Plainfield Country Club, one of Donald Ross's greatest designs is not located in your stereotypical "Country Club Neighbour-hood". Similar to Pine Valley or Augusta on your approach to the course, you must pass through a less than desirable area, an area in which you most certainly would not expect to find one of the east coast's finest tracks. Even the demure name of the club itself does not exactly lend itself to the vision of a course which in 2011 will host the Barclays Tournament. I once heard a man say "ah Plainfield, super track, only problem is that its in Plainfield New Jersey" So as I hope you can picture, the surrounding area is less than picture perfect, but as you near the entrance you see high on the hill a beautiful palatial clubhouse looking down on all below. Plainfield is an oasis in amidst a desert of concrete and fast foods outlets.
Once you set foot on the property,you feel as if you are in a different world. Beautiful Practice facilities, friendly staff, impeccably kept grounds. One thing I heard about Plainfield was that the memebrship there was one of the most welcoming and down to earth bunches of people one would ever meet, no air or graces, traditional, old school and just happy to be out playing golf and enjoying themselves. I experienced this first hand as the day I was to play myself and my travelling companion got split up and as a result I was paired by the starter with three members. This is something I never have a problem with, it's great to meet new people and share golfing experiences. The three people I played with at Plainfield Dick (a club stalwart) Linda (Ladies Club Champ) and her husband Mark (a real genuine nice guy), affirmed all I had heard about Plainfield and its members.
To sum the course up in a nutshell, the single word I would use is "Fun", in the same way as Somerset Hills keeps testing the player, Plainfield does the same, whether it be slick greens table top greens, thrilling design features like fescue mounding, sharp changes in elevation,blind shots etc. At Plainfield Ross just keeps the player guessing. One of the many problems that have surfaced in recent years in relation to Ross courses is the overplanting of trees, which (remember Ross was scottish... Dornoch) were never intended to be an element of his courses. As was done at Oakmont, here under the supervision of Gill Hanse the members decided to restore the course to its origins and remove over 1500 trees, having never seen the course before this I cannot comment on a comparison but I believe I would only feel one way about it! A side note, in preparation for 2011 Barclays the bunkers have also been restored to their former glory.
I often comment about the true strength of a course being vested in its par 3's and at Plainfield they are all of true quality. Two medium length (3 played across a stream to a green angled away from the player to the right and 6 a narrow devishily sloping punchbowl green). 14 requires a long Iron over a pond to a green which is surprisingly flat and as result much harder to read than its 17 companions. However 11 is the pick of the bunch and goes down in my top ten par threes ever, a short hole of only 140 yards, the green is banked into a ridge which runs right through the golf course, long is dead, short and your ball will roll back into the course's deepest bunker, only a sweetly struck shot will find the surface, but given its severe slope even then par is no formality. The other standout hole for me at Plainfield were, number 13 a tremendous par 4 playing along the Ob with deep rough awaiting a pulled tee shot, 4 a cracking little short par 4 requiring a blind pitch to a tiny green and 12 a tremendous par 5 (formerly a par 3 and a par 4 but Ross combined the two). The finish is teriffic, two Doglegs both turning different directions (a surprisingly uncommon trait) both with greens like billiard tables perched above the level of the fairway.
Plainfield is quality and requires every shot in the bag, even the bump & can be utilised to great effect given the rolling nature of the terrain. It's a tremendous down to earth club, for people who just enjoy their club and take tremendous pride in their course. For me it just shades Ross other similar creation, Aronimink, both are top notch, but at Plainfield the golfers mind can never wander requiring 100% concentration on every shot!... Nick
Date: December 09, 2010