 yards

The Biarritz at Macdonald’s first masterpiece was added during the renovation work done by Seth Raynor in 1925. The 3rd’s scale is jaw-dropping. It features a fairway run-up to the swale and is part of the menacing start to Chicago Golf. The green is filled with subtle sections that make average approach shots tricky two putts. The deep bunkers which guard all sides of the green are extremely difficult up and downs. When it was built in 1925, the hole required players to run the ball up, landing it in the fairway short of the swale.

The lengthy 3rd at Chicago Golf Club - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The massive green and approach, well guarded by deep bunkers

The view from behind the 3rd

Camargo Club – 8th – 227 yards

The Camargo Club hosts an annual U.S. Amateur qualifier and the Biarritz 8th regularly clocks in as one of the four most difficult holes on the course. The 8th’s front plateau features a fairway slope which makes the front half unpinnable. The green space thus is smaller than most, only 32 yards deep and 26 yards wide. The trench bunkers on the right and left side are particularly deep. These bunkers start at the fairway portion and run through the back edge.

The tee shot at Camargo's 8th hole - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

From the side, the depth of the flanking bunkers is evident - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Looking back, with the fronting swale and fairway section beyond - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The Course at Yale – 9th – 213 yards

The Course at Yale is often considered Seth Raynor’s crowning achievement, with its signature 9th hole a bold Biarritz. The first challenge for a player is the forced carry over water of 200+ yards. Once the green is reached, the fun begins as the hole features one of the deepest swales and also has a severe front-to-back and right-to-left slope in the back portion of the massive green.

We asked former Yale golfer Andrew Vitt to describe the 9th:

“Iconic. Two par-3s in one. Either long iron to back over 8ft swale or mid iron to front over the water. When played in firm conditions, the front pin on 9 is total risk reward…land on very front or fringe to run a shot up bringing water into play, or land further on and risk getting gobbled up by the swale from hell. “

The 9th hole on the first day that the Course at Yale was open in 1925

From the tee, with a front pin - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The 9th with the deep swale separating the two sections of the green

Mid Ocean Club – 13th – 238 yards

At C.B. Macdonald’s masterpiece in Bermuda, the 13th is the Biarritz. Measuring 238 yards from the back tee box the par-3 plays downhill and maintains only the back tier as green. There is a heated debate at the club on whether the front segment should be green or fairway. The back segment of the green complex contains many subtle breaks.

Downhill from the tee on 13th at Mid Ocean - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

A look at the contours of the 13th - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Looking back at the 13th at Mid Ocean Club - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The Creek – 11th – 200 yards

The Creek’s is not the longest Biarritz but definitely one of the most unique and intimidating. In Locust Valley, NY, Macdonald built the Biarritz hole in an inlet of the Long Island Sound. Stray shots pay the price of the water and the water level varies on the tide. Exposed to the sound, the 11th at The Creek is as tough of a shot as you will find in golf when the wind blows. The green is filled with micro contours and measures 86 yards from front to back.

Westhampton Country Club – 17th – 206 yards

Players looking to post a low score at Westhampton have to deal with the Biarritz 17th down the stretch. The predominant pin on the 17th is on the back tier which plays between 220-230 yards. The Biarritz at Westhampton is more subtle than most Raynor designs. With modern technology this actually makes it easier to run a ball through the swale and play closer to the original intent of the hole.

The 17th tee shot at Westhampton - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

From the left, with the long bunker wrapping around - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Looking back from the up the 17th, the subtler swale evident - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Mountain Lake – 5th – 211 yards

At the Central Florida Raynor gem lies a nice little Biarritz. The green is roughly 50 yards long allowing the hole to play from a mid-iron to a long-iron/hybrid. The hole has the signature trench bunkering on the left side but on the right, the brush tightens the hole and adds a unique difficulty.

The 5th tee shot at Mountain Lake

The approach to the left side, with bunkers lurking

A look at the back pin at Mountain Lake's Biarritz 5th - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Fox Chapel Golf Club– 17th – 231 yards

The challenging 17th at Fox Chapel tests a player’s nerves down the stretch, and is a hole which some consider the best Biarritz in the world. Designed by Seth Raynor, Fox Chapel’s Biarritz stretches over 230 yards and is defined by its extremely deep swale (roughly 5’) and its bunkers that stretch the entirety of the green.

Fox Chapel Golf Club's beautiful and intimidating 17th hole - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The view from the right, with the pin lending scale to the swale - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

From the back tier looking over the cavernous swale - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

St. Louis C.C. – 2nd – 225 yards

Another tremendous Biarritz can be found at C.B. Macdonald’s SLCC. This design is treacherous for anyone who misses right. An extremely deep bunker guards the right side of the green making for a near impossible up and down.  The bunker on the right is dubbed “the bunker of death” because of how deep it is.

St. Louis Country Club's par-3 2nd - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

In front of the 2nd green at St. Louis C.C.

Behind the 2nd green at St. Louis C.C.

Fishers Island Club – 5th – 229 yards

The secluded northeast gem features a terrific Biarritz, much like many others, Fishers Island’s rendition features a fairway front portion that leads into the deep swale at the front edge of the green. Seth Raynor showed no mercy when designing this hole, the long shot is particularly difficult when the wind kicks up at Fishers Island’s seaside location.

The imposing tee shot on the 5th at Fisher's Island - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The view from the back tier reveals how elevated and exposed to the wind the green is - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Greenbrier Old White – 3rd – 205 yards

The only example of a Macdonald designed Biarritz that is open to the public resides at Greenbrier’s Old White course. This version is a little shorter than most but has all of the defining qualities – the long green, deep swale and narrow bunkers on both the right and left side. One unique aspect of Old White’s Biarritz is that the middle swale is pinnable as you see by the photo below.

