Improvements to Hole #6 – Raynors VALLEY Template Hole (June 2017 Echoes)

IMG_1311Variety and character are two of the most highly desirable and sought after qualities on a golf course. They represent the spice of the course, and make golf holes more enjoyable and memorable. Minnesota Valley’s par four sixth … Raynor’s VALLEY hole represents just that, absent of uniformity, extremely memorable, and truly a shot makers hole.

Some of the spice had however, been lost on the sixth hole, and we’re now in the process of returning that zest. It began with a sound review of the original design intent of the hole. When the hole was first laid out sometime in 1922, the only trees Hole #6 Dogleg Bunker Locationon the hole were the oaks near the green. The design intent was a carry shot from the tee over a large corner bunker and a precise approach shot to one of the steepest sloped greens on the course……a difficult par for even the best of players. Since then, the key corner bunker became grass, lost in a stand of fir trees, and quite insignificant. An expansive fairway was narrowed with additional tree plantings on the far side of the dogleg as well.

Now, one of the best vistas on the course has been restored with the removal of those fir trees. Beginning at the fifth green, golfers now have a half mile view across the sixth hole and lake, past the covered bridge and all the way to the clubhouse. During upcoming renovation, which begins August 1st, that original corner bunker will be rebuilt above its current location, alongside the fairway, and once again become an important strategic feature. In addition, we will be expanding the fairway on the outside of the dogleg, returning the original larger landing zone from the tee. All along the left side out-of-bounds, trees have been trimmed back and cleared, providing the needed sunlight for grass sod and seed currently being planted. The zest is returning!

Selective removal and trimming has and will be completed near the green site asHole #6 Tree and Brush Removal near Green well, eliminating unnecessary obstacles to well struck approach shots. We’ve already seen a substantial increase in the amount of valuable morning sunlight reaching this green, something sure to improve the long term quality of the putting surface. Over 2000 square feet of putting surface will be added to the back of this well sloped green during the upcoming renovation.

This green addition will slope slightly away to the back of the green, and provide some interesting and valuable cupping areas. We will be seeding this new green area with creeping bentgrass, and since it’s on the backside of the green, the work will have a very limited impact on play. Improvements are also underway left of the green site. This dense area of mostly undesirable trees and brush (noxious Buckthorn) was unnecessary and forced the cart path and OB line too close the green.

We are currently removing the undesirable growth and leaving in place selective hardwoods. This will allow the cart path to be relocated further away from the green as it approaches the site, yet still provide close accessibility to the green for those Hole #6 Existing and New Cartpath Locationsusing carts. Even better, the out-of-bounds line will be moved all the way to the eastern edge of the property line. Any errant shots left of the green will now most likely be in-bounds, found, and played.

So, to add it all up…….great new vista, important as ever club selection and shot striking from the tee, return of a new strategic carry bunker, larger landing zone, more sunlight for the green, larger green with more cupping area, and no path or OB left of the green. The combination of these improvements are sure to bring the spice back to this great golf hole!

Mike Brower: MVCC Golf Course Superintendent


Master Plan Elements: March 2017 Echoes

In August the club will begin the most important construction event in its history. The bunkers will be completely renovated and a number of greens will be modified. It will be a huge step forward for the club, yet ironically it began with a detailed look to the past.

Minnesota Valley is a historic Seth Raynor designed golf club, boasting a long tradition of excellence. Seth Raynor is widely considered to be one of the premier golf course architects of all time. Any Restoration or renovation work on the golf course must always honor these historic Seth Raynor roots. While always focusing on strengthening the Raynor footprint, it is imperative that any restoration work solidifies the mechanical integrity of the golf course as well. Taking this approach will allow Minnesota Valley to not only be one of the premier clubs in Minnesota, but also one of the premier Raynor golf courses in America.

While we all know the current golf course is enjoyable to play, upon closer inspection we’ll discover an aging course with Raynor features that have declined in form and quality. While each of the course features function… the function and form of these features could be restored to a much higher quality. This would make Minnesota Valley an elite golf course.

Simply maintaining the current form and function of many of our course features cripples that chance of reaching an elite level. The Master Plan has identified the features on the course that are in need of restoration or rebuilding. This includes bunker sand quality, proper grassing of green surrounds, softening the most severe green slopes, improved drainage, proper spacing of tees, improved aesthetics, creating improved green sites, and returning the original design intent to each golf hole.

Mike Brower: MVCC Golf Course Superintendent


 Raynor Restoration Update: Jan/Feb 2017 Echoes

The Master Plan design development has taken approximately three years to complete. This has been time well spent and not unusual for a private golf club with a historic property. Following this, a survey of the membership revealed a strong desire to improve bunkers and modify green slopes. As a result, conceptual design plans were presented to members for a bunker restoration and green modification project. The result of a membership vote showed overwhelming support for the completion of that project.

