The original short hole was the 5th at Brancaster, now the 4th hole at Royal West Norfolk Golf Club designed by Horace Hutchinson & Holcombe Ingleby (pictured below). C.B. Macdonald believed that every golf course should have one of these holes to test a player's short iron and putting skills. The short hole is often times the most picturesque hole on the golf course. As you will see below, Macdonald and Seth Raynor often used dramatic backdrops or elevation changes to enhance their short holes. I find that these holes are the easiest of the template holes to identify because of their short distance and strong defining characteristics.
As the name suggests, the short hole’s defining characteristic is its length which typically ranges from 130-160 yards. These holes were designed to test a player’s skill with their shorter clubs and putter. Short holes feature a large elevated green that typically has the most complex and severe undulations on the course. Macdonald and Raynor often times protected their short holes with deep bunkers in front and on both sides of the elevated green making for difficult up and downs for any shot that misses the green. Unfortunately, with the advent of technology and uneducated greens committees, many holes designed as short holes have been lengthened over the years in an effort to beef up their courses scorecard and yardage.
Success on a short hole is all about accuracy, distance control, and a deft putting touch. Short holes offer players an excellent opportunity to make a birdie, but a shot hit to the wrong section of the green or into a bunker will make for an extremely difficult par save. It is vital for a player to place their ball in the right position to leave themselves an uphill putts that can be hit more aggressively and mitigate the break.
A quick story about a short hole- the last time that I played Shoreacres (featured below), I hit my shot on the short hole 12th to about 10 feet above and left of the pin, what I thought was a good shot and look at birdie. When I got to the green, I realized I would be lucky to make par. My ball was resting just above a ridgeline, leaving a hard breaking slick putt downhill. I hit what I thought was a terrific putt, only to have it roll 15 feet past the pin which led to a 3-putt bogey and a little frustration as I walked to the next tee.
Chicago Golf Club - 10th - 139 yards
One of the original holes at Chicago Golf is the short par 3 10th. Measuring a mere 139 yards, the 10th might look like an easy par at first glance but a severely undulated green challenges players of all skill levels. The green contains a thumbprint on the left side which makes any putt that is not directly below it challenging. The right side of the green has another thumbprint as well as a severe false front. A properly placed approach shot will yield a good birdie look at the 10th but average shots face difficult two putts.
Here’s a shot that gives you a look at the severe undulation on the 10th green.
The Greenbrier - Old White Course - 18th - 162 yards
The finisher at Greenbrier's Old White course is the short. In Keith Foster's latest renovation, they were able to bring back the thumbprint. This makes the green far more interesting as it wrecks havoc on nearly every pin position.
National Golf Links of America - 6th - 141 yards
The short hole at C.B. Macdonald's masterpiece is a dandy. The green is one of the course's largest and most undulating. It features an enormous elephant buried in the center. The center acts like a horseshoe and makes the right and back portions of the green much smaller than they appear. This mound sends balls in all different directions and is pinnable.
St. Louis C.C. - 7th - 155 yards
Macdonald and Raynor’s gem, St. Louis Country Club’s 7th hole, aptly named “Shortie,” is one of the strongest short holes in golf. While the target is quite large, some 7800 square feet, the green is extremely challenging with its thumbprint design and its deep dropoffs on the front and right side of the putting surface.
As you can see, the penalty for missing in the bunkers at the 7th is quite severe.
Here is a shot of Shortie’s unique thumbprint green a great added element to the design of this short hole.
Shoreacres - 12th - 127 yards
Architect Seth Raynor was able to use Shoreacres natural terrain masterfully for the absolutely beautiful short hole 12th. While only 127 yards, the 12th poses golfers with a challenging shot because of the elevation change and a green with numerous shelves and severe slopes.
This is a shot from the 15th tee looking down at the 12th green.
Here’s a look at the severe elevation change from behind the 12th green.
Sleepy Hollow C.C. - 16th - 155 yards
One of the most picturesque short holes lies at Sleepy Hollow C.C. in Scarborough, NY. Designed by C.B. Macdonald & Seth Raynor, the 16th is framed by a great bunker that wraps around nearly the entire green, capturing any wayward shot. The bunkering and the elevated green make golfers feel as if their target is floating below the scenic backdrop of the Hudson River. In the fall of 2017, Gil Hanse finished the restoration of the famed thumbprint.
