Plainfield Country Club
Ninthhole, 370 yards; A wonderful close to the front side, theninth traverses up the slope that thefirst hole tumbles down. Depending on exactly where one places his drive, the approach to the green can be blind and the golfer will have to select a particular mark on the clubhouse directly behind the green as his aiming guide. A pity more American courses don’t follow the U.K. lead and have holes that end directly beneath the clubhouse.
Tenthhole, 365 yards; Perfectly capturing the rolling topography of the site, the blind drive is over a ridge to a fairway somethirty feet below the tee. The angle of the steeply pitched green is toward the outside of the dogleg and as such, the golfer is better served bytaking plenty of club off the tee.A 240 yard tee ball gives the golfer the best view of the green whilethe ‘safer’, more conservative teeball of only 200 yardsleaves the golfer with a poor angle, as well as a blind shot, into the green. Few modern architects would have left the topography in its untouched state for fear of the howls of protest about the unfairness of blind shots.
Eleventhhole, 150 yards; A strategically timelesslittle hole that plays from a tee that was perfectly benched into the hillside across a valley to a beautifully draped green on a ridge. Long is dead while short means that the golfer is likely to find himself in one of the deepest bunkers on the course. The green is thus a hit it or else proposition, which is reasonable given the hole’s modest length. No matter what happens with technology, this hole will forever retain its challenge.
Twelfthhole, 590 yards; Originally a par four and a par three,Ross combined them into a three shot hole in the 1930s when the Club acquired additional land for the construction of new holes (today’s thirteenth through fifteenth). By doing so, he made excellent use of a drainage ditch which breaks into the fairway from the right at the 135 yard mark and bisects the fairway until it hugsthe green’s left side.Given a normal green, the golfer would rarely think of crossing thedrainage ditch with hissecond shot as the reward wouldn’t be worth the risk. However,a spine in the middle of the green runs from front to back and if the day’s hole location is left middle or front, the optimal angle into such hole locations is from the right hand portion of the fairway. The golfershould note thetwelfth’s hole location as he plays the nearbythird hole.
Fifteenth hole,370 yards; The three hole stretch ofthe thirteenth through fifteenth(referred to by the members as the tunnel holes) has never quite fit in with the rest of the holes, until now that is, at least for the fifteenth. The story of these three holes is somewhat convoluted but goes like this: Ross’s original1921 routing of the course was from the par 4/par 3 that is now thetwelfth hole to today’ssixteenth hole. The originalseventeenth andeighteenthholes approximately occupied the land of today’s driving range. Appreciating the need for a practice area, the Club acquired the land in the 1930swhere thetunnel holesnow reside and Ross routed these three holes from a topography map. A stream as opposed to two ponds was the dominate feature on holesthirteen andfourteen but the stream was later dammed for irrigation purposes. The actual construction of thetunnelholes was left to the golf professionalMarty O’Laughlin who was a friend of Ross’s and he did a responsible job. Nonetheless, the finishing touches of these holes were out of character with the rest of the course. Thus, the Club eventually hired Geoffrey Cornish to ‘improve’ them in the 1960s. Unfortunately, they became less like the otherfifteen holes. Hanse greatly improved the thirteenth in 2005 when a diagonal ridge was raised three feet in the fairway but as long as its green remains uncharacteristically bland, the hole will feel apart from the others. The fourteenth has seen sand-flashed bunkers replaced by mounds as per Ross’s drawings but the best work as occured at the fifteenth. The tee ball is now full of interest thanks the three fairway bunkers that were restoredon a ridge on the right and the mounds that werere-built left of the fairway. Also, Green Keeper Travis Pauley has done some of his best work here in terms of promoting fescue grasses and other vegetation, therebygiving this hole the most rustic feel of any on the course. Hopefully, his work here willbe used as template to bring such varied colors and texture across selective areas of the rest of the property.
Of the tunnel holes, the fifteenth possesses the most interesting putting surface, one that Donald
Ross himself would have been proudto have built. Note the new chipping area to the right.
Sixteenthhole, 580 yards; When combined with the twelfth, these two would surely rival the two three shotters on the second nine at Pinehurst No. 2 as thefinestpair ofpar fives found on any Rossside. Now that Hansehas restored the alternate route to the left of the Sahara like bunker complex that falls 200 yards from the tee, this three shotter is every bit the equal of the more famous Tillinghast par five found forty minutes up the highwayon the Lower Course atBaltusrol.
Seventeenth&Eighteenth holes, 425 and 385 yards respectively; With only a few exceptions like the West Courses at both Royal Melbourne and Winged Foot, few courses end withtwo doglegs in the opposite direction. The horizon greens on each hole are the highlights and make depth perception tricky.
Even more good work is occuring at Plainfield. Two ponds were created by a long standing Green Keeper on the inside of the doglegsat thetenth and eighteenthholes due to the ground’s marshy nature. While built for practical reasons, such ponds are completely out of character on a Ross course. Thankfully, the Club has adopted Hanse’s plan to restoreRoss’s original drainage ditches onboth holes and work commences in the winter of 2009. As such fine work continues,the common theme is thatRoss’s use of the superbly rolling landis being allowed to shine through once again. And with the non-Ross features being removed and some of his lost features being restored, Plainfield will once again be regarded as one of Ross’s very best.