Architect Profiles, Architects
Architect Profile: Seth Raynor
Seth Jagger Raynor was born in 1874 in New York and attended Princeton University. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Raynor did not have a background in golf and rarely played the game during any point in his life. He pursued a career in engineering upon graduation, helping design and build roads and waterworks, before relocating to Southampton on Long Island to operate his own surveying and landscape business.
Raynor’s first job in golf course design and construction came in 1908 surveying a site near his home on Long Island. This project would eventually become the National Golf Links of America, Charles Blair Macdonald’s masterpiece. The “Father of American Golf” saw potential in Raynor and hired him to oversee construction of subsequent projects, including Piping Rock, Sleepy Hollow, and the original Lido. Macdonald made Raynor a design partner in 1915.
Raynor’s courses, similar to his mentor Macdonald, feature adaptations of famous holes in Great Britain and Europe. He would fit these template holes on each of the sites that he worked on. Famous template holes include the Redan, Biarritz, Eden, and Road holes. Between 1921 and 1926, Raynor had arguably one of the best stretches ever in course design, including Shoreacres, Chicago Golf Club (redesign), Yeamans Hall, Fishers Island, Camargo Club, Yale University, and Creek Club.
Raynor died from pneumonia in 1926. A few of his courses were finished by his associate Charles Banks, including Lookout Mountain and Essex County. It’s very unfortunate that Raynor passed at the peak of his career. One can only imagine how many more great courses he would have designed! It’s equally impressive to think about what he was able to accomplish during his short golf career between 1914 and 1926.
Seth Raynor’s portfolio is all about quality over quantity. His batting average (ranked courses*/total courses designed) is 0.444, the highest of any American golf course architect in the classic era** with a minimum of 20 courses designed.
Open Links Courses: 45
Top Ranked Courses (World)*: 5 (Chicago Golf Club, Camargo Club, Fishers Island, Shoreacres, Yeamans Hall)
Top Ranked Courses (U.S.)*: 20
Public Courses < $100: 4
Total Majors Hosted***: 5
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Public < $100
In the heat map above, the size of the circle is determined by the number of Seth Raynor courses in a particular state and the color of the circle is determined by the accessibility of those courses. The greener the circle, the more public courses there are in that particular state. New York (13) offers the most Raynor courses, followed by New Jersey (6), and Connecticut (4).
One of the drawbacks of Raynor’s portfolio is that 87% of his courses are private. To see public Raynor courses, the highest concentrations are in New Jersey and Connecticut, each with two courses. The Newark metro offers two public Raynor courses: Francis A. Byrne and Rock Spring.
If you have access to private golf, the most concentrated regions of Raynor courses are in the tri-state area. One could potentially see 21 Raynor courses, or nearly half of his portfolio, in northern New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester County and southern Connecticut.
Evangelist of Golf: The Story of Charles Blair Macdonald by George Bahto
Scotland’s Gift: Golf by Charles Blair Macdonald
The Seth Raynor Society website – articles
Open Links Website
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