Staples Golf Design Quarterly

My Take on Templates

The Template holes popularized by C.B. MacDonald and Seth Raynor have inspired some of the most strategic and fun experiences in golf - including our recent design for The Match at PGA National. This issue of the SGDQ digs into the origin or these holes, their continued relevance in course design, and our take on our very own "Template" hole. Cheers, C.B.!

Staples Golf Fan,        

I tend to listen to a variety of music – U2, Talking Heads, 21 Pilots, and a new one for me, Lord Huron. I’ll often have a new song or artist pop into this mix that makes me think, “wait… why does this sound so familiar”?  Turns out, many of the most popular hits from the past century all utilize the same base chord progression… I’m no musician, but you can read more about that here.

This got me thinking about how similar this is to the use of Template holes in golf.  So, have you heard of a Template course? With the recent resurgence in Template holes in the industry, I figured now was as good a time as any to share my thoughts.  Here we go!!                                        


"Good artists borrow, great artists steal." - Pablo Picasso

C.B. MacDonald, known as the Father of American Golf Course Architecture, is credited with the development of the “Template” concept.  In the 1900s, he was growing discontent with the lack of design merit on America’s earliest courses, and set out to build his vision of the perfect golf course – the National Golf Links of America in New York.

MacDonald personally visited his favorite holes from across the U.K. to inspire his design, which he believed would re-capture the strategy and character not yet available in the U.S.  Along with his associate, Seth Raynor, he would go on to refine these ideas into a series of “Template” holes, adapting these unique and strategic        concepts across some of the greatest courses of the time.                                            


Left to right: Road, Redan, and Biarritz templates from National Golf Links (credit: George Bahto)


The Road, The Redan, and The Biarritz are perhaps the most recognizable, but all have been used repeatedly across MacDonald and Raynor’s works. Click here and here for a couple great articles that discuss more on the origin and strategies of templates.

The Great Template Revival

With the recent opening of the Lido in Wisconsin and many notable Raynor restorations in recent years, Template courses have been getting more attention. I feel every golf architect has the inclination to try their hand at utilizing Templates into one of their designs at some point – it was definitely something I’d always wanted to do!
This is exactly what I did for The Match at PGA National.  I incorporated the strategy of each template I felt best fit our piece of property, and maximized the risk/reward opportunities that would make for exciting Match play.  I think this is an important distinction with Template design – the templates are meant to guide the core strategy applied to each hole. The unique and innovative integration with the site context, character, and design intent are what makes template holes successful. 


The Biarritz 18th hole at The Match (photo credit: Evan Schiller)

At The Match, these elements all came together to create a fun Match play experience that didn’t have to rely on distance – something I hope sets a trend in golf design.  It was a blast to build (!), and one I hope can bring these memorable hole concepts – many of which are only found at private clubs – to more golfers. 

The Staples Template?!

I think today’s architects will agree they have their own go-to design concepts they’ve gotten comfortable using over the years.  One that I’ve adapted and built throughout my career, and would perhaps call my own “Template,” is a short par 4 aptly named ‘Sand Hollow,’ which is where I first came up with the idea.


Sketch of my original "Sand Hollow" template hole (sadly, never built)


It’s a short drive-and-pitch hole with multiple playing options.  The key to the hole is the decision to lay up to take advantage of the best angle into the green, or to hit the long ball closer to the green, which leaves a prickly, half wedge shot to a very narrow, small green.
What I like most about the hole – and why I think I continue to get good feedback on it – is that the hole is interesting for all classes of players.  And, due the way the green is set against different angles of play, it can really frustrate the better player.
Like the templates of old, I’ve been able to adapt “Sand Hollow” on a number of my projects, each with its own unique hazard style and design character.  Here are a few examples:      

  • The Match - Hole #12: combined it with the Sahara template
  • Rockwind Community Links - Hole #7: done with a more wastey, desert hazard
  • Meadowbrook CC - Hole #9: took on a Willie Park Jr.-esque character


Left to right: The Match #12, Rockwind Community Links #7, Meadowbrook Country Club #9


Building our take on the Templates at PGA National was an incredible experience, and I certainly think golf architecture will continue to be inspired by the basic concepts that make these golf holes so great.  And, I hope I can continue to develop my own, unique templates that will further advance my own design style in fun and innovative ways. Cheers, C.B.!

Additional News  

  • I was able to take a extended vacation back home in Wisconsin, and get some quality time at the lake with the family.
  • I’ve been continuing my Master Planning process at Mira Vista CC in Fort Worth, Arcola CC in New Jersey, and Phoenix CC here in town – can’t wait to have them ready to share!
  • We’ve begun some exciting research for our historical plan at Grand Mere in Quebec… a Golden Age crafted by Walter Travis and C.H. Alison!  Check that out here.
  • I’m having a blast here in town designing a gnarly backyard putting course for a friend (pics to come)

Once again, I just want to express my thanks for catching up with us at Staples Golf! I always look forward to the feedback that comes with each newsletter, which is why I continue to put them out.  I hope this one challenges you to keep a sharper eye out for templates in the future, and of course, inspires you to play more golf!


Andy Staples, ASGCA

Andy Staples

Andy Staples, ASCGA member and principal of Staples Golf Design, was brought to golf at the age of seven by his dad, having learned the game at West Bend Country Club, in West Bend, WI, a turn of the century course designed by Langford & Moreau.

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