Midland’s 8th is the Knoll Template. A short, but fierce par 4, with a green perched upon a hill (or Knoll), in which most surrounding sides of the green surface fall off sharply. CB Macdonald got the inspiration for the hole from the 4th hole at Scotscraig Golf Club in Fife, Scotland. There are many Knoll Raynor Templates in the US, and Midland’s ranks up there as one of the best. The most well known trait of the Knoll is not being able to see the bottom of the flagstick on your approach shot, and commonly, the closer you get to the green with your drive, the degree of difficulty can rise.
For more background on the Knoll, and some examples: https://www.top100golfcourses.com/news-item/k-is-for-knoll-template-holes
When Raynor saw the land of the current 8th hole, there was zero doubt that what he saw was fit for the Knoll, and for 100 years, very little has changed. This is a testament of the quality of architecture that he designed. There has been discussions of thinking that there was rough originally fronting the green, but that was added during the 1980’s, but removed shortly after.
We know that there has been little evolution to the hole, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been changes. As you can see below, Raynor originally designed the hole with linear fairway grassing lines, hugging the West edge of Walsh Lake hard. The fairway was wider than the green, all the way through the approach. The drawn slashes all the way around the entire green complex signifies a green perched up high, with a quick drop off from the putting surface, still very true 100 years later.
The aerial from 1945 shows that the grassing lines on the left side of the fairway, as seen below, has already been brought inward. If you look closely, you can see trees have also been planted left of the green.
Below is one of my favorite pictures of Midland, which showcases the fantastic topography of the Knoll. This photo was taken after what looks to be a significant rainfall, as Walsh Lake has flooded all the way across the fairway. By this time, several Spruce trees have been planted on the left side of the fairway and approach.
At some point, the club built a putting green directly East of the farmhouse parking lot. This putting green also had a practice bunker, and it’s safe to assume that the bunker came into play off the 8th tee shot. The aerials below shows the evolution of the mowing lines of the fairways with the maturity of the Spruce trees.
The great Jimmy Johnston at Midland Hills. Notice the player on the putting green on the 8th fairway, with the Knoll green in the background. Jimmy, from St. Paul, was one of the most accomplished Minnesota golfers in history.
Below is a photo of Wally Mund on that practice green in the fairway. Caution must have been paramount while using the green during play!
Part of the Master Plan work that Jim Urbina wanted to recapture on the Knoll were:
- Build a new forward tee on the North side of the bridge. As you can see below, the tee has been built.
- Widen both sides of the fairway, especially the West side going up the hill. The rough was keeping balls struck offline, in play, by preventing roll out.
- Remove the artificial mounding behind the green that was created post-Raynor, and expand the green into that space.
Below you can see how much fairway has been recaptured, extending all the way up the left side of the approach. This also gives the shorter player the ability to run the ball up the slope from the far left side of the fairway, and let it feed onto the green surface. You can also see the mounding behind the green removed, and the infinity look restored.
A neat archeological find during the green expansion, was finding the original irrigation well-head that was poured with concrete, along with the 100 year old feed pipe. If you notice the location on the Raynor drawing, it matches up perfectly.
Below is a before picture, showing the existing artificial backdrop mounding.
And below you can see how much area of the green is being expanded. The expansion is at a slight increase in grade as it makes its way backward, hopefully slowing down golf shots enough to keep it on the putting surface.
Notice below the horizon line on the right side of the green, now extending into the view of Walsh Lake. This creates a fantastic visual effect of drama and scale. With this expansion, several new pin positions were created, as well as increasing the difficulty of not being able to see a back pin if you drive your ball into the approach.
Below, the finished product. Our staff did a fantastic job getting the grading just right to achieve the intended effect, and increase the playing surface. The increased pinable areas, as well as preventing some of the balls from rolling into the rough behind the green, are great improvements to strategy, and enjoyment of the hole. What you cannot see is the addition of converted rough to Fescue, all along the pump house and under the Oak trees to the right of the approach, as well as an extension of the Fescue to the left of the approach. This will prevent many long hitters the ability to hit it as close as possible to the green, without much consequence. The hole instantly will come with more risk for those that hit it more than 260 yards off the tee. And for everyone, the walk from the green to the 9th tee will be much more enjoyable, without having to climb the mounds that existed.
Much like the 7th hole, the Knoll didn’t need much renovation. As a short par 4, it has stood the test of time, and on any day, a birdie or double bogey can easily be made. Classic golf course architecture at its finest.