“We have been extremely fortunate to have been the consulting architects for Monroe Golf Club for the past decade, and it is my opinion that it is the finest Donald Ross course in New York State. The combination of the perfect terrain, sandy soil, and the genius of the Donald Ross design, makes it a must see for any player interested in golf course architecture. With the variety of golf holes, angles of play, and sublime green complexes it has challenged the finest amateurs in the history of golf over 70 years. With this history, tradition, and a chance to study some of the finest golf course architecture on the planet, the MIC is an opportunity that no amateur golfer should pass up.”
Golf Course Architect
| GOLF COURSE RESTORATION/RENOVATION
GIL HANSE, GOLF COURSE ARCHITECT
GIL HANSE NAMED 2009 COURSE ARCHITECT OF THE YEAR
In 2002 Monroe Golf Club formed the Golf Course Improvement and Tree Management Program Committee in order to evaluate trees and their impact oncourse conditions and playability. Phase I included the removal of 250 trees (92% were pines and spruces).
The Monroe Board of Governors appointed a committee of members and staff in 2004 to review and make recommendations on an updated golf course Master Plan. Members approved funding an architect’s review and development of a Master Plan that same year.
In 2005 Gil Hanse Associates Inc. was selected to develop a Master plan. The Master Plan Committee met numerous times separately and with Gil Hanse.
In 2007 the Monroe membership approved Phase I of Master Plan which included restoration of all existing bunkers, adding nine bunkers, a new women’s tenth tee, two championship tees and rebuilding the men’s first tee.
On October 7, 2007 construction began on the Master Plan. The new bunkers were shaped by Gil Hanse; construction work was done by Jack Faery Landscaping (Jack Faery and Tony Grenzy, Construction Manager and Shaper).
Gil Hanse golf course restoration principles:
1. Restore the bunkers to their original condition
This recommendation was at the top of the list of all architects who came and made proposals. Each of them pointed out how the bunkers have been allowed to deteriorate over the years at Monroe. Conditions today include inconsistency between bunkers; lack of sand in greenside bunkers; a sunken appearance to others and poor bunker facing due to sand continually thrown up by shots hit out of green side bunkers.
The Master Plan Committee began to plan for rebuilding virtually every bunker at Monroe. This involved digging down to the base, installing a new bed if needed and changing out the sand using all new sand. The visual appeal and playability of the bunkers was the centerpiece of the Master Plan and accounted for the majority of the expense.
2. Make certain the course is enjoyable for all levels of play
This is always easier said than done, of course, but the goal is always there as any changes were debated. Members’ skills vary widely, as do the reasons they play golf in the first place. But they all play the same course, and the challenge to an architect is to give each player a set of tees to play from that gives them the most enjoyment for all 18 holes.
3. Restore the original strategic shot values as well as the recovery shot
Donald Ross had very specific ideas for how you could play most holes. He wanted to give the golfer the choice on the tee: if they had the skill and the shots, they could choose the ideal route that positioned them for the best second shot approach to the green. If they wanted a safer route, he gave them that choice as well—but usually that meant a less than ideal landing location from which to hit the next shot to the green.
A good example would be Monroe’s 4th hole. Ross wanted the better player to be able to aim straight over the short right side bunkers and if successful, have a shot from the right side of the fairway up the hill to a green that had a very difficult right side bunker. Over the years, the planting of many trees between the 3rd and 4th fairway resulted in a shifting of the tee further to the left to get away from that canopy of trees. In addition, the fairway cutting pattern was changed to open it up further on the left side. The result is the reverse of how the hole was designed. To have a shot from the fairway, players have to aim much further left than Ross envisioned when the designed the green complex.
Gil Hanse believed that a return to the original tee location, the removal of trees that crowd out that tee and restoring the original fairway mowing pattern, would combine to give all players the original choices that Ross had designed. In addition, the expansion of the fairway further to the right allows the higher handicap golfer room to hit their second shot wide of the cross bunkers that sit 80 yards from the green.
