The 15th at Midland, named Pond, by Jim Urbina, is a fantastic short par four. But studying Raynor’s drawing (and according to Urbina), it was originally, and arguably, an all-world, short par 4. The first thing to notice in the drawing below, is how the pond came out into the players eye off the tee, jutting out into the front left corner of the beginning of the fairway. But the pond continued all the way down the left side of the hole, culminating with sweeping across the entire landing zone. This created a situation of difficult decision making, but in brilliant design, Raynor gave shorter players a way to navigate around the hazard, as the contour of the hill on the right side, (now changed) would carry balls on the ground, around the water, and onto the approach.
Raynor wanted to challenge the better, more aggressive players, with a bunker hidden directly behind the green. But the beauty of this hole lies in the internal contours of the green surface. Regardless of ball placement off the tee, ball placement on the green, is maybe even more important.
As soon as Raynor, and Ralph Barton were gone in 1921, the club started to alter the course, and no hole was marred as much as 15. The BOD minutes clearly state that the club president was not a fan of the pond across the landing zone, and it should be buried at once. A pond was dug on the 16th hole, and that soil was used to bury the pond on 15. This unfortunate move would not only remove the risk/reward of the 15th, but burying a natural body of water would haunt the club for the next century, with wet, sloppy conditions. Notice below, the old pond line in the approach (dark half-moon), as well as the new pond dug on #16.
Below you can see a more formal wall the was constructed at some point, and all of the water is drained out.
Fast forward 100 years, and the remaining pond is a tranquil point in your round, and property, that provides a great habitat for wildlife.
At the green, Urbina, wanted to restore the bunker behind the green, as well as expanding the green surface to the West, creating pin positions over the right green-side bunker.
Below you can see that shaper, Joe Hancock, brilliantly brought back the Raynor sharpness of the bunker shaping, taking the intimidation factor dial up several notches, and accentuating the beautiful infinity-edge of the green complex.
Below, you will see how much more green surface was created. Everything that was precisely sodded by Midland’s staff, is putting surface. The entire area was reshaped, not only to create several new pin positions, but surgically needed to tie into the existing green surface. Hartman Construction executed this tie-in magically, making it look like its always been there. From a strategic standpoint, the green expansion has brought the right bunker directly into play. The rear bunker will keep those with aggressive thoughts, a dose of trepidation.
After the sod was rooted, the entire green was topdressed, to start the heal-in process.
The end product is a green complex with much more character, strategy, and layers of fun. It will take many rounds to figure out the behavior, and breaks, of putts on the new surfaces. But remember, it will take us time, and agronomic practices, to get the surfaces to behave the same as the 100 year old surfaces. This maturation process cannot be bypassed.
Back to the fairway, and the changes that happened over a century ago, by burying the original body of water, created an unnaturally flat area. This not only created a situation that lacked surface drainage, but by burying a natural pond, created a constant wet, and saturated, environment. Most players are aware after a large rain event, during the season, results with 15 fairway being roped off for several days afterwards. But analyzing surface drainage is sometimes better done during winter months, specifically during ice-formation events. The lack of surface drainage has much worse consequences during the winter, than during the summer. Below, the ice formation location, dictated how it would be corrected in 2020.
In the situation below, you can obviously see that Mother Nature is trying to go back to the pond that it had been originally.
Installing drainage in this area was a large undertaking. Not only was it almost the size of a football field, but the lowest areas of the fairway needed its topography changed, in order to get the surface water to funnel into the drainage inlets.
Check the link below to see how slow, and arduous, the process of harvesting the native “muck” soil out, before installing pipe, rock, and better draining soil:
Just last week, we received 2″ of rain. In the past, this area would have standing water for several days. Now, not a drop of standing water. Drainage never gets the appreciation it deserves. For 100 years, we’ve been battling this area, and now, it’s already paying dividends. Thanks to Hartman’s technical installation, a complete transformation of the area has occurred.
Below you can see some of the construction, in progress. You’ll also notice the new width of the fairway, especially hugging the pond, bringing back the threat of rolling tee shots into the hazard. The width down the right side of the fairway gives shorter players off the tee, the ability to roll the ball up the slope, assisting with extra roll out.
The changes we were able to make to the Pond hole will create a closer representation to what Raynor envisioned. As a short par four, and at a great point in the round, birdie or bogey’s are always in play. With upgrades to drainage, the fairway will provide a much better, consistent, playing surface. With the changes to the green, you’ll have a more dynamic, and strategic, hole to enjoy.