Macdonald/Raynor Historian and Expert George Bahto on the BIARRITZ Template Hole:
The ‘Biarritz’ hole is the longest of the Template par-3s. Its background stems from the ‘Chasm’ hole (#3) at the original Willie Dunn course at Biarritz – famous at the time as a luxurious international spa. Located along the northern coast of France, the ‘Chasm’ hole was played from an 80-foot high cliff over the Bay of Biscay to a 50-foot cliff beyond. The water carry was nearly 170 yards.
Ironically, a Biarritz was never built at National Golf Links – probably the only 18-hole course Macdonald and Raynor designed without one. Apparently Macdonald didn’t think he had the proper topography for the hole at the site. After National, he and Raynor built the first version at Piping Rock’s the 9th hole. The rest is history.
In total, the green and the approach area (often planted and mowed as putting surface) is between 225 and 245 feet long and separated by a deep swale. Architects of the day often referred to it as ‘Macdonald’s Folly’ for the balls could not be carried into the green and a bounding shot was required that would run through the approach, disappear into the swale and hopefully reappear on the green.
One of the most unique versions was the 8th at the great Lido course which was built parallel to the lapping waves of the Atlantic Ocean and usually played with a strong crosswind. It eventually washed away and shortened to about 180 yards, was still too difficult and finally ended up even shorter.”
In an interview George Bahto was asked…
Please discuss your favorite BIARRITZ hole and the different ways to attack the varied hole locations.
“Creek Club has a wonderful version that plays to an island and Fishers Island’s 5th is a classic. Too many great ones to detail but Shoreacres and Chicago Golf Club should be seen if possible.
Oh boy, how do you attack a Biarritz? Do you? – might be a better question. I think of it more as a defensive situation. First we should remember that in nearly every case there was only a single tee built on these holes. Clubs were the ones that built the multiple forward tees and the rear tee is the ORIGINAL tee in nearly every case.
Old scorecards often listed these holes at 215-yards or even less but that would be from the middle of the back tees, so add a few more yards to the hole. I would think 225-yards would have been the norm on the earlier courses (excluding resort-type layouts) and 235-yards and up, certainly the length of the later courses.
Attack? – I think not, in those early days. In today’s world I think it still is a defensive play – sort of ‘let’s stay out of trouble and get to the next tee’ if you are considering scorecard numbers. If you are thinking how fun a hole this is to play, well it doesn’t matter, just be heroic and go at the pin.
I would love to ‘be allowed’ to build a Biarritz at 265-275 yards today and keep the ground extra firm to simulate the hole as it was built in the 19-teen’s and 19-twenty’s – how it was meant to be. Imagine the difficulty of these beasts when first built – in sheer length and positioning alone, then add to the mix these great undulations – a mighty hole.