Over the past three months, the Green Committee has worked closely with Architect, Bill Bergin, to fine tune a great bunker renovation and green modification project for MV. This includes a review of many final construction documents that best depict and describe the project, including bunker strategy, cut and fill, contour maps, grading plans, erosion control, drainage, and grassing plans.

These are all essential to a smooth budget and planning process with the selected construction contractor. And with any construction project, intense personal attention to details and nuances in the field will occur to attain the best features possible. Staying true to standard Seth Raynor design principles will always will be a key deliverable with any project on the golf course.

In January, a final construction contract will be finalized with Duininck Golf, of Prinsburg, Minnesota. Duininck is a nationally known specialist in golf course renovation projects. Most recently they completed the reconstruction of bunkers at Hazeltine, and have proven to be a leader in their field.

The total number of bunkers on the golf course is slated to be reduced from the current 92, to 71. All of the reductions are greenside, while the number of fairway bunkers will increase slightly. There were a number of greenside bunkers, which after close evaluation, were determined to be in large part insignificant to the strategy of the golf hole.

This also allowed for the introduction of short-cut chipping areas around some greens, as replacements to sand bunkers. These new chipping areas will add more diversity and character in the areas around the greens complex and they’ll also offer a variety of methods for shot recovery. The ground in front of bunkers will, wherever possible, be altered to open up the view of the new white sand.

Over the next few months, the Green Committee will be working with the Architect and the contractor on a very detailed construction timetable for the project. That timetable will be shared with members once completed. Work is due to begin on approximately August 1, 2017, and weather permitting, be completed by the end of the golf season.

The golf course will remain open during this time, though it will be necessary to have several temporary greens in use as work progresses through the course. Work will be occurring on several golf holes at one time, but not the entire golf course. This type of work sequencing allows for 18 golf holes during construction.

One area bound to be disturbed early in the sequence is the carry on the ninth hole. Three to four feet of earth will be cut away in the area between the back tees and the fairway. There are two good reasons for this…one being we needed soil for the project, the second is to create a better view of the fairway from the teeing ground. We can accomplish both by stealing valuable soil from this area. This soil will be temporarily stored in the open area in front of the back tee on nine, and trucked to various work sites on the course as needed.

As work progresses on the par threes, a par five will be converted into two golf holes…a par three and a par four, to make up for the temporary loss of the par three under construction. Once the bunkers and green surround work is completed on two or three golf holes, sod will be laid and the holes will re-open. Sodded areas will be played as ground under repair until fully rooted in. That type of work schedule will continue until all holes are completed.

Fall is a great time to complete a project such as this. It’s typically a drier time of year with a reduced number of rounds compared to spring and summer. It’s exciting to think about the days ahead and that first truckload of sod being laid down. With any luck, a third of the golf course will be completed by the end of August, two-thirds by the end of September, and the entire renovated course back in play before the end of the golf season.

Mike Brower: MVCC Golf Course Superintendent


Golf Course Restoration Plan Approved: Nov/Dec 2016 Echoes

MVCC members overwhelmingly approved a golf course improvement project that will begin approximately August 1, 2017. The golf course will remain open during this restoration. The project will include reconstruction of all bunkers, modifications and/or enlargements to most green surfaces, and re-contouring and re-grassing the green surrounds.

Plans call for a reduction of bunkers from 91 to 74. In addition, the green surrounds will have nearly a dozen new short-cut chipping areas. It is the goal of this renovation to solidify the golf course’s mechanical integrity, while honoring its Seth Raynor roots to further enhance its position, not only as one of the premier courses in Minnesota, but also in America. I couldn’t be happier about your decision to honor the Raynor roots and restore this masterpiece!

Bunkers play a huge role in the strategy of playing this golf course, while also having a significant impact on how the course looks. After over 90 years of use, your bunkers are showing their age and are due for a makeover addressing both of these issues, strategy and aesthetics. The installation of drain tile, the Better Billy bunker liner system, and Ohio Best white sand will provide the best bunker system used in golf today. It’s a system that will provide extremely consistent sand conditions from bunker to bunker.

By shifting and eliminating some greenside bunkers while also adding chipping areas around greens, golfers will find more diversity in the area around the green complex and in their chance at recovery. The ground in front of the bunkers will also be moderately adjusted to open up views of the new white sand. This will undoubtedly be an eye opener and greatly improve the beauty of the golf course.

We all know MVCC greens as some of the very best around. They’re only going to get better! The restoration project will return all of the greens to their original squarer shapes and larger sizes. Some of the most severe slopes on greens will be modified, traditional corners of the greens will return, and several greens will be added onto.

Over 17,000 square feet of putting surface will be added, which will provide more cupping areas. In conjunction with the new bunkers and green surrounds, importantly, the green modifications restore and enhance the great Raynor nuances, making this course world-class once again.

Members will be provided regular updates on the project from this day forward, and you can count on seeing something from me each month here in the Echoes from now until the project is completed.

Mike Brower: MVCC Golf Course Superintendent