Medinah Country Club Prepared To Host 2012 Ryder Cup
Rees Jones remodels No. 3 Course at historic Chicago club
The storied No. 3 Course at Medinah Country Club, located in Chicago’s western suburbs, is poised to host the 2012 Ryder Cup matches from Sept. 25-30.
The big, broad-shouldered No. 3 Course, originally designed by Tom Bendelow in 1928, was carved from a thick stand of oaks, elms and hickories on gently rolling terrain. Medinah is no stranger to major championships. It has hosted three Western Opens (1939, 1962, 1966), three U.S. Opens (1949, 1975, 1990), one U.S. Senior Open (1988), and two PGA Championships (1999, 2006). In the wake of extensive changes made by Rees Jones, the No. 3 Course is expected to present a thorough test to the U.S. and European teams when it hosts the Ryder Cup, golf’s most compelling team competition.
Following the 1999 PGA Championship, there was evidence that Medinah’s No. 3 Course needed to be refreshed. Rees Jones was selected to undertake the modifications in 2002. The comprehensive remodeling project led to the rebuilding of seven green complexes, the reconstruction of all fairway and greenside bunkers, the leveling and rebuilding of all tees, and the re-grading of selected fairways. In addition, the green at the par 3 17th hole was relocated back to the bank of Lake Kadijah in preparation for the 2006 PGA Championship.
In 2009, Jones and his design team returned to Medinah to recontour and rebuild the layout’s remaining 11 green complexes. All the putting surfaces on the revised No. 3 Course were converted to a new strain of bentgrass as part of the $1.5 million renovation. The most significant design change was made at the 15th hole, where a completely new “driveable” par 4 was created to provide a classic risk-reward challenge.
“The 15th hole is now the shortest par 4 on the course and comes at a crucial point in the round, following the long par 5 14th and before the famous closing three-hole stretch,” Jones said. “The landing area and green have shifted slightly up the slope to the left, while the new two-acre pond protects the entire right side of the hole.” He added that a series of newly repositioned tees reduced the length of the hole by 100 yards.
“We’ve built a flexible hole for the members that also creates a drivable par 4 for the match play format of the Ryder Cup.”
Jones noted that he had long envisioned the change to No. 15.
“I felt that the 15th was a hole where the risk-reward challenge could be strengthened,” he said. “I felt a pond adjacent to the 15th green would give it plenty of the risk-reward element. It’s now an important part of the round and extends one of the great finishing tests in golf.”
According to Medinah’s past club president Joe Ebner, “We are thrilled with the changes to the 15th hole and with the completion of the greens renovation project. 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.”
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 No. 16, this tree-lined, right-to-left dogleg has been extended to nearly 500 yards from the championship tee. “Moving the tee back and shifting the landing area to the right brings the dogleg back into play,” Jones stated.
Curtis Tyrrell, Medinah’s director of golf course operations, said having all 18 greens conform to USGA standards will translate to increased consistency on the putting surfaces. Over the span of eight years, Tyrrell said Jones ended up redesigning each and every green on the No. 3 Course. He noted that Jones “utilized existing surrounding contours to create rolls and valleys” to reconfigure the new greens, adding subtlety and creating additional hole locations on the expansive putting surfaces.
The club also planted a new variety of creeping bentgrass on the layout’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.
In addition to his major overhaul of Medinah’s No. 3 Course, Jones, known for the many courses he has redesigned in preparation for major competitions, revised The Country Club (Brookline) and Oakland Hills (South Course) which held the Ryder Cup matches in 1999 and 2004, respectively. He has also refurbished Hazeltine National, which will host the 2016 Ryder Cup.