On many other holes, elimination of trees that were planted in front of bunkers allowed for the reintroduction of the recovery shot for all players. Many fairway bunkers had spruce and other trees directly in line of play towards the green. Ross never intended for that to happen. These trees were planted over the years without the thought of how big they would grow in 40 or more years. They constituted a double hazard as they eliminated any chance of aiming for the real target, the green.
4. Restore the greens to their original shape and size.
Green shrinkage is a common problem of the classic golf courses built in the 1920’s. It has happened primarily because of mowing equipment available at the time. The first introduction of power mowers in the 1940’s was a big step forward over the push cutting mowers, but they were not as flexible in turns and they were cumbersome to back up. The result was a technique that evolved which resulted in wide circular turning. This meant that the irregular corners and peninsulas of certain greens were lost back to the fringe. Over the next 50 years the circular pattern or shape continued to evolve. When greens were reseeded, the “new shape” was the only area reseeded, and the greens lost the original shape more or less permanently.
The greens of Ross and other classic architects had some very unusual shapes because they saw the nuances that were available if the back of a green had an extension or a peninsula. It meant more varied hole locations were available. This gave the course more variety each day and the more locations meant less stress on any one spot.
Modern mowers and equipment allow the greens to be cut more efficiently and to follow irregular patterns. Monroe Golf Club is fortunate to possess the original blueprints of the greens and the original Ross drawings. Restoring the size and shape that Ross designed will add interest and improve the conditions of the greens. This was an important part of the Master Plan and Mr. Hanse believes it will make the course more enjoyable for all levels of players. Please visit the Scorecard tab under Golf Course to view the original blueprints of each green.
5. Restore the fairways to their original mowing pattern and return original fairway bunkers to the course
The fairways at Monroe had been changed significantly in terms of mowing pattern. The aerial photos show they are much more sculpted or weaving now than when the original course was built. Some of this is deliberate; some the result of maintenance decisions. Gil Hanse recommended that we return closer to the original fairway mowing pattern. This will not always result in a wider fairway since in some cases it means merely a shifting of the fairway, but it will restore the landing areas to fairway that Ross envisioned.
The return to the original design of the fairways also means returning to the course a number of fairway bunkers that have been taken out over the years. Based on his review of many Ross courses and after a study of the original Ross blueprints at Monroe, Mr. Hanse felt they were put in by Ross as part of his design to highlight dramatically the contours of our gently rolling terrain. Mr. Hanse recommended that most of these orginal bunkers be returned to the course, especially those that were cut into a ridge or small hill. Much of this work has been completed.
6. There were a number of opportunities to extend championship tees.
The changes in clubs and balls have meant the stronger players at every club are hitting it further than any time in golf history. Monroe's championship tees were not played very often and the better players at Monroe told the committee it is because there is very little difference between the regulation tees and the championship tees. While doing the restoration work, championship tees have been added to the 5th hole increasing the yardage from 431 yards to 484 yards. Also, the 9th hole has been lengthened from 531 yards to 601 yards. Additional championship tees are planned for the near future.
On several holes, the addition of bunkers in the landing area of the low handicap players of the gold tees has insured that the strategy of how best to play the hole is still rewarded. The work creating longer championship tees has strengthened the course for many years to come.
7. Create chipping areas around the greens to reward the creativity and execution of recovery shots.
Classic courses were designed with the clubs and balls in use at that time, as well as the equipment that would cut the turf. Today’s clubs and ball allows for a much greater variety of shots, especially around the green. In addition, today’s mowers allow us to cut fringe areas closer and to a lower level. To encourage and reward the player who can execute recovery shots around the green, restoration architects look for areas directly adjacent to or behind a green where they can introduce closely cut chipping areas. If you watched the US Open at Pinehurst, you saw how this feature adds a new dimension to shots around the green. Several chipping areas have been established throughout the golf course mostly notably on holes 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18.
These chipping areas give players multiple options, including chipping, bumping the ball into the side hill, putting, or using a fairway wood. With some practice, these are shots that every level of golfer can execute and it makes for some of the most exciting match play swings when they pull it off.