Fairway Expansions Explained

By now, you probably have noticed the new fairway expansion grassing lines. We’ve been slowly lowering the height of cut on these areas for the past 3 weeks, and are at a height that is now easily noticeable. These grassing lines are part of the Master Plan, which is bringing back the original Seth Raynor strategies of width and angles. For more information on Midland’s original width and angles designed by Seth Raynor, and grassing lines, click on the link from a post I created a few years ago http://www.mhccturf.com/?page_id=536

Back in May, Jim Urbina was on site to set the new mowing lines of fairways. At that time, they were temporarily painted, then GPS’d, to come back at a later date to recreate them.

I recently repainted the lines for our staff to follow, using a mower that we could start slowly lowering the height of cut with. Our rough height is 2.5″, and we are now mowing these areas at 3/4″. Now that we have reached a height low enough, we have executed seeding these areas with Bentgrass. We’ve started this whole process now, instead of waiting until next season because the transformation process (rough to fairway) will take several years to complete, and we want to take advantage of getting a head start. This is not a one-and-done exercise, as we will seed these fairway expansions several times over the next few years to accomplish a complete transformation. However, this method will give us the best opportunity to maintain the current look of our fairways, which was an important objective with the Master Plan.

The method of aerification under the previous regime, was to pull cores from the fairways, and blow them into the rough. This created a scenario of Bentgrass establishing in the rough, which is not ideal as lies in rough-height Bentgrass are not fun. However, this does benefit us now, as we can slowly train that Bentgrass in the rough into fairway. There’s obviously not enough Bentgrass currently in the rough, hence the inter-seeding. The goal is to have a consistent “classic golf course” look throughout all 18 holes.

Mark Ries mowing down the new 17 green surround

The machine that we use to “inter-seed” Bentgrass works by drilling lines through the existing turf canopy, into the soil, and drops seed in the drilled channels. Seed to soil contact is paramount when trying to grow turf via seed. This machine is extremely effective at completing this process with very limited surface disruption, which is a beautiful thing to you as a player, and us, as being able to mow over the top of it, without damage to the mowers.

 

After we have drill-seeded Bentgrass into the canopy the result is below.

Below, a close-up of the drilled channel, and Bentgrass, with great soil contact. The size of the Bentgrass seed is ~1 millimeter, so having the existing turf canopy provide protection, is a significant benefit. 

There are several aspects of the new grassing lines, that can be deceptive. There’s several aspects on how the new fairways will tie into existing and new features, so I will try to explain a few of them.

As discussed before, some of the new fairway lines are intended to keep quality shots, of shorter hitters off the tee, on the fairway. The beginning of 11 fairway, as seen below, will keep balls hit into the beginning-middle of the fairway in the short grass, and not punished by rolling into the rough, as they are now.

The picture below doesn’t look like a lot of room has been created, but once over the hill, reveals that the fairway line has been restored to keep balls that hit the beginning of the fairway, in the fairway. 

Below, a restored fairway landing zone for the shorter hitters on the long par 4, 11th. 

But notice that up by the fairway bunkers, that the fairway is also extended, right up to the edge of the bunker edge, challenging the longer hitters off the tee. These 3 bunkers will be restored back into 1 large bunker, which you will be able to see into, with a steep backside wall. Playing down the right side of the hole will provide the best angle into the green, as the bunkers on the left side of the green will be restored. However, the existing fairway bunker on the right side will also be restored, so a hole now that is fairway easy off the tee for the longer hitter, will be restored to Seth Raynor’s original strategy, that will surely demand precision.

It’s important to note that the exact location of any of the new bunkers has not been established yet. Those decisions will be made during the implementation process next year. This goes for fairway and green bunkers, so even if the new grass line is in a particular location, it’s very possible that the bunker will be placed within the new grassing line and not exactly on the edge of it. At this time, I do not know the exact locations of bunkers, as Jim Urbina will choose them during the construction phase of the project.

The red line below represents the new beginning of the 11th fairway. The existing fairway sod will be removed, and used throughout the course, on surrounds, approach tie-ins, and on top of tee boxes. Part of the Master Plan process is also to build more forward tees so your current carry yardage,over rough, will not change. There will be little-to-no sod waste in this project, with the amount of planning that has taken place.

On the tee-side of the red line, the sod will be removed to be used on the course, and will be converted to rough

 

As discussed, some of the grassing lines will be to challenge the longer hitters. By expanding the fairway, and removing the rough 250+ yards from the tee, the ball will continue to roll. Sometimes, the ball will roll into a bunker, and in other areas, it will roll further off-line, down a hill, and create a harder angle into the green.

Below is the new fairway line that will bring 15 pond more into play. Along with bringing the pond closer to the tee this winter, this grassing line will challenge those that are aggressive off the tee. 

