The Plainfield Country Club has always been proud of their Donald Ross heritage. They announce it on their scorecard, they have the original hole drawings on the wall of their grill room and for a number of years they hosted the Donald Ross Memorial. The Ross Memorial was an amateur tournament of renown that was abandoned due to scheduling problems a few years back.
Over the past ten years Plainfield has worked with Architect Gil Hanse to restore the masterpiece. The course had become overgrown with trees of all different kinds blocking the proper play avenues. The bunkers had begun to deteriorate and the fairways had become straight lined and dull.
Gil Hanse has consistently improved the course. He has overseen the removal of hundreds of trees, including all the white pines and has instated mowing patterns that have widened the fairways and brought back alternative play strategies. But the crowning achievement that Gil has wrought is the restoration of bunkering on the course.
Some eight or nine years ago Hanse redid the numerous fairway bunkers on the eighteenth hole. Today these hazards look as if they have been there forever. Another improvement is the reinstatement of the false front on the short 11th. An approach that has not been properly struck or hit with too much spin will exit the front of the green to a bunker some 20 yards short.
The most remarkable change that Mr. Hanse has brought about is the true restoration of the par five 16th hole. This 565 yard hole had a cross bunker complex that completely blocked the fairway about 450-60 yards from the tee. This did not allow the short hitting player any leeway in his approach to the hole, he was forced to lay-up short of the bunker complex leaving a blind 165-180 yard shot to the dance floor.
Gil rebuilt the bunkers artistically but recreated an alleyway left of them that allow a well struck shot to give the player a 135-50 yard approach with the green in sight. Relying on the original hole drawings, Gil removed an unsightly horseshoe shaped bunker from around the green. This allowed him to resize the green to original dimensions. Overall this is one of the best singular hole restoration in the game.
Plainfield Country Club is continuing the restoration process and improving their venue. They should be proud of their accomplishments. It shows that a little pride and a good long term plan can elevate a very good golf course to a great one.
Special kudos are due to Gil Hanse for his masterful work. This is the type of reasoned, researched, artistic restoration work is what golf needs.