We’ve made the turn, and onto the back nine. The staff is regrouping, about to enjoy cooler days, beautiful Fall sunshine, and the spark of momentum is propelling us towards the finish line. As a player, if you had a poor front nine, the back is where you hope to find that spark, and the back nine at Midland is as good as a back nine gets.
Jim Urbina has called the 10th hole the Valley. The Valley Template has an obscure past, one of the holes most debated over Raynor’s use and understanding of CB Macdonald’s intentions. Regardless, the overall strategy of the hole is to play down into a valley of some form, to navigate over a fairway bunker/hazard, and play up to a green perched above your feet. Our 10th hole fits those general descriptions well, and it’s one of the tougher holes on the golf course, mainly because of it’s continual climb, and awkward lies, on the way to the green. The beauties of the hole lie is its natural flow, scale, and how it fits into the landform so well.
For more reading on the Valley Template, click on the link below:
As you can see below, Raynor had envisioned an irregular fairway grassing line, especially around the slough that existed behind the current chipping green. That slough was removed in the 1930’s, and over many decades, the hole was so over-treed that it’s beauty and strategy was stifled. As trees have been removed, the corridor is closer to the original width, getting it back to Raynor’s vision of how angles of play affect the player’s fate. At the green, it’s interesting to note, that there’s a bunker drawn in, to the front right of the green, and there’s no bunker on the left side of the approach, and the bunker that is greenside, wraps the entire length of the green pad.
Our earliest aerial show a possible bunker on front right of the green, but the bunker left looks to be 3 bunkers, and the fairway bunker is missing. Was this a construction mistake, or Raynor changing his mind on a site visit?
By 1945, the bunker configuration has the left side approach bunker, no bunker on the front right of the green, the bunker left looks to have a walk-way built to get to the next tee, and the fairway bunker is built.
Notice how sharp the 10th green drops off, right past the putting surface, in the photo below. You can also see that the bunker left of the green has now been abandoned, but the cavity remains.
These were the main objectives to Jim Urbina’s Master Plan for the Valley:
- Get the back tee more aligned, and slid further North. Build a new forward tee on the East side of the cart path.
- Recapture grassing line widths of fairways.
- Restore the fairway bunker from 2 bunkers, back into 1 large bunker.
- Slide approach bunker right, and tie into green pad.
- Expand putting surface front left, left, and back.
- Restore bunker that existed left of green.
- Shift green-side cart path away from green, to reduce it coming into play.
At the back tee, the Oak trees that protect the houses to the right, have continued to mature to the point where we could not utilize the South side of the tee box. Removing these Oaks was not an option, so rebuilding the tee further North was the goal. The original tee was located at the beginning of the fairway, so the line of play was straight on. The back tee has created a false dogleg that was never intended, so sliding the tee North also made sense from a historical aspect.
Building a new forward tee gave those players a chance to reach the green in regulation, but it also gives everyone a place to move up, if they don’t have, or lose length, they once had. This also moves the landing zone up for these players, and gets them to a better place to hit their third shots.
The scale of the Valley that the 10th hole sits in is massive, and showing it off required massive tree removals. In 2021, you will notice a considerable difference of that feeling. A few key trees have been removed this winter, and the width of the fairway has been expanded. Jim wanted to strengthen the hole for the longer hitters off the tee. As trees were removed on the left side, Fescue was planted 270 yards off the tee, facing those players with a decision of risk. Fescue was also also extended left of the approach, giving the longest players something to think about.
Not only did we restore the proper grassing scale of the fairway, we restored the ability of all players to play down the left side of the hole, as the topography of the landform naturally sheds balls to the North. Raynor wanted the ball to roll once it hit the ground, and the previous narrow corridor (rough), prevented that from happening. However, as you gain length down the left side of the hole being on the short grass, and avoid the fairway bunker on the right side, your view of the green deteriorates, resulting in a point of diminishing returns in length. Classic golf course architecture at its finest.
Seeding the fairway expansions below.