Fox Chapel Golf Club - 11th - 156 yards
Another classic short hole, this one from Seth Raynor’s Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh, PA. This is hole’s green is slightly smaller, making it a very challenging and intimidating shot for any player. Again we see the signature deep bunkering that guards Fox Chapel’s 11th.
Fishers Island Club - 16th - 146 yards
Another Raynor design, this short hole at the Fishers Island Club features another beautiful backdrop, the Long Island Sound.
The green is surrounded by trouble with bunkers catching small misses and marsh penalizing the wide misses. As is typically the case, Raynor saved his wildest green for the short, making par a formidable test on the seemingly easy par 3.
The 16th green’s exterior slopes funnel shots on the edges into the bunkers while the center slopes to the right, with a thumbprint on the back half which makes any putt not directly below the flag extremely fast. The unique aspect of Fishers’ short is the right side, which is obstructed from the tee but allows for a pin that seemingly floats into the marsh. Getting to that pin is a tall task and the prudent play is to play just slightly left of it, allowing the slope to funnel the ball to the corner.
The 16th is an opportunity for a player to make a birdie on the closing stretch, but the prevailing wind can make the 16th not so short. When I played the hole, I was forced to hit a punch 6 iron.
The Course at Yale - 5th - 147 yards
A rare Macdonald and Raynor course that is open for public play, The Course at Yale has some of the boldest examples of the template holes. Here is the short hole at Yale which possesses the key features, an elevated and undulated green protected by deep bunkering.
Here's a cool shot of the Yale's 5th from 1925, when the course opened.
Camargo Club - 11th - 140 yards
Camargo is known for its par 3’s and the short 11th is a beauty. Raynor was able to push this massive green up creating deep and large bunkers surrounding the green. While the green is a big target, a tucked flag can bring the deep bunkers and bogey into play quite easily.
Blue Mound Golf and Country Club - 7th - 160 yards
The 7th at Blue Mound is a downhill shot that has a beautiful cathedral in the background. I played this hole with a Web.com Tour player and a +3, and in true short hole fashion, we all hit the green and only one of us walked off with a par as two of us 3-putted due to average approach shots.
The Creek Club - 17th - 154 yards
The Creek Club’s short hole holds the unique distinction of being the only Raynor and Macdonald template that borders a cemetery! Beyond the cemetery adding some intimidation and negative vibes, the green is heavily sloped with a back tier and bunkers on each side that wrap around the front and back.
Yeamans Hall - 3rd - 147 yards
At South Carolina’s exclusive Seth Raynor retreat, Yeamans Hall features a great short hole. With only low country marsh as a backdrop, a player's depth perception is thrown for a loop making trusting distance very difficult. The elevated green is protected by a thumbprint green complex and is guarded by deep bunkers behind right and in front.
Mountain Lake Country Club - 9th - 146 yards
The 9th was actually added by Charles Banks, Raynor’s protege in the late 20’s, during a renovation. Banks was a master of the thumbprint designed green, using it in many of his short holes, one of which is at Mountain Lake. The thumbprint plays a role on nearly every pin. Shots that are slightly off face a difficult putt due to it's undulations. More on Mountain Lake's 9th.
Morris County Golf Club - 3rd - 137 yards
A great little one-shotter at Seth Raynor’s New Jersey gem, Morris County. The third plays only 137 yards and to a severely sloped green, making spin control a must in order to give yourself a birdie chance.
Lookout Mountain Golf Club - 6th - 126 yards
At the Silva restored Raynor, the membership had to be convinced to bring the short hole 6th back to its original greatness during Silva’s work at the Chattanooga gem. In the dark ages of golf architecture this hole’s green was bulldozed by membership that thought it was too penal. Silva was able to restore the green to its original height using old aerials of the course, bringing back a great and unique short hole.
North Shore Country Club - 17th - 125 yards
Raynor afforded players the opportunity to make a birdie during North Shore's closing stretch. The 17th's green is set at a 45 degree angle and has two distinct ledges. The back right pin position is elevated by a large slope and requires a precise shot and spin control to keep the ball close.
Forsgate Country Club - 12th - 159 yards
One of the most distinct short holes is the 12th at Forsgate which features a pronounced thumbprint green complex. As the photo shows, Forsgate has one of the most unique and memorable greens in all of golf on its short hole 12th.