Yeamans Hall Club
Beyond the unassuming gates on the other side of the tracks lies the peace and serenity of Southern charm. A turn off a busy highway onto a narrow road brings you to an oasis in a desert of industrial activity. Once through the gates the road winds through the trees in the beautiful low country of South Carolina. The road eventually winds to a group of charming structures framed in picturesque beauty by large trees with long branches draped with Spanish moss.
The peacefulness and serenity lift all burdens and puts a smile on your face and in your heart in anticipation of the experience of playing golf at the Yeamans Hall Club. My round had been arranged by Mike. I was introduced to Mike by my friend Martin. Martin had also introduced me to my host for my rounds on Baltusrol Upper and Lower courses. Mike was unable to join me for the round but allowed me to invite a friend, Ron to join me. Ron and I are members of the Black Jacket golf group that I’ve written about in several of my previous blogs. This was Ron’s third round with me during my one year quest to play the Top 100 Courses in America as ranked by Golf Digest for 2017-18. Ron arranged for our round together at Inverness and joined me for my round on the South Course at Oakland Hills.
The charm of the Yeamans Hall Club extends beyond the exterior appearance of the structures. The intimate golf pro shop and the small locker room both add to the charm and to the experience. Ron and I arrived at the same time. We changed our shoes in the locker room and the went to range to warmup before making the short walk from the range to the first tee.
Ron and I decided to play from the yellow tees. The tee markers are sections of rails. The course measures 6300 yards from the yellow rail markers with a rating of 70.7 and a slope of 130.
The course opens with a 397 yard par four with a fairway just across from the small pond in front of the tee boxes. The generous fairway is framed by trees on both sides and has bunkers along the left and right that cut into it. There are also two quarter moon shaped bunkers that face each other on the left side of the fairway at about 60 yards from the front of the green. I hit a short drive to the right edge of the fairway, leaving 210 yards to the middle of the green.
I topped my five wood and hit a low shot to 50 yards short of the pin.
My pitch shot landed on the front of the green. My par putt missed the hole by three feet to the left. I made the three-footer to open the round with a bogey.
The second hole is one of the easiest on the course. It’s a 345 yard par four with a fairway that bends slightly from right to left. There is a wiggly bunker in the left fairway, but it is so close to the tee box that it isn’t in play. Of greater concern are the three successive horizontal bunkers in the right side of the fairway. I hit a five hybrid off the tee to stay short of the bunkers on the right.
This left me with a long 180 yard approach to a left pin tucked behind a bunker off the left front of the green. There is also a long bunker along the right side of the green. I attempted to hit a draw that started along the right side of the green. The ball moved to the right rather than the left and landed to the right of the right greenside bunker.
I pitched over the bunker to 12 feet from the hole.
The putt looked like it would break left to right but at the hole there was an almost imperceptible left break. My par putt looked good all the way but stopped two inches short of the cup.
The par three 127 yard third hole highlights the beautiful of the low country. The green is surrounded by a bunker along the front, one on each side and one that wraps around the back from each side. It is also framed by trees and has the marsh as the backdrop. I was so captivated by this low country beauty that I looked up during my swing to continue the view, and topped the ball, leading to an almost line drive type shot.
The golf gods understood and granted me dispensation in the form of a lucky break. The ball hit hard into the bank of the bunker in front of the green. It then bounced up and onto the green before stopping 30 feet below the hole.
My birdie putt broke four times before stopping six inches short of the cup. I tapped in for my first par of the round.
The 410 yard par four fourth hole is rated as the third most difficult hole on the course. The most daunting feature on the hole is a series of three bunkers at 175 yards to 205 yards from the tee. The bunkers run parallel to the fairway. There is one off the left side of the fairway, one in the middle of the fairway and one on the right side of the fairway.
The bunkers should not be in play from the yellow markers, but they get your attention anyway. The fairway widens just beyond the bunkers before narrowing again at 85 yards from the middle of the green where a bunker cuts in from the right. The fairway is wide enough to contain all but the most errant of drives. I hit my drive to the right fairway clearing the parallel bunkers with ease.
