The Templates: Biarritz

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



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.


Biarritz holes are long par-3s, typically 210-240 yards, designed to test a player’s ability to hit accurate long shots. Its defining characteristic is the massive green that stretches up to 80 yards. The large green is bisected by a deep swale in the middle —  usually 3-5 feet deep — and is protected by narrow bunkers on both sides of the green. As you will see below, some Biarritz holes feature front section of fairway rather than green, as the best pin positions are on the back portion behind 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 in the middle.


The Biarritz is a fantastic design as it tests the skill and accuracy of a player’s longer clubs. Originally the hole required a driver, but with technology advancements it became a great long-iron test. The design 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 as a low running shot and 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. The final hole of the front nine at Piping Rock is a Biarritz design that features a front section 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 Midwest masterpiece was added by Seth Raynor during his renovation in 1925. The scale of the Biarritz 3rd is jaw-dropping. The hole features a fairway run-up where Raynor added “kickers” which feed balls in all directions. The green is filled with subtle sections that force tricky two-putts for average approach shots. Deep bunkers guard all sides of the green and make it difficult to save par if your tee shot finds one. It’s a very demanding hole that adds to the difficult opening stretch at Chicago Golf Club.

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

The massive green and approach featuring the "kickers", well guarded by deep bunkers

The view from behind the 3rd

Camargo Club – 8th – 227 yards

The Biarritz 8th regularly clocks in as one of the four most difficult holes on the course during Camargo’s annual U.S. Amateur qualifier. The 8th’s front plateau features a fairway slope which makes the front half unpinnable. The green 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 — and its signature 9th hole Biarritz— is often considered Seth Raynor’s crowning achievement. The first challenge of the 9th is the 200+ yard forced carry over water, and the real fun begins once the ball reaches the green. The hole features one of the deepest swales of any Biarritz and 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, 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 hole, but it is 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, whose level depends on the tide. Exposed to the Long Island Sound, the 11th at The Creek is as tough of a shot as you will find in golf, especially 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 conquer the Biarritz 17th down the stretch. The predominant pin on the 17th is on the back tier which plays between 220-230 yards. This version of the Biarritz 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. It 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 right hazard 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. 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 5th at Fishers finishes off one of the most iconic three-hole stretches in the world.

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 The 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 eastern 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 Yeamans Hall, Seth Raynor’s Biarritz 16th makes closing out a good round a difficult task. The front half this 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

This 1925 Seth Raynor design flies under the radar due to its high profile neighbors, National Golf Links of America and Shinnecock Hills. The 14th measures about 210 yards to back pins and about 170 yards to the front.

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 the difficult Biarritz 3rd. The front half plays as fairway, making front pins just over the swale incredibly difficult.  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 with a front segment that kicks balls onto the back tier. It plays shorter because of its downhill nature, but when firm and fast the play from the tee is to land the ball short of the green. 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 with a fairway front tier and deep bunkers on both sides that 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 features one of the country’s great biarritz holes. Banks put some bold flair into his design at Greenwich, but no hole stands out more than 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

This Baltimore Raynor 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