The original 12th, now the 14th, at Midland is an original Raynor Alps. A rare Template, mainly because the correct topography was needed to find the hole, in its natural state, without having to move a lot of earth as part of the design process. Raynor, undoubtedly, was more than pleased when he found the land in the Northeast corner of the property.
The original Alps that CB Macdonald brought to America was from the Prestwick Golf Club, in Scotland. For way too long, many uneducated players, mostly guests, would say the 14th at Midland was a terrible hole. Hitting an approach shot, in which you cannot see any of the putting surface, even from the middle of the fairway, does nothing more than brings out a player’s insecurities, over their abilities. Just as many classically designed architectural golf holes, demanding a blind shot from a player at certain points of their rounds, was to test their club yardage confidence. The Alps Template hits over a hill, many times, laced with bunkers. At Midland, Raynor designed his most common rendition, with two bunkers at the peak of the hill, that a player looked right into as they concentrated on their second shots. But, as a reward for clearing the hazards, the green was often punchbowled in nature, funneling balls back towards the putting surfaces if the right yardage was struck.
For more information, and examples of Alps holes, click the link:
One of the hardest aspects of our Alps was hitting the fairway. As trees were planted over several decades, the fairway corridor had shrunk to the point, that keeping the ball on the fairway, even after hitting the middle of it, needed a bit of luck, or soft conditions.
One tree in particular, on the left side, had taken away the players ability to play down that side of the hole, to reach a flatter topography, that Raynor, more than likely, considered “Position A.” That tree was removed, the fairway was expanded left to recapture the landing zone, and the fairway was expanded to the right, to restore a much wider corridor that Raynor had envisioned. However, Raynor wasn’t going to give away “Position A” without a challenge. The skyline of the topography must have screamed fairway bunker to Raynor. But we’re fairly confident that the bunker was never built.
The one aspect that we knew that had evolved was the lengthening the hole, for scorecard length. Unfortunately this took the “Position A” away from the large majority of players, and the result was shots struck down the middle of the fairway, ending up in the rough. Making this hole longer, for that majority, removed the architecture, not only off the tee, but the second shot as well. Jim Urbina studied the tee shots of this hole, with the intent on bringing the tees back to the correct yardage, to maximize the strategy, and architecture. Jim also wanted the fairway bunker restored, and getting the correct yardage off the tee, to recapture Raynor’s intent of protecting “Position A,” but not making it completely daunting. The intended landing zone is past the new fairway bunker to the right, to keep balls in an area where they won’t roll off the fairway. As you can imagine, with several hundred members and guests playing the hole, it’s an impossible task to achieve, catering to everyone’s game.
Placing the fairway bunker in the correct location was easy. With his vast experience, shaper Joe Hancock, placed the bunker to fit the landform perfectly. With such rolling topography, the face of the bunker is intimidating, steep, and just like the other fairway bunkers, one to avoid.
Once the bunker was placed, the location of the tees was decided. All of the tees were shifted to the South by 30 feet. This lines up the hole more properly, as over 100 years, the tree line that has matured to protect County Road B, is no longer in play. The back tee remains at the same yardage. If you hit the ball 250+ yards off the tee, you should be playing the Alps hole from this tee. If you don’t, you won’t be challenged, and will miss all of the architecture/strategy. The existing “blue” tee has been removed. The old “white tee was pushed back into the hill side by 15 yards, and the back portion of it will now play as the “blue” tee. The “white” tee will now play from the front of that tee, at roughly the same yardage as before. The “red” tee was lowered by a few feet, leveled, and will play from the same yardage as before. It will be up to the player to decide what tee to play from, however, Jim Urbina has seen in past experiences, that complaints that the changes to shortening of a hole, which is considered too easy, more than likely comes back to long players off the tee, playing from too short of a yardage. If you look at the scorecard, there were several holes of this restoration, that shortened certain holes from the “blue” tees, to restore the architecture. The Alps is one of those holes that was shortened for players that hit their tee shots 200-230 yards off the tee, to maximize the strategy of playing to certain areas of the fairways, and to hit certain clubs on your second shots. At the new yardages of 460, 405, 380, and 340 yards, the hole will still be the 2nd hardest handicapped hole on the course.
Below is a link to a video of the work that went into moving the entire tee pads to the South. So much soil needed to be moved that Hartman Construction brought in a bulldozer to make quick work of the task.
Below is the old back tee angle.