I was left with 176 yards to a back right pin. I again topped my approach shot. The ball ran along the ground for 80 yards, leaving 97 yards to the pin.
I hit a high shot with my lob wedge right at the flag. I think the ball went higher vertically than it traveled horizontally. The ball hit 20 feet below the hole and stopped dead.
The greens at Yeamans were a challenge. They had been renovated just before one of the worst winters ever in coastal Carolina. The winter had taken its toll on the virgin greens and the virgin greens had taken a toll on the putts that Ron and I were hitting. My 20 foot par putt was a straight putt, but it was difficult to hit straight putts on greens that had been aerated in attempt to save them. My par putt hit an aeration hole and kicked right just before the hole, leaving me with a bogey.
Just to be clear, I provide this description to convey the full essence of the experience, not as an excuse. In the golf, just like in life, it is our responsibility to deal with everything that comes our way. It’s a part of the game. My missed putts were the result of me not dealing effectively with the conditions.
The fifth hole is a 391 yard par four with a seemingly generous fairway. I say seemingly because what Seth Raynor gives you in width on this fairway is taken back by a myriad of bunkers in the fairway for most of its length. It takes a 215 yard carry off the tee to clear the first set of these bunkers and a shot of no more than 260 yards off the tee to avoid the next set. Although that 35 yard area is reduced in width with rough cutting in from the left, it is still the safe area for landing a drive. I hit my drive to the middle of that safe area leaving 165 yards to a back right pin.
Mr. Raynor wasn’t done challenging Ron and me on this hole. The green on this hole has a large bunker protecting it on the front and a spine running down the middle of almost all its 38 yard depth. I hit a six iron to 20 feet right of and below the hole.
My birdie putt made it over all the aeration holes and hit inside back right corner of the cup and spun out. I made just my second par of the round.
The sixth hole is considered a short par three when compared to the two on the back nine. It measures 175 yards and has a trapezoid like green that slopes severely from right to left. The green is set in a horseshoe shaped frame of trees. The fairway just in front of the green is preceded by two long bunkers that should be easily carried in route to the green. Of more concern are the three bunkers to the right of the green and the long one along the left side of the green. The three on the right could grab your ball if you hit it to far right to take advantage of the left to right slope on the green. The one on the left gets to collect your ball if you hit it along the left portion of the green.
I faded a five iron to the back right corner of the green. I thought the ball would roll straight left toward the hole. Instead it rolled toward the front of the green and didn’t stop until it was 70 feet from the hole.
I played way too much break on my birdie putt. The ball stopped five feet from the cup on the high side. I then missed the five-footed and made a three-putt bogey on the hole. This time it wasn’t even the texture of the green that I didn’t effectively with effectively, it was the poor quality of the read I made.
I picked the worse hole on the course to hit my first and only errant drive on the front nine. The 409 yard par four seventh hole is rated as the most difficult hole on the course. It has a short carry over a pond in front of the tee boxes and a fairway that is less generous than most of the ones that precede it. The dense trees along the left and right sides of the fairway are tight along its edges. There is a bunker in the middle of the fairway on the right that is close enough to not be in play. There is another one that cuts into the fairway from the left. That one is right at the start of the landing zone. None of this made a difference for me since I sliced my drive into the right rough.
The 250 yards remaining was prime real estate for a driver out of the rough shot. Unfortunately, I topped the ball. While it had the expected left the right shape and stopped in the middle of the fairway, it traveled just 120 yards.
The pin was position on the back middle portion of a green that is shaped like the right top quarter of a circle. There is a bunker along the right side of the green and one in the inner quarter circle of the green. I hit my third shot to the fat part of the green on the right. The ball rolled back down the slope to the front of the green leaving another very long putt. When I say long, I mean 120 feet long. Which is about as long of a putt as you can have on this green.
