In what was a great weekend, I followed up Somerset Hills with Plainfield--a classic Donald Ross design in New Jersey. As you might expect with a Ross course, the defining features of this course are bunkers and unique greens. The bunkers come in every variety--plenty of cross bunkers, fairway bunkers, greenside bunkers, and annoying bunkers that are 40 yards from the green that somehow you find yourself in. As my playing partner pointed out to me, there are also "top bunkers"--bunkers designed to penalize someone who tops a drive. Talk about kicking someone while they are down.
The greens were just tons of fun. The greens at Somerset were super fast and had lots of interesting features, but the greens were not what I would call extreme. At Plainfield, the greens were slower, but the slopes were intense. Many greens had a lip at the back, which often saves a golfer from going over a green and down the steep embankments that are often seen on Ross green complexes. There were also lots of greens that sloped wildly from one end to the other such that there would be a significant elevation change from the front of the green to the back of the green (as you will see below, the par three eleventh is a prime example). Being a caddy here must be incredible because I imagine that you could study these greens for years and still learn something every time you went out.
One thing that did grow tiresome on the course was the number of blind shots. I do not dislike blind shots as much as others do, but even I grew weary of them after a while.
Overall, I felt like most every hole was strong, thus making the course properly put in the upper echelon of American golf courses. However, I did not find many holes to be memorable (unlike Somerset where I will never forget 2, 11, 12, and 15). At Plainfield, I will certainly not forget 11--that is an awesome hole. Other than that, perhaps the ninth because of how perfect its bunkering is, and you can see the entire hole unfold before you with the clubhouse as a backdrop. And the sixteenth green is one of the craziest green complexes I have ever played, so that will be forever in the memory bank as well. I think part of my problem is that I do not have a good memory of interesting features on greens, which is, largely, what defines Plainfield. That being said, I certainly had a ton of fun playing the course and it is no doubt a true championship course that serves as a test to the best of golfers (which I am not, but the course has hosted multiple Tour events).
Note that the pictures of the ninth and eleventh holes come from @d.k.s.photography. Check out his instagram account for some awesome golf photos!
Now, onto some holes.
The first is a 421 yard par four--can't see the green from the tee, but it is just straight away. The fun part of this hole comes at the green where it is severely sloped from back to front. It is one of the more severe greens on the course with the back of the green being substantially higher than the front.
Approach to first.
The second is another long par four at 437 yards where you cannot see your landing area. This hole has some of the most beautiful bunkering on the course and, due to its length, you may very well find yourself in one of those lovely bunkers 40 yards from the green--as I did.
Approach to second.
The third is an interesting little par three at 164 yards. Have to carry water, which, only should come into play with a right pin location. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of the true feature of this hole--the bunker behind the green on the left. If the pin is right and you bail out left and happen to go long, you are in a deep bunker. Escaping from there will require a bunker shot with the lake lurking behind the pin.
The fourth is a 295 yard par four--not as short as it seems given it is uphill with a blind tee shot. Like most people, not a fan of uphill holes, but one good way to do it if you must is make it a short par four so it's closer to a normal sized par four.
The fifth is a 509 yard par five. I did an exceptionally poor job of capturing the bunkering that defines this hole. Fairway bunker threatens tee shots, cross bunkers waiting for layups, and bunkers surrounding the green.
Fifth green complex.
The sixth is a 141 yard par three with another green that is totally flanked by bunkers. As you may be able to see in the second picture, the front right of the green has a large ridge running through it that will funnel balls towards the front left, where the hole location happened to be on the day we played.
If you look carefully at the top right of this photo, you can see that the edge of the green is elevated as compared to the rest of the green. My ball landed on that front right ridge and trickled down to the left.
The seventh is a 457 yard par four where, again, you cannot see the landing area. Hit your drive properly and it will fly over the hill and catch a severe downslope that will add many yards to your drive.
View that awaits you upon clearing the hill.
