The Old Course at St Andrews- hole 17 "The Road Hole"                               The Old Course at St Andrews- hole 17 "The Road Hole"


Golf's Template Holes:


1. The Alps

2. Thumbprint

3. The Redan

4. The Cape Hole

5. Leven

6. Punchbowl



Golf's Template Courses:


1. The Lido




The game of golf had it’s origins in Scotland

It is now a global game with playing fields in countries as diverse as Iceland and Africa boasting wonderful courses in amazing settings

Golf courses began in sandy terrain by the sea, but now traverse lush tropical landscapes, or rugged clifftops by the sea. 

We have links courses, parkland courses, heathland courses and more..

Modern day golf architects are forging a new golden era of design with the work of Tom Doak, Coore & Crenshaw, Gil Hanse, MacKenzie & Ebert and others producing new courses to rival those of the old masters- Dr Alister MacKenzie, Harry Colt, A.W. Tillinghast…

However one of the most important eras of golf design began in America in the early 1900’s with Charles Blair MacDonald

MacDonald was educated at St Andrews in Scotland where he was tutored in golf by none other than Old Tom Morris, and when he returned home to the states he had the golf bug.

He won the first U.S. Amateur championship and became very interested in building golf courses.

Early courses in the USA were rudimentary in design so C.B. travelled back to the UK to study the great old links courses.

His first effort at course design was quite remarkable- Chicago Golf Club was the first 18 hole course in the United States and still rates as one of the top 100 courses in the world. 

The course was updated in 1923 at MacDonald’s suggestion by Seth Raynor who had worked for years assisting C.B build iconic ’template’ courses.

But the essence of the original design at Chicago remains..


  Chicago GC        Chicago GC

MacDonald & Raynor went on to build some of the most important courses in American golf- National Golf links, Shinnecock Hills, Mid Ocean Club, Yale, Fishers Island, Maidstone, Monterey Peninsula CC, Yeamans Hall & many more..

All of these courses feature template holes based on what MacDonald thought were the outstanding holes he had encountered in the U.K.

He sought to bring the essence of those holes to America.

He did not seek to make copies of the originals, but rather take the strategic intent of the hole and the key physical attributes and bring them to a new canvass.

Holes like the Road Hole at St Andrews were famous for the tee shot over the old railway building where a player successfully taking the aggressive line was rewarded with an easier approach to a green protected  by a deep pot bunker on one side and a road on the other.

MacDonald template Road holes did not need to carry a railway shed, but were apply to apply the same strategy with other hazards challenging golfers in the same way

Template holes basically mimicked the strategic intent of the best golf holes in golf’s history and were an important stepping stone in bringing quality golf to the Americas.

In this series we are going to briefly explore the template holes, the holes on which they were based, how they work and where they can be found..



Template Holes


1.The Alps


"The Alps" hole 17, Prestwick GC"The Alps" hole 17, Prestwick GC


The original Alps hole can be found at Prestwick GC, home of the first thirteen Open Championships

It is now the par 4 seventeenth hole, but was originally the second hole

It is the oldest existing hole in championship golf

A narrow fairway requires and accurate tee shot. 

A huge dune (The Alps) must be negotiated on the approach- it’s a blind shot to a green further protected by the famous Sahara bunker



Famous Alps template holes can be found at:


Bandon Dunes Resort Old MacDonald hole 16 approachBandon Dunes Resort Old MacDonald hole 16 approach

Bandon Dunes Resort- Old MacDonald- hole 16 green & postBandon Dunes Resort- Old MacDonald- hole 16 green & post



Bandon Dunes Resort- Old MacDonald- hole 16 green wideBandon Dunes Resort- Old MacDonald- hole 16 green wide


Of these Old MacDonald stands out- Tom Doak and his team really nailed this template!


2. The Thumbprint


The Greenbrier- Old White- hole 18 greenThe Greenbrier- Old White- hole 18 green


The Thumbprint is one of the lesser known template holes, and appears not to be based on a specific hole in the U.K.

Rather it is an original hole in the template style conceived by MacDonald while doodling in an R & A meeting.