I hit the ball hard and sent it rolling 110 feet. I needed 120 so I was left with a 10 feet putt for bogey. I then missed the 10 foot putt resulting in another three-putt. This time it was a three putt for a double bogey rather than a bogey. It was my first double bogey of the round.
The eighth hole is another long par four made even longer since it was playing into the wind. It is also another hole that terminates at the marsh. On its journey to the marsh it has a narrow fairway with a bunker in the middle as it starts, one that cuts into the left side just past that one and two much farther up that are off the right side of the fairway. The trees along both sides of the fairway are close enough to get your attention. I made a smooth swing and hit a nice 235 yard drive into the wind that landed almost in the dead center of the fairway.
I was left with a beautiful view and 165 yards to a front pin on a green with bunkers off the left and right front. I make good contact with the ball but hit it on a line too far to the right. The ball landed pin high in the right greenside bunker.
I tried to get too cute on my bunker shot and hit it about a foot too short. The ball hit the lip of the bunker and rolled back in. I hit my second bunker shot to front of the green. The ball rolled just off the green.
I two putted from there for my second double bogey in a row, proving that it is not how you drive, but how you arrive.
The front nine ends with a 508 yard par five and what is probably the narrowest fairway on the course. Like several of the other holes on the front nine, there is a short carry over a pond in front of the green and a fairway bunker on the right that is more problematic for those hitting from the longer tees than it is for those hitting from the yellow tees. The bunkers on the left at 220 yards and 300 yards are more of an issue for yellow tee hitters.
Trees on the right come into play on the second shot and trees on the left come into play on the third shot. I hit another good drive to the middle of the fairway, leaving 260 yards to the pin.
Even though there was a helping wind, I chose to lay up on my second shot and pulled the ball to the left rough, 110 yards from a middle left pin on a rectangular green with bunkers off the left, right and back.
I hit a dart with my sand wedge. The ball landed six feet below the hole.
I didn’t hit a dart with my putter. Like I’d done with several birdie putts at TPC Sawgrass, I turned a makeable birdie into a tap-in par to finish the front nine with a 43.
The back nine opens with a short par four that I turned into a long par six. It has a short carry over rough to the beginning of the fairway. There are trees along the left and the right. There are two fairway bunkers on the right. I hit one of those short low hook drives that has become a specialty of mine. Tiger has his stinger. I have my short low hook. His is intentional. Mine is not. My ball ended up in the trees on the left. I made a double bogey on the hole after hitting my punch shot fat and leaving the ball in the rough, then punching out to the fairway, hitting the green, and two putting.
The eleventh hole was better but not by much. The 392 yards par four has one of the narrower fairways on the course. It is lined tightly with trees. There are two bunkers that cut into the fairway at its beginning just beyond the rough. The bunkers are within 125 yards of the yellow tees and not much farther from the back tees so they more like Seth Raynor messing with your head than your ball flight. There are additional bunkers that cut into the fairway on the left and right within 150 yards of the green.
To prove to the course that I was not playing favorites with either the left side or the right side of the fairway, I sliced my drive to the trees on the right.
I saw an opening in the trees that I could get a low shot through. I hit my driver out of the rough. It stayed low and made it under the trees to the rough just off the right side of the fairway, leaving just 75 yards to middle left pin on a large Seth Raynor green that slopes back to front. I hit my third shot right at the flag, but not far enough. The ball landed on the front of the green and rolled back off.
I putted to two feet and made the putt for a bogey.
I finally hit a good drive with my 230 yard three wood shot down the left side of the fairway to just short of the bunker that cuts into the fairway from the left at 240 yards from the tee and 110 yards from the green. The hole measures 340 yards from the yellow tees. There are lots of trees off the left side of the fairway and a few large ones spaced out off the right side of the fairway.
The green is shaped like a driver head cover that is bent to the left. There is a small oval bunker off the right front of the green followed by a long narrow bunker along the side. There is an oval bunker off the left side of the green. I hit my approach shot to the right side of the green. The ball rolled down the slope and off the front.
