Who designed the Yale course?
C. B. Macdonald or Seth Raynor? Over the years, the Yale community and the American golfing world have debated who should receive credit for the design of the Yale Golf Course, but the documents of those times and the weight of subsequent opinion are quite clear. Recommended by Macdonald, Seth Raynor was the architect and builder, brilliantly shaping every hole with the principles he had learned from his mentor and sponsor. On this the Yale Golf Committee was clear in its final report to the University on February 22, 1926,:
The Golf committee was fortunate and privileged in having the advice and counsel of Mr. Charles Blair MacDonald [sic] in the preparation of its plans and in the design and laying out of the course. The late Mr. Seth J. Raynor was engaged as architect and builder.
The committee put the entire 700 acres of the Memorial at the disposal of the architect and asked him to lay out 2 outstanding championship golf courses.
Writing in the Yale Alumni Weekly on April 19, 1929, Raynor’s subordinate and successor, Charles Banks (whose byline identified him as “’06, Golf Architect”), describes Raynor’s approach.
Raynor wormed his way through woods and thick underbrush over land strewn with boulders and covered with ledge rock. He picked his way through swamp areas, finally to emerge with a picture in his imagination of what is today considered by many to be the outstanding inland golf course in America. Mr. Macdonald was familiar with the plans from the outset, but Mr. Raynor was the real genius of this masterpiece, who made the layout, designed the greens, and gave the work of construction his supervision from start to finish.
Yet it is equally clear that Yale was very special to Macdonald and that whatever designs Raynor (and Banks and Barton) so brilliantly executed in transforming this rugged nature expressed the philosophy that Macdonald had firmly held and clearly articulated for a quarter of a century. He was indeed “the evangelist of golf” for the New World, as George Bahto demonstrates, and Raynor was his acolyte. When Macdonald wrote his autobiographical Scotland’s Gift-Golf in 1928, he lavished his attention and memories on only four courses: National, Lido, Mid-Ocean, and Yale. It was a natural progression. He had designed the first two himself, as capstones of his design beliefs. He had laid out Mid-Ocean jointly with Raynor and had enthusiastically left Raynor with full control over the Yale project. He was proud of his protégé’s result, boasting in his autobiography that “To-day Yale has a classical course, which is unexcelled in comparison with any inland course in this country or Europe.” He would be pleased to know that, eighty years later, the course remains so highly regarded. So too is Macdonald. In 2007, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.