It was first used on the 10th hole at Chicago Golf Club (refer top of article for information on the importance of Chicago GC)


Chicago GC- hole 10Chicago GC- hole 10


The Thumbprint is defined as:

A short hole with an impression on the putting surface shaped to appear as if it has been made by the inner part of the top joint of the thumb.

This template should not be confused with 'Short', a template based on a par 3 at Brancaster in the U.K. which has been used extensively- that's a story for another day!



Other famous Thumbprint holes can be found at:


-The Greenbrier- Old White- hole 18

- St Loius CC- hole 7

- Sleepy Hollow CC- hole 16


Sleepy Hollow CC- hole 16Sleepy Hollow CC- hole 16


 3.The Redan


Shinnecock Hills GC- hole 7 "The Redan"Shinnecock Hills GC- hole 7 "The Redan"


By far the most commonly used golf hole template in golf design is "The Redan”

The original Redan can be found at the fifteenth hole at Nth Berwick West Linksin Scotland 

Designed by Ben Sayers, the Redan is considered one of the strongest strategic par 3 designs in golf.

It is a hole that provides different options for all level of golfer. 


Nth Berwick, West Links- hole 15 "The Redan"                               Nth Berwick, West Links- hole 15 "The Redan"


Based on a military fortification in concept, a typical Redan green slopes heavily from right-to-left and front-to-back and is guarded by extremely deep bunkers left & right of the green.

The merits of The Redan are most obvious when a back left pin position is in play.

The more skilled golfer can elect to carry the deep bunkers and stop the ball in the back left quadrant of the green, but for the less skilled golfer, or those unable to carry and stop the ball as well, another option prevails.

Due to the curving contours of the green a lower flighted ball landing on the front right of the green might successfully roll around and left to that back pin.

A reverse Redan displays the same strategies in mirror image- with the green arcing to the right

Some of the best known Redan holes can be found at:

- hole 15, Nth Berwick West Links

- hole 4, National Golf Links


National Golf Links- hole 4 "The Redan"National Golf Links- hole 4 "The Redan"

 Mountain Lake GC- hole 11 "The Redan"                              Mountain Lake GC- hole 11 "The Redan"


- hole 6, Yeamans Hall Club

- hole 11, Mountain Lake

- hole 12, Old MacDonald, Bandon Dunes

- hole 7, Chicago GC

- hole 7, Shinnecock Hills GC


 Yeamans Hall Club- hole 6 "The Redan"                              Yeamans Hall Club- hole 6 "The Redan"


4. The Cape Hole


Machrihanish GC- hole 1Machrihanish GC- hole 1


Whilst most of the 21 template holes that C.B. MacDonald conceived were based on the strategies of famous holes in the U.K., MacDonald also added some original templates of his own

One of these originals was The Cape Hole.

Obviously a cape is surrounded by water on three sides, and the original Cape hole designed by MacDonald at The National Golf Links was the 14th hole. 

It was a short dogleg par 4 with the green projecting out into the water.

However over time MacDonald became worried about long hitters driving the green and moved the green back to make the hole longer.

In doing so the green was no longer surrounded by water on three sides, so he compensated by replacing the water on two sides with deep bunkers.

The strategy was the same- the green was only open on one side

This was the original strategy of the Cape hole


National Golf Links- hole 14National Golf Links- hole 14


MacDonald followed up with a beautiful Cape hole at the 5th hole on Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda


Mid Ocean GC- hole 5Mid Ocean GC- hole 5


This hole had the classic green projecting into the water but also featured a dramatic 'bite off as much as you dare' tee shot over water to a fairway arcing away at an angle

Over time that dramatic tee shot has stolen the limelight and become the latter day trademark of The Cape Hole

Wonderful holes all over the world which include this feature are:

- hole 1 at Machrihanish in Scotland

- hole 10 at Llao Llao in Argentina

- hole 18 at Pebble Beach, California


But the true Cape Hole is identified by a green surrounded on three sides by hazards, whether they be water or bunkers or a combination of both, not the dramatic tee shot overwater..