I putted back on to the green to 12 feet left the hole. I missed the par putt and made a bogey on the hole.
The par three thirteenth hole measures 150 yards but was playing more like 160 into the wind. It also plays slightly uphill to a bicycle seat shaped green with bunkers along the left and right and one off the back. I hit a seven iron to the right of the right green side bunker.
I pitched over the bunker and onto the green. I two putted for another bogey.
The fourteenth hole is a 392 yard par four. The is a bunker right before the beginning of the fairway and one that cuts into the fairway on the left at 250 yards from the yellow tees. The trees on the left or tighter and more plentiful than those on the right. I hit my drive to the right fairway.
I hit my approach shot right at the flag on the back left of an egg shaped green with long bunkers running along each side. My ball faded and landed to the right of the right bunker.
My pitch hit on the green and rolled off the other side. I chipped on and then two putted for a double bogey.
The 425 yard fifteenth hole is the longest par four on the course and the second most difficult hole on the course. The wide fairway sweeps from right to left as it flows between the trees. There are two bunkers that cut into the fairway on the right at a 45 degree angle, but they are close enough to the tee box to not be in play.
The fairway is interrupted at 70 yards from the green by two bunkers surrounded by rough. It continues at 55 yards out from one of those large rectangular Seth Raynor greens with a wide open front and bunkers along each side. I started my drive left along the tree line trying to hit a fade, but the ball moved farther left and into the trees.
I hit one of my driver of out the rough shots that split the trees and stayed low enough to get under their branches. The ball faded perfectly and rolled to just short of the green.
I putted from off the green to 18 feet below the flag and finally made a putt to record my first par on the back nine.
The sixteen hole is the longest and the most difficult of the par threes at Yeamans Hall. It measures 194 yards from the yellow tees. The green is another large classic Raynor green, this time with a square front but a rounded back. There is a ridge running down the center of the green. The pin was positioned on the back of the green just right of the ridge. I hit my tee shot to the left edge of the green.
I hit my birdie putt over the ridge. The ball broke away from the flag and then came back to three feet short. I made the short but difficult downhill inside right putt for another par.
The 387 yards par four seventeenth hole is another one of those wide fairways with several bunkers in the middle of it and trees that crowd both sides. I hit my drive to the right side of the fairway. The ball rolled just off the fairway into the edge of the rough.
I hit behind the ball on my approach shot. The ball stopped short of the green.
I then left my chip short of the green. My par putt stopped three feet from the cup. I made the three footer for a bogey.
Sadly, the fun had to come to an end. The finishing hole is a 504 yard par five. The hole contains every feature that Seth Raynor is known for. There is a wide fairway lined with trees on both sides, bunkers that cut into the fairway from both sides and bunkers that are contained within the fairway. The green has the standard open front with bunkers on both sides.
I hit my drive to the right side of the fairway just to the left of the first bunkers that cuts into the fairway on the right.
With 295 yards remaining to the green, I chose to lay up short of the bunker in the middle of the fairway at 130 yards from the middle of the green. I push the ball to the right. It landed in the right rough leaving a tree between it and the green.
I hit over the tree but left the ball short of the green and to the right.
I tried to get too cute with my fourth shot. I hit a flop shot off a tight lie and didn’t carry it far enough to reach the green. The ball landed in the bunker. A regular pitch shot over the bunker would have been sufficient. I hit from the bunker onto the green and two putted to end my round with a double bogey and a 45 on the back nine for a total score of 88.
Following our round, Ron and I had the opportunity to chat with Claude the head golf pro at Yeamans Hall. During the discussion Claude and I discovered that we were both from Texas and likely played football against each other in high school. We reminisced about the great Texas athletes that we both played against and how they went on to great college and professional careers.
The links in golf are numerous and I continue to enjoy connecting the dots along the way to discover them. I once heard someone quoted as saying that golf makes the world smaller. My experiences during my quest have reinforced that time and time again.