Seth Raynor was born on May 7, 1874 in Manorville, Long Island, N.Y. and attended Princeton University, studying civil engineering before leaving in 1898. He married Mary Hallock in 1903, and for the first years of his working life Raynor engineered drains, roads and waterworks.
1908 – Raynor was hired to perform a boundary survey of the site for National Golf Links on Long Island by Charles Blair Macdonald (considered the Father of American Golf Course Architecture) He was quickly promoted to chief on site engineer for Macdonalds masterpiece, which is universally regarded as one of the top courses in America.
“…golf course design was a natural extension of his landscape design business, and Raynor found the work fascinating – it appealed to his aesthetic creativity and knack for clearly visualizing the intended final product.” George Bahto
1910 – retained by CB Macdonald to help build Piping Rock and Sleepy Hollow
1912 – retained by CB Macdonald to help build St Louis CC and White Sulpher Springs VA (Old White)
1914 – first solo design projects begin – CC of Fairfield in Connecticut and Westhampton CC on Long Island NY.
1914 – 1917 Raynor oversaw the construction of The Lido Club
At Lido beach, located along Long Islands south shore, Raynor launched… “the most daring experiment undertaken in the world of Golf Course Construction.” CBM Once completed Lido was considered an engineering marvel and a true masterpiece design on par with National Golf Links/Pine Valley. The Club slowly declined after the stock market crash in the late 20s and was eventually sold to a real estate development company. It’s steady dismantling culminated in 1942 when the US Navy took over the entire area.
1914 – 1921 Mountain Lake Club Construction in Lake Wales Florida
1916 Bellport CC in New York
1916 – 1921 Shoreacres GC Construction in Chicago Illinois
1919 – 1921 Midland Hills CC and Somerset CC in Minnesota
1920 -1921 Established Business Offices in Manhattan NY.
1921 – 1923 Chicago Golf Club redesign
CB Macdonald was asked to redo CGC yet delegated the entire project to Raynor and told the membership to “leave him alone.” The current course bears little resemblance to CBMs original 1895 design which was the first 18 hole course in America. The green complexes at CGC are considered to be the most authentic and pure representation of a Raynor design in existence. It also remains a living testament to Raynors ability to design a great golf course on a not so great piece of land.
“Seth Raynor would always build
a great course out of a nothing site and build an
unbelievable one on a great site” PETE DYE
1921 – 1924 Minnesota Valley CC, Wanumetonomy CC in Rhode Island, Old White redesign in Virginia, Brookville CC in New York, Gibson Island CC in Maryland (with CBM)
1922 – 1923 Creek Club on Long Island, Thousand Islands Club in upstate NY, Cold Spring Harbor CC in NY
1923 – 1926 Yale Golf Club in Connecticut
The scale and scope of Raynors design at YALE is marveled at to this day. The 700 acre tract was extremely rugged and was the largest forest in Connecticut. Raynors design was called…”the boldest of brush stokes on a broad canvas.” The greens average over 10,000 square feet and often contain multiple classical features merged on a single green.
” It was the late Seth J Raynor who wormed his way through woods and thick underbrush, over land strewn with boulders and covered with ledge rock, and who picked his way through swamp areas, finally to emerge with a picture in his imagination of what today is considered by many to be the outstanding inland golf course in America… 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” Charles Banks, 1929
1923 – 1926 Comargo Club in Ohio, Fox Chapel in Pennsylvania, Mid Ocean in the Bahamas (with CBM, Charles Banks, Ralph Barton)
1924 – 1925 CC of Charleston, Blue Mound G&CC in Wisconsin, Everglades Club in Florida
1925 – 1926 Fishers Island in NY, Yeamans Hall Club in SC, Lookout Mountain in TN, Wailae CC in Hawaii, Southampton GC in NY, Essex County CC in NJ, Augusta CC in Georgia,
Seth Raynor died from pneumonia in 1926 at age 51 while in West Palm Beach Florida to open the Everglades Golf Club.
From humble beginnings as a contract surveyor at NGL… Seth Raynor’s rise into the greats of the golden age of golf architects was remarkable. He designed 75+ courses in his brief yet brilliant career. Raynor was at the height of his popularity with dozens of courses pending at the time of his premature passing.
He literally worked himself to death as he had just completed a multiple month excursion to courses under construction in California, Hawaii, and Tennesee. If not for his early demise, he perhaps would have become the most prolific golf course architect of all time.
Raynor, a non-golfer, reportedly didn’t want his designs to deteriorate to his level of play…
“the golfer should learn to play the ideal links and the ideal links should not come down to the playing ability of the lesser skilled player.”
His strict adherence to his mentors philosophy of replicating the design features of the best holes from across the pond, engineering excellence, and masterful understanding of the key features of links golf.
Produced a legacy of walkable, playable, strategic, challenging, and at times visually stunning courses, which continue to inspire modern course designers and delight golfers of all skill levels to this day.