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Sean_A

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Majestic MEADOWBROOK CC 1-11
« on: September 13, 2022, 08:37:06 AM »
A string of suburbs run almost perfectly from north to south which include Wixom, Northville, Novi, Plymouth, Canton & Belleville. Northville is one of the northernmost of these suburbs and while it is part of Metro Detroit, Northville doesn’t feel like a suburb which has much connection to the city. This may be due to Northville being west of I 275 which in effect cuts off the western suburbs. Nor is Northville close enough to Ann Arbor to be included in its catchment. This information is only important to impart the isolation of Northville and that is no different so far as top golf clubs are concerned. Located in Northville, Meadowbrook Country Club has no competition in this part of town as the supreme golf club. The closest top flight club is Franklin Hills.

Founded in 1916 based on six holes designed by Willie Park Jr, Meadowbrook has long been a fixture of Detroit area golf. In 1921 the course was expanded to 18 holes, possibly using the original Park Jr routing of which only six holes were completed. Several architects had a say in later iterations and these include Collis & Daray, Donald Ross, Art Hills & Jerry Matthews. Once a much more prosperous and powerful city than is the case today, Detroit clubs hosted three USPGA Championships between 1947 and 1955. Meadowbrook had its turn in 1955 after its pro, Chick Harbert, won the event in 1954 by beating Detroit native, Franklin Hills pro and defending champion, Walter Burkemo 4&3 at Birmingham CC. Incidentally, Burkemo was wounded twice in the European Theatre of WWII, earning a Purple Heart on both occasions.

In addition to the PGA Championship, Meadowbrook hosted the ill-fated Motor City Open on four occasions; 1948, ’49, ’54 & ‘59. The 1955 Motor City Open was cancelled because Meadowbrook won the bid to host the PGA Championship that year. The longest sudden-death playoff in PGA Tour history occurred at the 1949 tournament. Cary Middlecoff and Lloyd Mangrum struggled on for eleven holes and were eventually declared co-winners after darkness settle. However, perhaps the most famous of the Motor City Opens was the 1948 event in which Ben Hogan defeated EJ Harrison in an 18 playoff. Both Gene Sarazen and Bobby Locke made the cut despite their advanced years. It is also noted that Pete Dye played, but failed to make the cut. The organizers decided not to honour weekly passes and instead charged $2.50 a ticket for the playoff. Because extra tickets were sold, both players received $160.50 as their share of the gate! Less than a year later Hogan was nearly killed in an automobile accident.





To be frank, Meadowbrook was not a club I heard much about while living near Detroit – Ann Arbor. I have heard more about the course in the past four years than was the case for the previous fifty-five…and for good reason. Talk of work to the course initially started after the DuPont herbicide debacle in 2011. Detroit clubs used the chemicals to kill weeds and later found that many trees were damaged or killed by spraying.  In 2014 winter ice storms caused damage to greens. It was clear something needed to be done, but what? Picked from a list of fifteen candidates, Andy Staples convinced the powers that be to go on fact finding missions to explore the work of Willie Park Jr. Once such trip was to England where Park Jr’s Huntercombe lie in waiting. These experiences were enough for the club to take a leap of faith and close its doors in 2016 for an 18-month overhaul of Meadowbrook. The idea was to use Park Jr as inspiration to breathe life back into a course which had lost any sense of golden age identity it may have had. The membership was so enthusiastic and encouraging that Staples had to be the voice of reason in one or two situations. There are six Park Jr holes which served as cornerstones for the new course; 2, 3, 7, 10, 11 & 18, although the final green is a Ross creation.

I won’t do a before and after photo tour mainly because Meadowbrook was a small blip on my radar prior to the Staples revisions. Unlike many Detroit area clubs, I never stepped foot on the property until a few weeks ago.

The rather shaggy looking opener is not visually representative for the remainder of the course. The tee was shifted left to allow play away from the boundary of the infamous 8 Mile Rd or as some old folks call it, Baseline Rd and toward the new water feature on the right. Like many things perplexing about Michigan, the explanation is fairly complicated and involves Ohio. Baseline was the original name due to it acting as a survey baseline for the United States Public Land Survey when Michigan was part of the Northwest Territories. When surveyed in 1815, there were to be 48 equal 6 miles by 6 miles Michigan townships north and south of the baseline. There is still a marker indicating the first pole position for the survey at the intersection of 8 Mile and Haggerty Roads. Interestingly, for a place named after a brook, I didn't see much evidence of such.


The green remains on the same site, but the front is slightly raised to allow for more hole locations.


The rollicking 2nd is a decent length par 5 with a tee shot playing blindly over a hill. The fairway shifted a bit right, but plays to Park Jr's original green. Notice the Park Jr - like mounding beyond the bunker which help defend the short-cut. The green has a serious false front which takes a forceful strike to bounce one in.