Below you can see the new back tee bad, as the two center stakes mark the middle, and proper aiming point. Notice the old back tee behind the skid loader to get a scale of how much the complexes have been shifted to the right.
The Alps bunkers themselves had eroded over time, losing their intimidation factor. Joe Hancock also wanted them to tie into the approach skyline view better, so soil was brought in, to properly rebuild the bunker shoulders. The result is a fantastic visual, with a restored texture, that builds to the anticipation that one feels as they find the fate of their approach shots.
Notice below the fairway grassing lines in front of, and behind, the Alps bunkers. This will keep balls rolling on the ground, either into the bunker if struck short, or potentially onto the green, if hit over them.
One aspect of visual improvement, and recapturing the natural feel of the punchbowl, was to remove the cart path directly behind the green. As you came over the crest of the Alps bunkers, the cart path was unfortunately the backdrop. The path was rerouted between the “black” and “blue” tees, turns to the right, and run up the East side of the tee complexes. In the old path route, Fescue was planted, which will not only be a dramatic backdrop to the green complex, but also buffer the 15th tee. The benefits of this change also brings the positive of not staring down the cart path from your tee shot on 15.
The green itself has been completely changed since its inception. In 1923, the BOD minutes state that the green was raised up to prevent winter damage. We know that by then, Raynor, as well as Ralph Barton had gone to the Mid Ocean Club, so they were not involved with the redesign of the green, and it’s unsure who was. Assuming the young turf could not survive winter snow melt from the surrounding Punchbowl, and subsequent ice accumulation, the contours have been changed. To prevent this from happening 100 years later, we utilize sandbags to divert any snowmelt off of the putting surfaces. Again, our tight construction timeline prevented us from a full rebuild, but the green will remain on the long-term evaluation of the Master Plan. Instead, the grassing lines of the green were slightly changed, and as a result, the irrigation heads, pipe, and wiring, needed to be moved outside of the new putting areas. Below you can see where sod was removed, everything was extended outside, and the sod was topdressed heavily.
If you’ve been a member long enough, you’ll remember that to the right of the fairway, between 14 and 17, it used to be a shallow wetland with cattails. This area was changed to rough, and we’ve been fighting nature ever since. Often this area, during wet periods, needs to be completely hand mown. The soils are basically floating on top of that wetland, making it unfit for heavy equipment, even golf carts. This area was determined to install the beginnings of an extensive drainage field. Hartman Construction installed several hundred feet of pipe, that we can build upon over the next few years, to reach a better playing surface. This area will always have wet feet, but this initial investment will have an immediate ROI.
Below you will see the basic infrastructure of the drainage system. Over the next several Fall’s, we’ll build upon this system, in-house, to achieve the desired results we’re looking for.
The Alps hole continues to be one of the most naturally flowing holes on property. Now, it oozes unique, Classic Golf Course Architecture. Hopefully, for those that don’t understand it, they can now be given a lesson of its history, significance, and fun-factor, as one of the best, and rare, Raynor Templates.
10 Replies to “Alps”
Thanks for another great history lesson full of top notch photos! Can’t wait to play #14!
Thanks Paul. 14 is a great hole!
thanks for the education. I was one who has always complained about what a poor hole 14 was. I appreciate an understanding into the design of it.
You’re definitely not the first, nor the last to criticize the hole. Regardless, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s ok. However, it truly is a very unique piece of history, and architecture, and glad to hear you enjoyed some background info!
Mike the stuff here is tremendous! As a new member who didn’t play the course before it is really cool to get the history and thought that has gone into the renovation. Thanks for all of the work you have put into this!
Thanks, and welcome to MH! Glad you’re enjoying the virtual tour.
Thanks, Mike! That was an amazing tutorial! I’m sitting in Arizona and can’t wait to return to the lush appearance of MHCC. I found your comments on which tee to use as determined by driver distance in order to fully experience the original design startegy to be especially interesting and I’d love to have further conversations with you about that. Thanks for all you do and I’ll look forward to the next installment!
Hey Marty! Sit tight in AZ a little bit longer…the roller coaster of weather here is in full effect. On many holes at MH, technology has taken away the original intent of the hole, and lengthening them isn’t an option, which is an unfortunate result of many classic designs. It really comes down the player’s desire to experience what Raynor intended, and their choice of tee/yardage. Would love to chat about that when you return!
See you soon,
Great description of the logic and history #14. With the changes in the tees, the landing area, and the new bunker on the left, I am looking forward to seeing how it plays.
Will be fun to get everyone’s feedback on the course, but especially #14.