Yeamans Hall Steps Back In Time

HANAHAN, SOUTH CAROLINA | An early morning fog hangs over the golf course at the Yeamans Hall Club outside Charleston, and Spanish moss dangles from the live oaks that shade the slate-roofed club¬house. The fairways and greens of the ac¬claimed Seth Raynor track are coated with dew, and the only sounds I hear are those of songbirds warbling in the trees.
Then a train whistles, and I sud¬denly feel like Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris. That’s the brilliant Woody Allen film in which Wilson goes to a secluded spot in Paris several nights in a row to meet a classic Peugeot automobile that magically transports him back to the 1920s. There, he joins the moveable feast that characters like Hemingway, Fitzger¬ald, Pound and Picasso are enjoying.
The whistle makes me think of the railroad tracks running by the entrance of the club and the stories I had heard about Yeamans Hall during that same Golden Era, when members arriving by rail were met by horse-drawn carriages that took them down a dirt drive to the clubhouse.
I drive down that same dirt road, and it gives me my first sense that things have truly stood still at Yeamans Hall. So do my glances at the course on my way in. Opened in 1926, it looks completely unaf¬fected by the times.
There’s the double-plateau green on the first hole, and the Redan par-3 at No. 6, and the Road on the seventh, clas¬sic Raynor versions of classic British Isles holes. I pull up to the clubhouse, a modest white structure made of wood and brick, and am escorted to my room upstairs, one of only eight in that building. The stairs creak slightly as I climb them, and I smile at the list of club customs and traditions I find in my room, reminding me among other things that jackets and ties are re¬quired for gentlemen at dinner.
The club is set on roughly 900 acres in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, about 15 miles from Charleston. It once was the property of Sir John Yeamans, a governor of the Carolina Colony who received the land in 1671 in a charter granted by King Charles II of England. In later years, the property served as a plantation, mostly for rice and indigo. Timber was also harvested there. A trio of prominent Charlestonians bought the property that currently makes up Yeamans in 1916, and plans for an elegant golf retreat, with two courses and more than 200 home lots, were drawn up.
The new owners retained none other than Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., to as¬sess what was described as “diverse and undulating grounds” and determine their best use. They brought in Raynor to build the courses and New York architect James Gamble Rogers to design the buildings.
The first 18-hole course came online in 1926 along with several buildings as mod¬est as they were attractive, among them the clubhouse, pro shop and nearly three dozen cottages for members.
But then the Great Depression hit, followed by World War II, and dreams of becoming a major golf retreat gave way to more realistic visions, with Yeamans Hall evolving instead into a small, family golf club geared mostly to be a seasonal retreat for Northerners.
And that is what Yeamans Hall is today, with less than 300 members and only 35 member cottages on the grounds (seven owned by the club). The clubhouse is as stately and quaint as the day it opened, and while Raynor never did build that second course, the one he did construct, measur¬ing 6,800 yards from the tips, continues to be considered one of the finest in the land.
The property has great natural variety, both open and wooded, with sweeping swathes of marshland and a twisting wa¬terway known as Goose Creek. A desire to keep things simple and old-school (no TVs in the clubhouse rooms, and no mobile devices allowed outside vehicles, rooms or cottages) is balanced by the demands of modern life (Wi-Fi). While people once stayed at Yeamans for long stretches of time, they linger much less these days. Yet, they still enjoy their golf, and the com¬pany of their fellow members.
And what characters some of those members have been. Samuel Colt built one of the original cottages, with a floor plan in the shape of a Colt .45 revolver. One woman was famous for playing golf in her high heels, and for having her chauffeur stand by the flags as she got ready to hit her approach shots, waving a handkerchief so she could better discern her target.
Then, there was a fellow named Sam Ross, who once became so enraged with his bad play that he tossed his wedge into a live oak by the 10th green, leaving it there when it did not fall right back down. Nearly 20 years later, tree trimmers discovered the wedge, and it now hangs in a case on the wall of the tidy men’s locker room.
I chuckle as I read the plaque beneath Ross’ wayward club. And as I wander back toward the clubhouse, the grounds still quiet as Sunday morning and shrouded in fog, I listen again for that train.


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