The fairway bunker on the right side, more than likely, doesn’t come into play as much as Raynor intended. But at some point, the bunker morphed into two bunkers. Shaper Joe Hancock, reshaped the bunker, with a 16,000 pound excavator, as close to as they would have dug it in, using a horse and plow, in 1920. This created a very steep, intimidating face. This is now a common theme on several key fairway bunkers, in which Raynor placed them into a steep side-slopes (3, 10, 11, 13, 14). You’ll also notice the back ridgeline of the fairway bunker complexes now ties into the green site like they should, and 10th fairway bunker is a perfect example of that. Now, even if the bunker doesn’t come into play for many players, you will undoubtedly see it in your sightline with your second shot.
Fairway turf now hugs the fairway bunker, and wraps all the way around the approach bunker.
The approach bunker also did not come into play as much, as the golf course has evolved. Surrounded by rough, and moving to the North, it had lost its fear-factor, as it had become detached from the green. Restoring the intent of this bunker took a lot of conversation, visualization, removal of all the sod between the bunker complex and the putting surface, with meticulous shaping by Joe to tie them together. The result is fantastic, one in which pictures cannot do it justice.
But tying that bunker into the green complex, also complemented what was about to change to the left side of the green. All of the mounding to the left of the green, acted as a bumper. The mounding on the back of the green acted as a landform you could see from 100 yards out, which gave you a reference point of where the green edge was located. That’s not what Raynor wanted. He wanted you to trust your yardage, the club in your hand, and your ability, with no physical clues to use as a guide. This is classic Valley green strategy. Once Joe removed all of the mounding, the green was then able to be expanded over that space, to the edge of the new bunker, and further to the East, completely filling out the green pad.
Mound left and behind green removed to make room for green expansions.
Mounds left and behind green, giving you a visual of where edge of green existed.
With the original bunker left of the green being restored, it immediately has brought back a risk/reward for aggressive play to a pin on the left side of the green. But with the approach bunker being slid right, the green being tied into it, it’s recaptured the ability to place a pin between both bunkers. Urbina wanted to make sure we succeeded at recreating this scenario, maximizing the landform Raynor had envisioned, potentially creating a pin where even if you could hit that shot, you might not be feeling confident, and you play away from it to be safe. There weren’t many pins on Midland’s greens that created that dynamic decision, and 10 green (along with many others) is a fine example of that now.
My kids often judged the bunkers on the weekends, by their intimidating steep faces. If they were scary, and fun, running down them, they passed the test. All of the bunkers on 10 passed.
Below you can see how much the green was expanded to the front left.
This is looking from the back of the green, to the North. Notice the restored skyline view of the green’s edge with the mounding gone.
Looking from the back to the front, you can see how much more putting surface has been expanded. This will allow numerous more variety in pin locations, along with pins, in which if you are too close to the green on your approach shot, you might not be able to see the pin at all, restoring Raynor’s desire for a player to trust their yardage and skill, with no help from a backdrop.
As a par 5, many players are hitting fairway metals, and long irons, as close as they can get it to the green. Unfortunately, the cart path was in many player’s landing area, and balls were often getting terrible bounces off it. One of the goals was to alleviate that scenario. The cart path needed to stay, to safely manage the cart traffic through a steep sloped area. The path from the approach to the green was removed, rerouted, and re-laid, to bring carts to the same parking spot as before. Removing the cart path all together would have been ideal, but we do too many cart rounds, and the result would have ended with unsightly mud ruts, and worse lies.
During the end of the project, October 23rd, we received 5″ of snow. At that point, we were convinced that the new sections of cart paths would need to be laid in the Spring of 2021, as you need a minimum temperature of 50 degrees to properly set asphalt. Miraculously, it warmed back into the 70’s, and on November 5th, we finished all of the cart path work. In 2019, we had already covered greens for winter by November 1st. Someone was looking out for us.
From the landing area off the tee, all the way to the approach, most of the 10th fairway, has wet feet (soils). Most of the drainage in 10 fairway is over 30 years old, some of it over 70, so there will be more renovations of the drainage infrastructure in the future. In November, we were able to install drainage in an area where it didn’t exist, and the results will immediately be noticeable.
With the changes to the Valley hole, it is now much closer to Raynor’s original inception, a much more strategic, playable, and fun hole, with a restored visual wow-factor. It has something for every player, of every skill level. The team took the quality of this hole, to a new level.