Medinah's 15th turned into drive-able par-4 for Ryder Cup

Along with every other green at Medinah, the one at the beautiful second hole was totally rebuilt as part of a $1.1 million renovation project.

Medinah's 15th turned into drive-able par-4 for Ryder Cup

Among his many changes to Medinah Country Club, architect Rees Jones transformed the 15th hole of its famed No. 3 course into a drive-able par 4, reducing its length by 100 yards and adding a new two-acre lake that borders dangerously on the right side of the fairway and green.

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Medinah Country Club has transformed the 15th hole of its famed No. 3 course into a drive-able par 4, reducing its length by 100 yards and adding a new two-acre lake that borders dangerously on the right side of the fairway and green.

The dramatic new hole was designed by renowned golf course architect Rees Jones in an effort to present a strong risk-reward challenge both for Medinah members and contestants in the 2012 Ryder Cup to be played in just 33 months on the venerable layout in west suburban Chicago.

The redesign of No. 15 took place concurrently with a major greens renovation project in which 11 of Course No. 3's original 18 greens and its main putting green were rebuilt to U.S. Golf Association specifications. Course 3's other seven greens, which had been rebuilt to USGA standards in 2002, also were re-grassed and No. 15 green rebuilt. The most recent renovation cost $1.5 million.

"We are thrilled with the changes to the 15th hole and with the completion of the greens renovation project," said Medinah club president Joe Ebner. "The membership has embraced and supported these course improvements in order to keep Medinah among the world's elite championship golf courses. The feedback we have received from our members has been extremely positive. Everyone is eager to get out and play the course."

Jones, who has overseen all architectural design aspects of Medinah's three golf courses since 2000, said he long had envisioned the change to No. 15.

"I felt that the 15th was a hole where the risk-reward challenge could be strengthened," Jones said. "I felt a pond adjacent to the 15th green would give it plenty [of the risk-reward element], in a fashion similar to the 12th hole. It's now an important part of the round and extends one of the great finishing tests in golf."

The new forward tee on No. 15 allows the hole to be set up as short as 280 yards. The original tee area -- which measures 392 yards from the championship tees and 367 from the regular men's tees -- will be preserved to provide the club with flexibility in course set-up.

By moving the 15th green to the left (south), Jones also made way for the creation of a new back tee for Medinah's famous par 4 16th hole. With the new tee on 16, the tree-lined dogleg left now has been extended to 500 yards from the championship tees from 485. Moving the tee back and shifting the landing area to the right will bring the dogleg back in to play, Jones said.

The course, which closed for construction on Aug. 17, 2009 is expected to reopen June 18, 2010.

Golf course superintendent Curtis Tyrrell, Medinah's director of golf course operations, supervised the implementation of Jones' plans. A strong advocate of the greens renovation project, Tyrrell said having all 18 greens conform to USGA standards will provide the grounds crew with more control over moisture levels, as USGA greens have extensive subsurface drainage systems. This, he said, will translate to increased consistency of the putting surfaces.

"I'm excited that every green is the same now," Tyrrell said. "The members will be able to enjoy a uniform stand of turf offering a consistent appearance and playability."

Tyrrell said Jones redesigned the contours of all 11 newly rebuilt greens with the exception of No. 5. He said Jones "utilized existing surround contours to create rolls and valleys" to the new greens in order to give them more movement. The other six greens were stripped, fumigated, and replanted with minor contour changes. No. 15 received a new green. The 11 greens had not been altered at their bases since the course opened in 1925, he said.

The club also planted a new variety of creeping bent grass SR007 and 1119 on the course's 28 acres of fairway and planted a new first cut of rough in the form of a two-yard-wide swath of Kentucky Bluegrass.

"The idea is to give players a clear cut definition of the fairway and the rough," Tyrrell said.

On June 13, 2009, Medinah's membership voted by a margin of 4-1 to spend upwards of $1.1 million on the greens renovation project. A short time later, the members approved the dramatic change to No. 15 at a cost of $380,000, officials said. Below is a brief outline of each aspect of the renovation project:

-- Reconstruction of the remaining original soil-based push-up greens on the club's No. 3 course. These surfaces and the Putting Clock in front of the clubhouse were replaced by state-of-the-art sand-based greens set to specifications of the U.S. Golf Association. The greens that were replaced were on holes 3, 4, 5, and 6. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 14. The six other greens were rebuilt to USGA standards in 2002. One of those greens, No. 15, was rebuilt as part of the current project consistent with the new hole layout.

-- Re-grassing of all 18 greens and the Putting Clock in front of the clubhouse to bring about all pure bentgrass greens upon reopening in June 2010.

-- Re-grassing of all 18 fairways and intermediate rough areas to eliminate poa annua and other types of undesirable grasses.

-- With Course 3 closed for the renovation, the club undertook a cart path and hardscape improvement program aimed at upgrading the aesthetics and functionality of cart paths, the halfway house complex, and the area surrounding the No. 6 green and No. 7 and 10 tees.

-- Renovation and expansion of the golf course maintenance facility.

Ebner said club leaders determined this was the membership's last opportunity to undertake the projects prior to the 2012 Ryder Cup. Moreover, the club in is good financial condition, has a full membership, and a waiting list.

The most recent renovation is the latest in a series of improvements made since the arrival of general manager Dan Miles in 2007 and Tyrrell shortly thereafter. Other improvements include:

-- Construction of a new 12-acre state-of-the-art short game practice area adjacent to the club's newly reconfigured and improved driving range.

-- In the fall of 2008, Medinah replaced all 88,000 square feet of tan-colored sand in all 74 bunkers on its No. 3 course with white Tour Signature Sand in order to make the bunkers more playable and more visually appealing.

Medinah Country Club is the Chicago area's best known and most frequent major championship venue. Course No. 3 has hosted three U.S. Opens (1949, '75, and '90), two PGA Championships (1999, 2006), three Western Opens (1946, '62, and '66), and other prestigious events in the pre-PGA Tour era. Medinah's champions include such historic figures as "Lighthorse" Harry Cooper, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Billy Casper, Gary Player, Hale Irwin, and Tiger Woods.

Founded in the 1920s by a group of Shriners, Medinah features three golf courses, all designed by highly respected Scotsman Tom Bendelow. The massive 120,000-square foot clubhouse designed by Richard Schmid is a unique architectural blend of styles that include Byzantine, Oriental, and Louis XIV influences.