Some of the grassing lines are being restored for better aesthetical consistency, The right side of the beginning of 18 fairway had evolved left as Spruce trees grew larger, making 18 play one-dimensional; straight down the middle. With half of this hill being masked by rough, it lost the look of accentuating the fantastic topography. Also, recapturing the width of this fairway, will allow better ball placement off of the tee, which will tie into the strategy of the changes that will take place at the green site. If the pin is on the left side of the green, you will want to play down the right side, and vice versa. But until the changes take place at the green next year, it won’t all tie together.

There will be considerable changes at the 18th green. One being the bunker on the left being pulled all the way out, into the approach, and in front of the left side of the putting surface. The green will also be expanded considerably to the front right, but the right side of fairway is expanded to allow run-up shots to access the green for shorter hitters, and recovery punch shots. A bunker will be put in behind the green to challenge those that are aggressively attacking a back pin, or to give second thought to a recovery shot from the rough. As you can see below, depending on where the final location of the bunker will expand into the approach, fairway-height turf will more than likely run right up to the bunker. Now, we have several feet of rough “protecting” balls from running into the intended hazards. Also important to note, that where the fairway ties into the approach, it won’t be a straight line as it is today, but instead tied into the new green site. That will happen once the changes to the green take place.

With the restoration, some bunkers will be surrounded by short grass/fairway turf. Below is a perfect example at 10 green. But it’s important to understand that the green-sites themselves will also change dramatically, and what you see now, is not the end product. For example, below is the bunker front left of the green, in what will be surrounded by short grass. However, the mound left of the green will be removed, making room for a green expansion that will tip into a new bunker left of the green. There will be a lot of sodding work within this area, comprised of greens, fairway and rough height, as well as a newly shaped and positioned bunker. Again, what you see in these areas does not necessarily represent the final product.

You might ask yourself, with some of the fairway expansions, that the cart paths are very close to the new fairway. In those instances, the plan is to move the cart path so it is not in play. A perfect example is the above scenario of 10 green, and below, at 17 green. We don’t want unnatural asphalt to be a part of your round of golf, and where it makes sense, they will be re-positioned, or shortened. With the changes to 17 green, being one of the largest green expansions on the course – the green will be expanded up on top of the hill, above the bunker. Ball position on the approach up the left side, is ideal. Shortening and moving the cartpath to the left will create the ability to do so without interference.

 

This should provide a decent background as to some of the changes you’re seeing take place. Without knowing where bunker placements, green expansions, fairway bunkering, new Fescue areas, etc., some of the new grassing lines won’t make sense until the construction phase is completed. Thank you for being patient while we start this phase of the project, as the intent of the timing, is to have the golf course as playable, and consistent, as possible after the work is completed, and the course reopens for play in the Spring of 2021.

If you have questions about this phase of the Master Plan, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Mike Manthey




14 thoughts on “Fairway Expansions Explained

  1. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the new fairway lines are simply thrilling. I can’t wait to see some shots (even my own!) bounding into the bunkers.

    A couple of surprises:

    I was surprised that the fairway line on the right of 17 wasn’t even farther right and that the FW line left of the pond on 6 wasn’t even farther left.

    It is very pleasing to see, for example, that drives down the middle of 14 might stay in the FW on the right.

    The new FW right of 2 is spectacular when you think of how the green and its bunkering will change.

    Thanks for a great report, Mike, and for so intelligently husbanding our resources.

    • Dan,
      I agree. It is setting the visual stage for what’s to come, very exciting. I think on 17, Jim wanted to keep that right grass line straight, as well as encouraging play down the left side for the proper angle. And maybe he wants that new fairway bunker to be a large part of the strategy? Not certain, but on #6, maybe the tee location will warrant a different club coming over that pond, and more so, bringing that bunker into play? But remember, as Jim has said many times, a lot of decisions are made once the green site is completed, so I expect tweaks will be made. If we have 90% of the fairway lines correct by next August, we’ll be in a great place.
      Thanks!
      M.

  2. Can you provide any details on which tees are to be dropped to grade, and why it is thought to be a necessary expenditure?

    • I won’t list all of them Dave, but examples would be #3 forward tee, 9 blue/white tee, 11 blue/white tees, 17 blue/black tee. Any of the tees that were built up in a unnatural fashion. This was a trend to get a “better view” off the tee, which actually took away from the original classic architecture goals. Since the majority of the tees need to be re-positioned/re-aligned/re-leveled as part of the Master Plan, the cost to lower them, and recapture more of the classic golf course aesthetics, is minimal. I’m assuming it was purely an uneducated rumor that tees were being lowered, just to lower them, which was never the case. As a certain tees are lowered, that soil will be used to build new forward tees and fairway bunkers. Even certain tees that are being slightly lowered, will use its excess soil to widen the tee, creating more variety in set up. A lot of thought has been given to reusing resources wherever possible. As to expenditures, that is a question I’m certain you can ask any of your Board of Directors, who deliberated what was responsibly appropriate for the club.

      I’d be happy to show you in person any of these examples next time you’re out there!
      M.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.