Llao Llao GC- hole 10Llao Llao GC- hole 10


5. Leven


The Leven Template was first conceived at Lundin Links on Scotland's Fife coast.

The original is a short par 4 played to a green positioned on the edge of a dune that protects the left side of the hole.

The tee shot landing area is further threatened by a burn running diagonally across the fairway.

Of course the perfect landing area is the more challenging to hit, but offers the better view of the green for the approach.

And the closer you get to the trouble the better the approach is likely to be!


Leven HochsteinSketchLeven- Brett Hochstein Sketch


Leven is considered one of the more strategic of the template holes.


Other famous Leven holes can be found at:


- Chicago GC- hole 5

- Mid Ocean GC- hole 14

- Yeaman's Hall- hole 2

- Old MacDonald- hole 13


Old MacDonald hole 13Old MacDonald- hole 13


More recently in Australia Ogilvy, Cocking & Mead created the new Lonsdale Links with nine template holes.

The 9th hole is very good example of a Leven hole


Lonsdale Links- hole 9 approachLonsdale Links- hole 9 approach


6. Punchbowl


From the beginnings of golf, links courses in the dunes naturally had greens in the dips and bowls in the sand.

These greens were known as punchbowl greens.

Often they suited longer holes and were sometimes combined with Alps style holes such as the seventeenth hole at Prestwick


Prestwick GC- hole 17Prestwick GC- hole 17


Other famous 'punchbowl' holes can be found at:


- Royal Cinque Ports hole 5

- The National Golf Links hole 16

- Fisher's Island hole 4

- Chicago GC hole 12

- Lonsdale Links hole 11

- Old MacDonald at Bandon Dunes- hole 18


Bandon Dunes Resort- Old MacDonald, hole 18Bandon Dunes Resort- Old MacDonald, hole 18



Template Courses:


1. The Lido 


Charles Blair MacDonaldCharles Blair MacDonald


These days C.B.MacDonald's design portfolio is best known for famous courses such as National Golf Links, Chicago, Shinnecock Hills, Mid Ocean Club and Sleepy Hollow. 

But at the time it was completed The Lido was considered the equal, if not the best of his courses.

The Lido was a very expensive project built in marshland adjacent to the beach in New York.

MacDonald was given a blank canvas and licence to create something very special with an almost unlimited budget 

When it opened in 1917 the course was instantly recognised as one of the best and most difficult courses in the world.

Bernard Darwin wrote at the time: "Lido is the finest course in the world"

But the collapse of Wall St in 1929 left the Lido membership reeling, and the club never recovered.

World War Two sealed it's fate, and the magnificent course was broken up and sold as real estate

It's reputation however lived on- one of the world's best & most difficult courses..

The Lido rises again!

Two of the world's best architects are behind new courses based on The Lido.

Gil Hanse has recently completed a project in Thailand called Ballyshear.

The course is based on The Lido with only 2 holes differing from the original template course (because of land restraints)

This is something completely different for Thailand, and I am keen to see it.

In recent months The Keiser family (of Bandon Dunes Resort fame) have completed creating a faithful reproduction of The Lido on a site adjacent to The Sand Valley Golf resort in Wisconsin.

With effectively a massive sand pit as their site the Keisers have employed legendary architect Tom Doak to bring the project to life.

The Keiser's originally engaged Doak to build The Lido at Bandon Dunes, but Doak argued that the land was not suitable and instead a template course called Old MacDonald was born!


Bandon Dunes Resort- Old MacDonaldBandon Dunes Resort- Old MacDonald


But with this new project Doak had a blank page with the site and the decided advantage of compelling computer renderings of the original Lido produced by Peter Flory

This computerised model has been able to replicate the contours and dimensions of the original course enabling Doak to bring The Lido to life again.


The Lido holes


 1. First

 2. Plateau

3. Eden

4. Channel

5. Cape

6. Dog's Leg

7. Hog's Back

8. Ocean

9. Leven

10. Alps

11. Lagoon

12. Punchbowl

13. Knoll

14. Short

15. Strategy

16. Redan

17. Long

18. Home

See course report for The Lido at Sand Valley