What Is a Redan Hole in Golf?

And Why are They Called 'Redans'?

Redan hole at North Berwick Golf Links
The Redan hole at North Berwick Golf Links, the club's 15th hole, is the original on which all other redans are modeled. David Cannon/Getty Images

A "redan hole," or, simply, "redan," is the name of a golf hole design typified by these elements:

  • It is a par-3 hole;
  • Its green is wider than it is deep and angles diagonally away from the tee box right-to-left (that is, the left side of the green is farther from the tee box than the right side);
  • A redan hole's green slopes from the front corner to the back corner and is protected by a large bunker (or bunkers) fronting the left portion of the green.
  • Additionally, the tee shot may play slightly uphill to a green surface that is partially or fully blind to the golfer.

Redan holes are so-called because they are all copies of the original, which is now the No. 15 hole on the West Links at North Berwick Golf Links in Scotland. That hole is named - you guessed it - "Redan."

Redans are Favorites of Golf Course Designers

Redan holes are not at all uncommon in golf course architecture; in fact, many architecture aficionados would say that the Redan is the most-copied type of hole on golf courses around the world.

As noted, there are redans, and there's the Redan. The Redan is the original such hole; all others are imitators of that original. The imitation might be close to an exact copy, or simply be a hole designed with the same broad strokes.

The great golf course architect of the early 20th century, Charles Macdonald, incorporated redan holes into many of his golf courses.

Perhaps his most famous redan is No. 4 at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York.

'Fortress' Holes

To build a redan hole, Macdonald explained, required that it be positioned on:

"... a narrow tableland, tilt it a little from right to left, dig a deep bunker on the front side, approach it diagonally."

Redan holes earn their reputations as "fortresses" by presenting a very stern test to the golfer. The angle and slope of the green challenge the golfer to play a shot that keeps the ball from running off the putting surface.

An article on PGA.com pointed out that on Macdonald's redan hole at National Golf Links of America, "the green falls more than five feet front to rear." So the front-to-back slope can be severe.

Another article on PGATour.com provided a few examples of some of the better-known redans on American courses: "Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles (the fourth), Seminole in North Palm Beach (the 18th), at Shinnecock Hills, Long Island (the seventh and 17th), Brookline Country Club (the 12th) ... Poppy Hills in Monterey (the 15th), Ocean Links in Newport, R.I (the third), Somerset Hills in New Jersey (the second)."

The Original Redan Hole

All of these holes - all redan holes everywhere - are modeled after the original Redan at North Berwick Golf Links in Scotland.

North Berwick is one of those historic clubs that names each hole on its courses. On its West Links, Hole No. 15 - a 192-yard par 3 - is named "Redan," and its green and greens complex provide the model on which all other redan holes are based.

North Berwick's Redan made its debut in 1869, at which time it was the 6th hole. When the West Links were expanded to 18 holes in 1895, Redan became the 15th hole and has remained essentially unchanged since.

The North Berwick Golf Links website describes the birth of its Redan this way:

"In those days the constraints of the feathery ball determined the length of each hole, and the green was positioned on the nearest flat ground. Often a ridge crossing the path of play was used for the green and that is how the 'Redan' was created by nature. The green is laid out on a diagonal sloping plateau with bunkers on the face of the ridge and under the shoulder of the green, on the left and right."

Continuing its description:

"The green 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 flagstick. The slope of the green runs diagonally from right to left, and anything above the hole is in three-putt country. The bunkers on two sides, deep enough for the player to disappear from view, add to the difficulty of securing par."

Origins of the Name 'Redan'

But how did the hole come to be called "Redan?" What does "Redan" even mean? North Berwick again provides the answer on its website:

"The name 'Redan' comes from the Crimean War, when the British captured a Russian-held fort, or in the local dialect, a redan. A serving officer - John White-Melville - is credited on his return as describing the 6th (now the 15th - Ed.) like the formidable fortress, or redan, he had encountered at Sebastopol. Conquered only after nearly a year of attrition, which left over 20,000 British soldiers dead and four times as many French. 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.' "

A note on capitalization: You might have noticed that we alternated in this article between capitalizing Redan and not (redan hole). Our policy is to capitalize the word when referring to the original Redan at North Berwick; but when referring to redan holes generally, go with lower-case.