The current 9th, originally the 5th hole, now plays as the Cape. There has been a common misnomer that a tee shot over water has been the only trait that defines the Cape Template. However, Jim Urbina’s definition of a Cape is a combination of a risk/reward tee shot, that continues all the way to the green. Some of the most famous Capes have water all the way to the green, and the original Cape at National Golf Links, had water on 3 sides of the green complex. Jim’s interpretation is that our Cape has the dramatic risk/reward tee shot, and that the green is protected by bunkering, and a steep drop off.
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But this is a hole in which Jim took his experience, and made an interpretation. Reason being, the current 9th hole originally played to what is known as the chipping green today.
In Raynor’s drawing, he routed the fairway around a wetland on the left side of the hole, making it strategically come into play for the longer hitter. We know from reading the BOD minutes that these wetlands were removed in the 1920’s by a club president. That wetland today, is the hollowed out bowl left of the hole, with the large Cottonwood growing from it. Cottonwoods grow in areas that are wet, usually on the edges of wetlands and riverbeds. In the early 2000’s, Hartman Construction was hired by the club to add additional drainage to this area, but since there was no where to drain it, a deeper hole was dug, and sand was used to fill it. But underneath all of that sand, and whatever material they used in the 1920’s, there’s still a wetland down there, providing moisture to the Cottonwood.
Notice that there is already a bunker left of the green by 1945. We are not certain if Raynor didn’t draw in a bunker, or it was added by him, or someone else, at a later date. At this point in time, the hole played to the current chipping green.
Two interesting aspects to notice below – The 9th tee is almost where it is today, making an extremely difficult hole given player’s average distances, and the pump house, which hasn’t moved since the golf course was designed by Raynor.
By the 1950’s, you can see that Spruce trees have already been planted down the right hand side of the hole. Not only did these non-native trees diminish the opportunity for a risk/reward, they began to hide the fantastic topography that Raynor wanted to accentuate. Only through several decades of tree management, have we been able to recapture the exciting visual from the tee, enticing players to take risks with aggressive lines of play.
Architect, Paul Coates, built the current 9th green during the same time as the rest of the course alterations in the 1950/60’s. Those greens all had mounding around the backsides of them, including the 9th. In the photo below, he’s overlooking his work during the construction of his Keller Golf Course in Maplewood.
Part of the Master Plan was to widen out the 9th fairway, especially the right side. Bringing the fairway to the precipice of the right hillside promotes the enticement, and drama, of seeing the more aggressive line of play. Extending the fairway left brings longer hitter’s balls further offline, and results with squirrely side-hill lies.
Another improvement goal was to raise the red tee up over four feet. This will help get the ball in the air, clearing the gap to the fairway.
A new tee was also built, right in front of the fairway, giving players an option to play the hole without having to carry the gap, and to better score from.
On the back tees, the existing black and blue tee were combined, lengthening the scorecard yardage slightly for the blue tees, while the white tee yardage remains the same. Longer length tees on this hole will give us the ability to alter how it plays, creating more variety with tee marker placements, given certain weather conditions.
You’ll notice the width of the fairway expansion below. You’ll also notice that extra soil was piled up to create a ridge to the right of the green, effectively blocking the view of the maintenance facility from your approach shots. Fescue was planted on top of that ridge, and will be a nice backdrop to the green site. The bunker to the right of the green was relocated to behind the green, creating more of a Raynor style.
Looking from the back of the green back to the tee, you can see the fairway width that was recaptured. From this vantage point, you can see the mounds behind the green have been removed, making room for a large green expansion, as well as the back bunker.
Below, shaper Joe Hancock, is turning the bunker more perpendicular to the line of flight, creating more of a back protected shelf. The further left you play up hole, the more the bunker protects the left side of the green, as well as bringing the back bunker more into play.
Below, you’ll see the shaping of the back bunker in mid-form.
Both bunkers are now shaped in, and the back and left side of the green being expanded. One of the poorer qualities of the green was the lack of pin positions on it, given its slope, with normal green speeds. Extending the green on 3 sides, and expanding each quadrant, increased the variety of pin positions. The green will still be difficult to putt, given its aggressive overall tilt, but now will have more fun-factor, as well as a heightened risk/reward if aggressive lines of play are taken over the left bunker.
The view from the approach. It’s difficult to see, but the right side of the green was also expanded, over the top of where the existing bunker was. The fairway goes up and around the back side of the green, creating fun options to play shots. A fantastic infinity look to the green was shaped by Joe Hancock, and if you look closely, he tied that sightline perfectly with slight dips, to identify where the back bunker lies.
Finished product. If you look left of the approach, you will see that a large section of the cart path has been removed.
Removing this section of cart path, along with many other sections around the property, will increase the aesthetics of many approach shots. Many of the cart paths were too long, and balls that just missed approaches, often hit those paths, leading to unfortunate outcomes.
Below you can see all of the changes made to the hole, from the tee to green. For the longer hitters, that take the most aggressive line, Fescue will now come into play down the right side of the hole, for the off-line struck shot – risk/reward.
The side by side aerials show the dramatic changes to the green complex. A much wider approach, bunkers that are pulled extremely tight to the putting surfaces, and an overall improved change to the variety of how the green plays, the 9th hole is much more dynamic with risk/reward, and fun to play.
It’s often said that people enjoy the back nine at Midland much more than the front. With the changes to the front nine in the MP implementation, I think the front has improved much more than the back. This is probably due to the potential for improvement the front nine possessed. The non-Raynor holes have been improved drastically on the front, the scale of the land will be noticeably better with some key tree removals (better matching the back nine), and the overall quality of the architecture has been taken up several notches. I think there will be many people surprised with how the front nine has changed, and how the gap compared to the back nine, has tightened considerably.