The eighth is a 495 yard par five with another fun green that requires some local knowledge. The green tilts heavily from left to right, so if the pin is on the right, you can go a bit left and let it feed down.
Approach to eight.
The ninth is a great hole--a 356 yard par four. Some of the best (and deepest) bunkering on the course protecting the green and the clubhouse serving as the backdrop.
Approach to nine. Thanks to @d.k.s.photography for this snap. Check out his instagram account for some great golf photography.
The tenth--a 353 yard downhill par four--is simply a super fun hole. Hit less than driver in order to find the middle of the fairway at a wedge distance. The green complex is one of the best on the course--there is an intense backstop with the green sloping from back to front. The right side of the green is also elevated to tilt the green left. The approach has to clear bunkers protecting the front and avoid the deep bunker to the left of the green, which almost feels built into the green.
Approach to ten.
I would call the eleventh the most memorable hole on the course--a 136 yard par three. Other than 16 at Pasatiempo, this is the craziest green I have seen.
Eleventh tee. Hit it anywhere on the front half of that green and its coming back down. Thanks again to @d.k.s.photography for the pic.
What waits behind the eleventh green. If you go over, I cannot imagine how your chip could hold the green given how severely the green slopes back to front.
The twelfth--a 555 yard par five--uses a little creek that runs through the hole to protect the green and bisect the fairway in two so that you have an option on your second shot regarding what portion of the fairway you want to hit.
Approach to twelve.
Ridge running through the twelfth green.
The thirteenth is a 411 yard par four. Not a huge fan of this hole because there is not much going on. There is water, but it does not threaten your drive and, with a good drive, you have 150-160 in, so it should not be difficult to carry--especially since there is approximately twenty yards between the water and the green in the event you come up short of the green.
Approach to thirteenth--apologies as the photos are degrading given the lack of daylight.
The fourteenth is a 186 yard par three. Not the greatest par three, but not the worst either. Again, there is water, but it should really only come into play with a right pin location. If you are going for the middle of the green, you should be able to easily avoid it. I am not going to even put up the photo because it is so dark.
The fifteenth is a solid, strategic hole at 357 yards. There is a grouping of fairway bunkers on the right that greatly narrows the landing area. Then the green is protected by bunkers that are hidden from view when standing in the fairway. We had no idea the greenside bunkers were there, which is nearly impossible to believe after seeing how substantial they actually are.
Bunkers protecting the fifteenth green that you cannot see from the fairway.
The sixteenth is a 554 yard par five. There is a lot going on with this hole. There is a deadly group of cross bunkers. If you hit the fairway with your drive, these bunkers should not be a problem because you will have enough club to carry. However, hit the thick rough with your drive and you will be worrying about these on your second shot. This hole really gets cooking at another completely nuts green complex. The green slopes severely from back to front (I went to the back of the green and tapped a putt that traveled nearly 70 feet to the hole). To the left of the green are two deep bunkers. If there is a front pin location, it will be exceptionally hard to get it close to the hole from those bunkers given the green is sloping away from the bunkers. If you want to get creative, you can hit your bunker shot up towards the back of the green and then let it take the slope on down.
The seventeenth is a 409 yard par four. Your tee shot should cut the corner on this dogleg right par four and be able to fly the eight fairway bunkers on the right. The reward for doing that-- a green protected by three more bunkers.
The 380 yard uphill, dogleg left eighteenth is a strong finishing hole. Only long hitters should try to shorten the hole by carrying the fairway bunkers on the left. The green is protected by what looks like a flying V of bunkers. As long as you gauge the uphill distance correctly, they should not be a problem because you will only have a short-mid iron into the green.
Deep fairway bunker on left side of eighteen.
Approach to eighteen.
The bunkers provide the beauty to Plainfield. As to the greens, not only do they give Plainfield its fun factor, but they also reward strategic placement of drives and, subsequently, the approach shot. Be on the wrong side of certain holes and you may have a difficult time keeping your putt on the green. If you are a fan of masterful greens, Plainfield is everything you can ask for.