The name ‘Redan’ comes from the Crimean War, when the British captured a Russian-held fort, or redan. A serving officer—John Whyte-Melville—is credited on his return as describing the 15th at North Berwick like the formidable fortress, or redan, he had encountered at Sebaastopol. The word ‘Redan’ is now part of the English language, and the definition given by the Oxford Dictionary is ‘Fort—A work having two faces forming a salient towards the enemy.
— West Links – North Berwick
A redan hole is prevalent in golf, you just may not realize it. The next time you run into a par 3 which has a green which slopes downward and back from the front entrance, the putting surface blind from the tee, with a bunker guarding the front left, and you’ve likely just experienced a redan. Charles Blair Macdonald, the Scottish golf course architect who honed his trade in America is frequently credited for expanding the use of the design concept here. In his own words:
“Take a narrow tableland, tilt it a little from right to left, dig a deep bunker on the front side, approach it diagonally and you have a Redan”
The first hole in America with a redan is the 4th at the National Golf Links of America on Long Island, NY by Macdonald, and Seth Raynor, a NY engineer who apprenticed with Macdonald. Both architects built a redan hole on nearly every course they touched in the early 1900′s. It’s now become a standard for the modern day architects including Pete and Alice Dye, Tom Doak, and Tom Fazio. It’s a good bet that any self-respecting golf course architect has created a redan style hole in their body of work.
The first Redan was designed by nature. The North Berwick Golf Club is 30 minutes east of Edinburgh, where the Firth of Forth empties into the North Sea. It was founded in 1832, when the feathery ball, with a much shorter ball flight, determined the length of each hole. The course was essentially designed by nature, that is the lay of the land determined the layout, although with some assistance from David Strath. The greens were positioned on the nearest flat ground on a ridge which defined the hole’s design. The 15th there is blind from the tee and the player has to shape the shot into the prevailing wind, allowing for the ball to finish below the hole, with the slope running diagonally from right to left, with bunkers on both sides guarding the entry. The proper shot is to feed the ball to the front entrance, then let the lay of the green assist the ball in moving toward the hole.
At the US Open in 2004 at Shinnecock on Long Island, a Macdonald design, the 7th, a 189 yard par 3 redan style hole was the major complaint of the week, averaging 3.48 strokes on Saturday and Sunday. Seemed that the pros had forgotten their Scottish golf lessons, and were attempting to fly the ball to the pin, instead landing the ball toward the front and letting it run, of course a the following wind on the weekend didn’t help!
We’ve found many examples of redan style holes in America below, perhaps you can add one you’ve played in our comments section below:
Poppy Hills, CA Shinnecock, NY Rivera, CA Somerset Hills, NJ, Knoll Club West, NJ Old McDonald, OR Shoreacres, IL Seminole, FL Fisher Island, FL Lost Canyons, CA French Lick Dye, IN Colleton River, SC Chicago Golf Club, IL