On a chilly November day a few years ago, Scott Paris’s phone rang. On the other end was Gil Hanse. “You have to come out to the eighth green,” the architect told Plainfield’s Director of Golf. “I’ve just uncovered a Donald Ross bunker.” Hired in 1999 to restore the course, the then unknown Hanse proceeded slowly at first, recognizing that the changes (starting with tree removal that eventually resulted in 1200 fewer trees) would be controversial. Over time it became apparent that his work—such as that restored bunker on number eight—was a definite improvement. Now complete, Hanse’s effort included restoration of over 100 bunkers, expansion of half the greens (all to their original size and shape), new tees on 14 of the holes, and restoration of chipping areas and fescue.
Ross’s routing remains intact, though the nines have been flipped around. With the exception of a 50 yard walk around the 8th green to get to the second tee, the routing flows quite smoothly and Ross managed to site at least four holes in each of four different directions. There is an area where five holes parallel each other: 5, 7, 8, 12 and 16, but only two (7 and 8) are played consecutively.
The result is a course is a course that holds its own with most any other in the U.S. The line of charm, strategically placed hazards (mostly bunkers, but water is in play on three holes) running approaches, dastardly contoured greens—it’s all here. Moreover, it’s a course that has shown it can challenge the best in the world (as it will again in 2020) while also providing a delightful day-to-day experience for far less skillful players. Conditioning is another strong suit here: my most recent round followed a three day PGA Sectional event. The greens read 13 on my stimpmeter……..and they hadn’t been cut that day.
Plainfield is great fun……and one of my dozen U.S. favorites.
Date: September 22, 2016