CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Every contestant at this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship has been required
to battle hole No. 11, the demanding 171-yard, “Reverse Redan,” which has
tantalized all too many golfers since its creation in 1925 by course architect
Over the years, No. 11
has proven a hotbed of misfortune and triumph. Club historian Dr. John
Boatwright shares the story of Sam Snead finishing third at the 1937 Tournament
of the Gardens Open after having led the field the first day.
“But for a 13 he
carded on the 11th,” Boatwright says, “Snead probably would have won that
In 1960, at the 15th Azalea
Invitational Golf Tournament, a prestigious men’s amateur event, Tim Veach
carded a 10 on the diabolical hole, and did it by holing a shot from the front
bunker. According to Charleston’s Post and Courier, the high mark on the
par 3 that day was a 15.
Ben Hogan once quipped
that there were 17 great holes at Charleston. Not lost in his praise was the
implication that No. 11 was not one of them. Purportedly, Snead once mentioned
in jest that two sticks of dynamite would most improve the hole.
Some golfers believe
the best way to play the 11th is to lay up short of the green. The late Henry
Picard, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and an early club professional
at Charleston, thought tournament contenders should play for a chip and a
possible two-putt bogey, only going for the elevated putting surface if they
were playing catch-up.
As Charles Blair
Macdonald’s construction engineer, Raynor practiced the art of imitation by
taking distinctive design features from famous holes of the British Isles and
reproducing them on American soil. Raynor continued to employ this tactic on a
variety of his solo designs.
One of Macdonald and
Raynor’s most famous hole replications was the Redan, which is fittingly
defined as “a fortification or a well-guarded fortress.” Spawning from the
par-3 15th hole at North Berwick Golf Club in Scotland, most Redans are
characterized by the following design principles:
• An elongated putting surface oriented at a
45-degree angle from the tee and positioned on a natural tableland, so it
cannot be fully seen from the tee;
• A putting surface that is boldly pitched
from front right to back left, away from the tee;
• Deep bunkers guarding the front and rear of
• A high shoulder along the outer edge of the
green that serves to deflect balls toward the center.
The mirror image of a
Redan is suitably called a Reverse Redan, which contains all the design
components of a Redan except that the green cants and tilts in the opposite
direction – from front left to back right. Some famous Reverse Redan
adaptations include No. 8 at The Creek (Locust Valley, N.Y.), No. 6 at Fox
Chapel (Pittsburgh, Pa.), and No. 7 at Sleepy Hollow (Scarborough, N.Y.). But
none has proven more tactical than Hole 11 at Charleston.
Here, the tee box is
positioned on top of an old Confederate battery means that was used during the
Civil War to forewarn of approaching enemies.
“Hole 11 always
demands a thorough examination of the best way to play the hole,” says
Boatwright. “The options change with every shift of the wind from Wappoo
Waterway. The Azalea champions are always the golfers who play hole 11 the
The most heroic
playing option is to take dead aim at the green and challenge both the front
bunker (which is 11 feet deep) and the rear bunker (which is 7 feet deep).
Golfers historically have tallied enormous scores on the hole by proceeding to either
leave their next shot(s) in the bunker or blasting it back and forth between bunkers.
Golfers may instead choose
to utilize the high shoulder contour on the left portion of the green to funnel
shots diagonally toward the hole location. There’s also a ground-game option
that encompasses the left portion of the putting surface.
Tommy Ford, a former
club president, occasionally bunts a driver or hoods a 3-iron to utilize the
ground contours, but cautions that these options are not devoid of peril.
“Overcooked shots may
skirt through the embankment into the rear bunker, while a mis-hit may circle
back down the false front some 35 yards into the fairway,” says Ford.
In golf historian
George Bahto’s book, “The Evangelist of Golf,”
Macdonald describes his first Redan at the National Golf Links of America (Southampton,
N.Y.) and its intended challenges: “Some
people think it [the Redan] is too difficult altogether... There is no
compromise about it. Whichever of the various methods of attack is chosen, the
stroke must be bold, cleanly hit and deadly accurate.”
Raynor’s adaptation at
the Country Club of Charleston certainly fits this billing.
In 2006, restoration
specialist Brian Silva returned Charleston’s 11th hole to its original identity,
using vintage photos to adjust the hole in three appreciable areas:
• The putting surface
was lowered 2 feet to its original elevation, following decades of topdressing
build-up and a couple of modern renovations.
• Green expansion
reclaimed 10 feet of putting surface between the bunkers that was lost over the
years, partly through mowing patterns.
• The shoulder
escarpment was recaptured in size, scale and orientation to help deflect shots
diagonally to the right.
“The restored version
has taken the 9s and 10s out of the equation,” says Ford. “The hole is still
plenty tough, but we’ve eliminated the large numbers which historically sent
golfers to their cars.”
Ford also acknowledges
that today’s golfers are approaching the green with much more loft, and
60-degree lob wedges aid in recovery shots from the bunkers.
The 11th hole will
undoubtedly play a significant role in determining the winner of the U.S. Women’s
Amateur. “It still serves as one of the most pivotal holes on the course,” says
Ford. “It can make or break your round.”
To review additional material
on the Country Club of Charleston, including aerial images, course photos and
architectural drawings, please register with the
USGA Architecture Archive website. Once you have been assigned a user
name and password via e-mail, you may log in and navigate to the South Carolina
Dunlop White III is a member of the USGA Museum
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