It seems the entire golf world talked about the third for some time. Staples created a very close version of Huntercombe's 4th green. What is rarely mentioned is that the hole looks rather plain from the tee. Perhaps not so much as Huntercombe, but if one doesn't know what is coming the green will be a shock. The new green is set away from the boundary, on the downslope of hill very similar to Huntercombe.

Huntercombe's 4th


Meadowbrook's 3rd






The use of short grass around the green is a major departure from the Huntercombe version.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: September 17, 2022, 11:14:53 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Majestic MEADOWBROOK CC 1-3
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2022, 11:14:22 AM »
Meadowbrook Tour Cont

A par 5 swinging around trees and water, the 4th is a radical departure from the old 4th. The old green is part of an area where the second shot may land. The green has been pushed back to create the three-shotter.


Even for the third shot can be in play if coming in from the left. This centreline bunker is a key to the hole if one can carry it in two. Otherwise, the fairly small green is somewhat obscured.


For longer hitters, the third is a much easier proposition with the full green in sight. I suspected the green was much larger with a safe zone out right...I was wrong and was left with unhill/downhill chip.


One of the hallmarks of the design is plenty of short grass around greens, but not overly so.


I appreciate the property wasn't stripped of trees. Many lovely specimens were left in place and are often well used to add variety for the tumbling terrain. That said, perhaps a few more less attractive trees could go here and there.  The 5th fairway was expanded a bit right to incorporate the lovely land which was effectively buried in trees. 


Once again, longer hitters have an advantage as the bottom of the hill can be reached for a level lie approach. The green was pushed back about 50 yards which was part of the 6th hole.  The new suface is a bit unusual as it is squared off at the raised front end, but rounded at the bowled out the rear end.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: September 15, 2022, 05:30:35 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Will Lozier

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Re: Majestic MEADOWBROOK CC 1-5
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2022, 01:56:49 PM »
The land looks incredible as does the design...can't wait for the rest!!!!


Cheers

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Majestic MEADOWBROOK CC 1-5
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2022, 07:33:07 AM »
Meadowbrook Tour Cont

One of Meadowbrook's highlights is the valley in which 6 & 11 rest, both short holes. A Staples wisely created a visual connection between the two holes when playing the 11th. The 6th is a new hole, perhaps the only completely new hole on the course?   It looks as though the the tees are close tow where the old 11th green was located. The hole itself is very good with a large right kick in shaped in a rather abrupt style.




A look at the green from the 7th tee.


The 6th connects well to the 7th which takes the course out of the valley. The new higher tees provide a good view of the severely uphill hole. I generally prefer to see less bunkers where one can do the job, but there are times when a bit of unusual flare is called for. The stepped left bunkers fill this ticket.


The obscured green is rather small and squared off with a fearful corner thumb print front left. Meadowbrook is not blessed with exterior views. However, countless examples demonstrate that Staples took great care in providing stand-out interior views.


Playing over water, the short 8th plays much better than it looks. The combination of water, tree, cart path and cut pattern adds up to a visually messy tee shot.  The ugly scar of cart paths is an issue which probably has no good solution, however, a different cut pattern may be a bit easier on the eye.   


More to follow.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

V_Halyard

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Majestic MEADOWBROOK CC 1-8
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2022, 09:09:03 AM »
I never cease to be impressed by Andy's educational groundwork on this project. Taking members on a field trip of Willie Park Courses was a master class on how to bring folks on board with a project that proposed an extreme departure from the course they were currently playing.
"It's a tiny little ball that doesn't even move... how hard could it be?"  I will walk and carry 'til I can't... or look (really) stupid.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Majestic MEADOWBROOK CC 1-8
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2022, 11:14:41 AM »
Meadowbrook Tour Cont

Moving the 8th green away from the boundary allowed for more tee room on the 9th. The short grass to the rear of the 8th green flowing into the 9th tee is another example of visual flow between holes.  Probably my favourite hole on the front nine, the 9th can be driven, but it is the smallest green on the course. There are options to play short of the green or even left of the green. A ditch is in place down the right where therte were once many trees.


To the left is a funky greenside bunker the likes of which I have never seen.


Another highly engaging hole which I could easily imagine Park Jr creating, the 10th moves over a hill with a large Elm as the aiming/focal point and as a deterrent for going left off the tee. The front to back green was moved left to create additional space for the 11th. I admit to being a bit confused on the approach and didn't fully appreciate the severe lay of the land until getting closer to the green which hangs entrancingly over the valley. 


A remarkable follows with the short 11th. At 200ish yards and playing sharply downhill, this hole is perhaps the set piece of the course.


The new ditch helps with drainage as this is a low point of the property. The visual connection to the 6th give the golfer a great sense of space that the course lacks with no exterior views. 


If it wasn't obvious before, the photos below demonstrate the front to back nature of the green.




More to follow.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

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