2020 seemed to be all things virtual, so why not start a digital tour of the Master Plan implementation. I tried my best to document the most interesting aspects of the project, and will sprinkle in reasons behind the changes, highlighting strategy, aesthetics, construction methods, history, “Templates”, challenges, and some fun along the way.
The current first hole has an interesting history, and one that really led us to creating a Master Plan. If you’re interested in more on the history of any of the holes, read this previous post: (http://www.mhccturf.com/?page_id=536)
The current first green has been rebuilt more than any other on the course. The original Raynor green location was in the current approach when the hole played across the back of the current driving range. It was then moved back further to its current location in the early 1960s, and then was most recently rebuilt in 1991. In 2004, when the bunkers on the course were renovated, the bunker on #1 was left alone, so from then on, it never matched the rest of the course. In 2014 the Greens Committee gave serious consideration at rebuilding the bunker to match the rest of the golf course. However, discussions then led to the presentation of rest of the green complex. In 1991, soil was mounded all around the green complex, and the putting surface quadrants that were built were too small, and the grassing lines were not representative of Raynor. Agronomically, it was difficult to manage the turf consistently, and unfortunately it was consistently the weakest performing of all 18 greens. The Committee eventually decided that it would not make a recommendation to the Board to rebuild the green, as restoring one hole to true Seth Raynor architecture, would then create a situation where 1 hole again did not match the remaining 17. The decision was to continue to study the rest of the course, history, and the potential of restoring all 18 holes at once. Fast forward 6 years, and we knew that we had made the correct choice of being patient until the time was right to complete a full restoration of the course, as those years were used to create a path and direction, through strategic planning.
As the deconstruction of the green started, we quickly realized why it was difficult to maintain the putting surface on a consistent basis. Varying depths of sand/soil, improper drainage materials and methods were used, and the subsequent result was some areas being completely bone dry, while other areas did not drain at all. You only see the turf on the surface, but the growing medium beneath bases how it functions and performs.
Consistency with the MP implementation was paramount. We wanted all of the green expansions to perform and look like it was 1921, so construction methods were used to create that environment. Rebuilding the first green so that it matched the rest of the 100-year old greens as close as possible, was a major challenge. Our hope was that we could reuse some of the materials used in the existing green, but it was quickly determined that we would need to start from scratch. Hundreds of extra yards of material had to be removed, and hundreds of yards of new materials would need to be brought in, with a large injection of labor and equipment. A small amount of panic set in as we were only on our first green, and would already be over budget. But we were not going to cut corners with construction methods, so options were deliberated, and a new plan was swiftly created and executed. Any time you complete a large-scale construction project, a proper contingency fund should be created, and our first green again proved why.
One thing you will notice on the first hole is the new width of the fairway and approach has doubled. This gives the player the option to play their ball to the either side and create the best angle into the green. The approach no longer pinches before it gets to the green, allowing players to chip and even putt from any side, creating creative options to navigate your ball. Once on the green, you’ll see 3 distinctive plateaus. Navigating this green will create new challenges, as well as giving our staff the ability to create numerous pin positions, variety, and fun.
The mounding around the back of the green was removed, eliminating the “backboard” effect. With the green surface expanding back 10 feet from its original location, and no backboard, if you take an aggressive line at a back pin, and miss your yardage by a small amount, you’ll gamble with the threat of OB.
The bunkering of the green has also changed. In Seth Raynor/CB Macdonald style, there is now a pot bunker back left of the green, challenging the aggressive line of play to a left pin position. The right side of the green is pushed all the way to the edge of a new bunker, again creating caution to missing your intended line of play.
As a result from the existing poor growing conditions, the turf on the green was very weak, and populated with high amounts of Poa Annua. Two years ago, when we committed to the MP, we started a turf nursery behind the driving range. This 12,000 square foot nursery sod would then be transplanted on one green. Our staff had the monumental task of sodding the entire new 8,000 square foot green, with 3 square foot pieces at a time. That’s over 2,500 pieces of sod, all laid with careful hand precision – no easy task. Not only was it the largest sodding job we would complete during the project, but being our first completed green, there was a steep learning curve. Remember, the rest of the golf course at this point is actively growing, the back nine is open as we were prepping it daily for play, and deconstruction/construction was happening on #2 and #5. This was the thinnest we would be stretched during the project, and by the end of this week, we were tired and beat up!
Jim Urbina had proposed a center-line fairway bunker, known as the Principal’s Nose on the first hole. That bunker was not constructed. As Jim has said, just because it was drawn on paper, doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to implement. Instead, he would like to evaluate how the membership plays it, to see if the bunker is necessary to the strategy of the hole.
If you’ve seen the first hole since completing the rebuild, it is an amazing transformation. The size/scale, presentation, and strategy are now true to Raynor’s architecture. Jim Urbina’s interpretation in building a Double Plateau Template fits the landform, as if the green was always there. For more reading on Double Plateau’s: https://thefriedegg.com/double-plateau-template-hole/
It will take time for the sod to mature, firm up, and present the same playability of the other greens. The more aggressive we are with aerification and topdressing, the faster the maturity will happen. No one likes to hear that, but in reality, the healing process of smoothing out the surfaces only gets better with a progressive cultural program. We’ll be monitoring the green, and all of the green expansions closely in 2021, to ensure that no areas go into decline from over-maintenance. We’ll also be monitoring the smoothness and trueness of the sodded areas to see if they need additional localized topdressings. The history of the first hole is a long one, and hopefully, this version of the green is one that the membership enjoys for many more decades to come.