The Punchbowl: Golf’s Most Beloved Template


The Punchbowl: Golf’s Most Beloved Template

Template holes were popularized by Charles Blair Macdonald, often referred to as the father of American golf course design, in the early 1900s. He identified “ideal” holes at famous courses in Scotland like the Old Course at St. Andrews, North Berwick and Prestwick and started incorporating them into his early designs, starting with the National Golf Links of America in 1911. Seth Raynor, Macdonald’s protege, continued this tradition, and modern architects like Bill Coore and Tom Doak have also incorporated variations of template holes into their designs. There are over a dozen of these “templates”, including the Road Hole, Eden, Redan, Cape, Biarritz and Punchbowl. The Fried Egg, an expert in golf course architecture, does an excellent job of explaining each template hole here.

Recently on our Instagram page (@openlinksgolf), we asked our followers to name their favorite type of template hole. The results were:

  • 1st place: Punchbowl (37% of the vote)

  • 2nd place: Redan and Biarritz (25% of the vote each)

  • 4th place: Cape (13% of the vote)

The Punchbowl is defined as a green that is surrounded by mounding or has higher edges on the sides and in back, leading to a bowl shape that funnels shots to the center. Punchbowl greens were originally built in the UK out of necessity – to better retain moisture on the greens – but modern irrigation allows architects to design them more for fun nowadays. We think that this “fun factor” had a lot to do with the Punchbowl being voted #1 by our followers as their favorite type of template. There is something exciting about watching your ball on the ground move towards the hole and, for the Punchbowls that are blind (e.g. “Alps” + “Punchbowl” template), it’s the anticipation of seeing where your ball ends up. Also, since Punchbowl greens funnel balls toward the pin, they yield more birdies (and possibly eagles) and nobody is going to complain about that!

The Punchbowl green on the 9th hole at Streamsong Black. Photo courtesy of William Watt (Caddie Magazine)

There are many famous Punchbowls around the world. One of the first Punchbowls was at Royal Cinque Ports (aka Deal Golf Club) in southeastern England, and was built in 1895. As mentioned earlier, C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor popularized the template concept and have Punchbowl holes on nearly all of their courses.  The 16th hole at National Golf Links of America on Long Island and the 4th hole at Fishers Island off the coast of southern Connecticut are two of their most famous. Some of the more famous modern versions of the Punchbowl can be found at publicly accessible courses, such as the 17th at Sand Valley in Wisconsin, the 9th at Streamsong Black in central Florida, and the 13th at the South course at Arcadia Bluffs in northern Michigan. We asked our followers what their favorite Punchbowl holes were from around the world and started a list below. If there are any that we missed, please let us know in the comments and we will add it to the list. The Punchbowl template is a reminder that golf should first and foremost be fun!

One of the OG Punchbowl holes: The 3rd at Royal Cinque Ports (Deal), built in the late 1800s. Photo courtesy of Royal Cinque Ports.

The 17th hole at Sand Valley. A modern Punchbowl by architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Photo courtesy of Sand Valley resort.


Punchbowls built in the Classic era (prior to 1960)


Punchbowls built in the Modern era (after 1960)

Stay linked.

Unlock the door to a world of golf courses just waiting to be discovered.