Hole #5 “Short”
147 yards, 138 yards, 115 yards, Par 3
Charles Banks in 1925 “The hole is original with Messrs. Macdonald and Raynor and was first put up on National Golf Links of America as hole number six. This is one of the four short holes of the course, i.e. each short hole is designed for a single shot to the green with a particular club. No. 5 is a mashie hole. The tees are slightly above the green level. The green is completely surrounded by sand, making it an island green elevated 12 feet above the level of sand in the bunker. The contours of the green mark a horseshoe around the pin which is placed in the center of the green.”
This type of hole was a favorite of C.B. Macdonald and was known as a “horseshoe” or “island.” George Bahto notes that Macdonald had been inspired by the fifth hole at Brancaster (now Royal West Norfolk). Bahto also observes that Raynor adapted the design at Yale such that “the plateau height is higher and the rise to the green is more abrupt” than he did elsewhere. As Charles Banks wrote, Raynor intended the mashie (equivalent to a modern 4-iron) to be the appropriate club, and sure enough, just two months after the course opened, its first hole-in-one was recorded here in June with a mashie by George Coe Graves II—not only a Yale College freshman but also a golf novice, as Ben Thomson, Yale’s first coach at the course, later related in the American Golfer in June, 1928:
G. C. Graves, a student, came to me one day and announced that he wanted to take up golf. I fitted him out with a complete set of clubs. Then he suggested that he ought to have some lessons. He never had played at all and he wanted to get a quick start. We set the first lesson for the following Monday. Graves gave me the most serious attention. He was anxious to learn to play well just as quickly as possible. He wasn’t at the club on Tuesday. On Wednesday, however, he decided to try his first game. And what do you think he did? At the fifth hole, a short one of 135 yards, he holed his tee-shot!
As with all Yale’s par 3’s, the fifth hole requires accuracy from the tee. The plateau green is still surrounded by deep bunkers that punish any wayward shots, although narrow wooden stairs up the right side of the green interrupt the bunker line. Installation of under-drainage has raised the bunker sand levels several feet above the original 12’ depths. There are four heights of tee boxes, and nowadays, playing the hole every time with the same club is ill-advised. The line of the hole is perpendicular to the next #6 fairway, and any wind coming up that fairway will swirl across the #5 green but be difficult to detect standing on the tees. The approach to the green has been widened by removing trees to the right and left, which dramatically emphasizes the view of the green’s island elevation. Even so, native grasses obscure the front bunker from most of the tees.
From the #5 “island” green in the foreground, looking down the fairway of #6 as it turns left towards the #6 green in the distance. At the bend, three dawn redwoods can be seen. (Photo credit: Peter Heald)