The 17th at Midland is the Long Template. A straight away par 5 that has not changed much in the past 100 years. A hole in which Raynor designed with a massive corridor, yet there was never a side of the hole that created a large advantage, until your approach. But by hitting three quality shots, Raynor saved most of the challenge for the green itself. Reaching the green in regulation means nothing, if not for proper ball placement in relation to the pin, and navigating the putting surface.
At you can see by the drawing, the shape of the fairway is a bit odd. But Raynor wanted to follow the edges of the sloughs that fronted the fairway, and up the right side. Maybe it was to highlight the natural feel, maybe it was to make the player feel like the hazards were closer than they were. He understood maintenance, and definitely did not want mowing equipment to contend with wet areas.
Notice below, that the drawing depicts the wetland fronting the entire beginning of the fairway.
By 1945, we can see that the sloughs have been buried, and the lone fairway bunker up the left side had been kept, but was now inside of the rough, because of the corridor shrinking. But if you look at the green, it was as wide as the approach, and the shade being cast to the West and North of the putting surface left us hints of it’s size, and how it fit into the surrounding topography. Also notice the location of the tee box, almost exactly where it sits today.
If you look on the far left side of the picture, you can see the tee box, far right side is of the green, and the fairway bunker faintly visible in the rough.
Notice below the tee box location, the width of the fairway, the fairway bunker is still visible in the rough, short grass left of the putting surface, and what looks to be a bunker right of the green. The two native American Elms that line the left side of the hole today, are also present, giving us perspective of width. One of the Elms is right of the fairway bunker on 11, the other is just right of what looks to be a maintenance path between 11 and 17. You can also see the native Oak trees that stand today, right of 17 approach.
Looking to the East, it provides better evidence that there was a bunker right of the green. Not a Raynor original, at least not on paper. Why the club would add a bunker, when other bunkers were being removed, raises unanswered questions.
With the green being larger in 1945 than the 1920 drawing, it was the opposite of what had happened with almost every other green on property. This lead Jim Urbina to think that Raynor could have decided to build it larger than his initial thought, during the design-build process. Maybe because of the severity of the green, or that pushing it up the hill made sense, to fit into the natural topography, the change was made. We do know that the green-side bunker was re-added in the 1990’s. However, Jim decided to keep the bunker, and to play off it’s risk/reward, with a green expansion back to the 1945 size. Again, this hole is all about angles, and playing from the preferred left side of the hole.
The green expansion will bring back a significant amount of strategy, and challenge, to the hole. The strategic aspect is that the level of difficulty is determined by the aggressiveness of the player. If you chose to challenge a pin that will be up on the hill to the right, you will take on the bunker, and the risk that you don’t hold the green, and will be left with an extremely difficult chip. If you play to the middle of the green, and your ball rolls left (following the normal roll out), you’re left with a relatively uphill straight putt.
A large part of getting the green expansion correct was continuing the sightline of the green perfectly up the hill. Notice below, the infinity of the putting surface continuing from existing green to expansion. Knowing where to cut the old green off, and start the new, was a painstaking process of slowly removing turf until the horizon line was perfect. The shaping of the new expansion also needed the perfect rising angle to the North. The view from this angle into the green is visually impressive, yet extremely intimidating, at the same time. However, the view from the left side of the approach is even better, as the green overlays exactly into the view of the Biarritz green surface. This was not coincidence, as Raynor was brilliant, as was his peers were in the Golden Age of Architecture, at natural deception. I didn’t take a picture of it, as I hope everyone sees it with their own eyes first.
The fairway bunker that was abandoned was restored during the Master Plan. This bunker could be in the landing zone for your second shot, if you’re playing the correct tees. Even if it’s not, it protects the left side of the hole, which is the obvious preferred side of the hole to hit your approach shot from. It will draw your eye to it, even if it’s not in your landing zone. The back bunker wall ties perfectly into the putting green sightline, again, which is not by accident.
A large section of cart path was removed to help keep it from coming into play, and as you can see, short grass around the green, as well as the green expansion, brings much more variety, strategy, and fun back into play.
A side by side really shows the transformation of the green complex. What wasn’t completed last Fall, was the conversion of rough to Fescue, to the right of the approach and green. For those with length, who go for the green in two, and flail left or right, there will be a new consequence to contend with.
The Long Template didn’t need drastic change to bring back the strategy of Raynor’s intent. There are not too many holes where you pick a side of a hole to play down based on a pin position. The 17th at Midland might make you do just that.