Greenbrier Old White's 3rd. Photo Credit: Zac Blair @z_blair

From the left side, highlighting the pinnable swale - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The front plateau of the green - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Shoreacres – 6th – 230 yards

My favorite Seth Raynor course is home to a great Biarritz. While not as dramatic as some of the others, Shoreacres is as classic as they come. The hole can play from 160-240 yards and typically plays directly into an east wind. Shoreacres also features a unique back bunker that adds to the penalty of missing long.

The biarritz 6th at Shoreacres

Low right of the 6th at Shoreacres

The view back with the pin in the front section beyond the swale - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Yeamans Hall – 16th – 225 yards

At Raynor’s low-country masterpiece, the 16th makes closing out a good round a difficult task. The front half of Yeamans’s Biarritz is maintained as fairway and the deep swale makes this hole particularly challenging.

From the tee on the 16th at Yeamans Hall - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Back left of the green, with the deep flanking bunker - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Southhampton Golf Club – 14th – 197 yards

The 1925 Seth Raynor design flies under the radar due to its high profile neighbors, NGLA and Shinnecock. The 14th measures about 210 yards to the back pin location. The front half of this beauty is maintained as green and is under 170 yards to the front edge.

The front section of the green is pinnable and creates a wide range of lengths for 14th at Southampton

Room to miss right, but recovery is no bargain

Looking back from the roomy rear plateau

Blue Mound Golf & Country Club – 3rd – 220 yards

The Milwaukee-area Raynor design starts with a bang as the first three greens are a Redan, Double Plateau and then the difficult Biarritz 3rd. The front half plays as fairway and the front pin is particularly tough because of the deep swale that repels any shot just a fraction short.  Like most Biarritz holes, the right and left sides of the green are flanked by deep trench bunkers.

The 3rd tee shot at Blue Mound G&CC

Short of the fairway front plateau

The deep swale at Blue Mound's 3rd makes for precarious decisions when your shot ends there

Sleepy Hollow – 7th (Lower) – 217 yards

Sleepy Hollow is Seth Raynor’s gem on the Hudson River, and its 7th hole is a terrific Biarritz. This hole plays downhill and its front segment kicks balls onto the back tier. It plays shorter because of its downhill nature but when firm and fast the play is short. The back tier of the Biarritz has bunkers guarding each side.

A look at the 7th and the Hudson River - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Short of the 7th green shows the undulation that will kick shots up to the green - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The view from back right with the front slope feeding down - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

North Shore C.C. – 5th – 236 yards

At the New York Seth Raynor design, the 5th hole is a lengthy 236 yards. The shot plays a little uphill and features a fairway front tier. Deep bunkers on both sides penalize wayward shots. The green possesses two parallel ridge lines which create a subtle challenge. This is a common trick that Raynor used on many of his Biarritz greens.

The fifth tee shot at North Shore C.C.

Short of the swale, with the pin on the back plateau

The bunkers on North Shore's 5th guard the rear section

Tamarack Country Club – 12th – 220 yards

The 1929 Charles Banks design in Greenwich, Connecticut is one of the country’s great biarritz holes. Banks put some bold flair into his design at Greenwich. In particular at the 12th, which features a 70 yard long green, a deep swale and side bunkers.

Right of the wide bunkers on the 12th at Charles Banks's Tamarack in Greenwich, CT - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

From the back over the swale to the front pin - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Elkridge Club – 13th – 245 yards

Seth Raynor’s Baltimore design has a brawny version of the Biarritz hole. Playing slightly downhill, the 13th is over 250 yards to a back pin, an ideal position to chase a ball in. The 13th has a unique green complex – in its front section, Raynor used a thumbprint, a trait he usually reserved for his Short holes. This contouring adds interest to the front pins which measure about 205 yards.

Elkridge's 13th from the tee - Photo Credit: Zac Blair

Elkridge's unique thumbprint - Photo Credit: Zac Blair

Forsgate Country Club – 17th – 235 yards

Charles Banks’s masterwork, Forsgate C.C., has a brute of a Biarritz hole. At 235 yards, it’s one of the longest renditions of the hole, but the real challenge comes at the green where Banks employed thumbprint undulations on both the front and back portions. The added undulation on the green make this one of the most difficult Biarritz holes in the world.

Beautiful and brutal, the Biarritz at Forsgate is special

Forsgate's massive scale, a Charles Banks signature - Photo Credit: Sugarloaf Creative Lab

Whippoorwill Club – 8th – 196 yards

Originally designed by Donald Ross, Whippoorwill hired Charlie Banks to give its club a facelift in the ’20s. Banks came in and employed template golf at this under the radar gem. The 8th is their Biarritz hole which plays downhill. This hole is particularly difficult when the pin location is in the back because of the steep back to front undulation that Banks built into the green.

The view from the tee on the 8th hole at Charles Banks's Whippoorwill - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Short and left of the beautifully set green - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Somerset Hills – 13th – par 4 – 409 yards

As a bonus, we include A.W. Tillinghast’s outstanding Somerset Hills, which is infused with template greens. At the 13th, Tillinghast chose to spice a straight away par-4 up by installing a Biarritz green. While Tilly didn’t quite build as deep of a swale as Raynor often did, you have to appreciate the subtlety and naturalness of Tillinghast’s 13th here.

The Biarritz hole at Somerset Hills - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

The green, with its subtle swale - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

Wide right of the bunker guarding Tilly's Biarritz - Photo Credit: Jon Cavalier @linksgems

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