The 12th hole, Biarritz, is one of the most unique Raynor Template holes, and Midland’s does not disappoint. The history of the Biarritz is interesting, and just like many Templates, comes with differing opinions on how the hole should be presented. Most of the differing opinions revolve around if there should be greens height of cut in front of the Biarritz swale or not. My interpretation from what I’ve studied is that CB Macdonald, and Raynor, never intended the turf to be greens height, and that those that are, are victims over over-maintenance, and uneducated demands to alter the hole in an attempt to get more shots on the greens. Regardless, the Biarritz is usually the most difficult 3-shot hole in Raynor’s repertoire, and a test that will challenge all skill levels.
For more information on the history of the Biarritz, and some examples, click the link: https://thefriedegg.com/biarritz-template-hole/
There is an odd thought from many golfers that a Biarritz should cater to their game. But architecture doesn’t, nor should, cater to anyone’s game. It’s the player that should alter their game to the architecture. Jim Urbina commented on restoring a Biarritz often comes with criticism, as many think a restored (or changed) hole, should automatically be easier. The 12th at Midland has changed a lot to get it back to Raynor’s intent, but that won’t make it easier. The player will still need to play the correct ball flight, and yardage, to reach the green, and stop the ball near the pin. That has not changed. But there were changes during the restoration that will improve the way the hole functions, as I’ll highlight in this post.
At the tee, there was not a lot of change. The back tee was lengthened slightly, and was combined with the “red” tee of the 18th hole. This will give us more tee location variety, and the ability to shorten the 12th hole. Most importantly, the tee complex itself was aligned properly to the middle of the green. The ‘white” and “red” tees were aligned properly as well, but no other significant changes were needed.
Looking at the Raynor drawing, there are some stark differences to the configuration of bunkering, compared to what we had. Originally there were 4 bunkers, as most Biarritz’s possessed. But unique to Midland, the first bunker on the right was at a slight angle, creating a false sense of distance for the player. Notice that in 1921, the tee is in the same location as it is today. That was a tough par!
All the way up to the late 1930’s that first bunker on the right existed, but disappeared just years later, only to be put back 70 years later in 2020.
Also interesting to note below, the chipping area/fairway behind the green continues right onto the 13th tee.
The cart path left of the hole was laid too close to the playing corridor, and was often struck by tee shots. Maybe at the time, there were too many trees left of the hole when the path was installed. Now, we’ve created the space to shift the path to the South several yards, hopefully eliminating the frequency of hitting the path, and at the same time, improving the natural setting of the hole. When removing a cart path, the asphalt has to be cut in sections, lifted out, the 8″ of base material made of gravel has to be excavated out, and new soil needs to be brought in, and compacted. This was a large project, but should yield a better experience for the membership.
The work on the 12th hole took an incredible amount of collaboration between Hartman Construction and shaper Zach Varty. With the incredible amount of material (clay and soil) that was removed from such a tight area, as well as new materials that were brought in, managing logistics proved to be key to its success.
The construction “area of disturbance” on the Biarritz was by far the largest percentage of any hole during the project. Moving the cart path left, building four new bunkers, fixing a drainage swale behind the green, and recapturing the short grass walkway from the green to the 13th tee, created a massive area of disturbance. This was all necessary to get all of the features to tie into one another properly.
As far as green expansions, the 12th didn’t need much. It had lost it’s bold shoulders in the front corners, as Urbina wanted to recapture them to achieve the proper look and feel of a Biarritz. Below you can see that the front right corner of the green was built up to restore the square-ish aesthetic.
That straight line continued all the way through the Biarritz swale into the fairway grassing line.
By now, our staff were certified experts in sodding expansions, and were incredibly efficient. While the hole was closed, and we were already sodding, we corrected other areas of the green that didn’t have the perfect topography, as the mowers would often scalp or skip cutting the turf. One of these areas was on the back right corner of the green.
Below, we stopped everyone long enough to take a picture, capture a memory, as we knew that all of our paths probably won’t cross again. On top of the excavator, Zach Varty. In the cab, Joe Hancock. Our own Tina Rosenow, with Jim Urbina.
Below you can get a better sense of the massive scale of the project. You can also see where we expanded the fairways on both sides, as well as the front left corner of the green, where the new cart path is routed, and how the unnatural stone and flower bed was removed to restore the short grass walk to the 13th tee.
Below you can see the left side of the fairway and green expansion. The green expansion wasn’t to gain pin positions, but to get the grassing line presentation correct from the tee box. The expansion itself is slightly tipped inward, helping to keep approach shots on the putting surface.
The Biarritz swale itself went through a major transformation, under the surface, but was simplified at the surface. The existing swale had a gentle s-curve to it, instead of being parallel to the line of play, as well as being symmetrical in shape. This created a situation that didn’t promote balls rolling straight through the swale if they didn’t have enough momentum. Below you can see Zach carefully harvesting a decades worth of topdressing. This is the perfect growing medium for strong, dry, and firm turf, and we wanted to reuse it, once we had the swale reshaped.
In order to tie everything together, and to promote a quick draining environment, Zach removed several feet of clay soil, and brought in better soil to shape the features.
Desirable soil from other features on the golf course was brought in. A lot of pride was taken with re-using materials from within the property, at all times. This not only kept the costs down, but it wasted nothing that was worthy of new construction.
Drainage pipe and inlets were installed, the trench filled with rock, then topped off with a proper sand/soil mixture.
Then the entire swale was top-coated with the sand/soil mixture that was harvested. This created a smooth surface to complete the final grading of the feature.
Once sodded, you can see the front corner shoulders restored, the swale itself symmetric throughout, as well as being more subtle than before. However, you will notice now that you can walk right out of the bunker and into the swale. This is not designed, or promoted, that once you hit your bunker shot, you should walk through the bunker to the green. You should always exit the bunker on the outside face, and leave the bunker rake on the outside side. This will prevent balls from being hung up on bunker rakes that are left on the green-side of the bunker face.
With the tree management program, and restored Raynor architecture, standing on the back of the 12th green, looking out to the East, gives you one of the best vistas on property, one in which Raynor himself had to have enjoyed.
While removing the flower bed was part of restoring the natural setting of the golf hole, and putting back the short grass walkway to the 13th tee, very little of the products used in the flower bed wasn’t reused. Plant materials were replanted around the clubhouse, stone was reused in a new bed at the banquet entrance, and for future projects. Our talented gardener, Sarah Johnson was excited to updated many beds around the property with these materials, and to not have to battle many diseases, and insects, that existed in this particular bed because of the amount of shade, and lack of air movement in the location.
With all of the changes to the Biarritz, it will be a hole that people will continue to fear, love, anticipate, loathe, and talk about, for many reasons, for many more decades to come. It’s a masterpiece, and now it’s architectural dial is turned all the way to 10.