McGinley looks back to pave the way for Grange to move forward
Five-time Open Champion James Braid was not only a member of the Grand Triumvirate alongside Harry Vardon and John Henry Taylor.
When he retired from the tournament scene to become a full-time club professional at Walton Heath, he became one of the most prolific course designers of his day, creating the King’s and Queen’s golf courses at Gleneagles, to name but two, and remodeling countless others , including championship links from Carnoustie.
Gleneagles was then considered the best inland course in the world and so in 1927 Grange Golf Club approached the great man and asked him to redesign their Rathfarnham course, which had been expanded to 18 holes just two years earlier.
Braid demanded money in advance before paying a visit, so Grange, the unflappable RK Love, traveled to Walton Heath in December and paid him his fee of 35 guineas. It turned out that the money was very well spent.
According to the club’s history, Braid was an instant hit when on his first visit he discovered the location of the beautiful 13th green, which unfortunately had been lost to the M50 motorway project.
The course he created was a huge success, with the double par 3 start to what is now known as the original par 68 love course, one of the most unusual in Irish golf.
Whilst the intervention of the M50 on the 13th prompted the club to make plans for the future and create six new holes on land adjacent to Marlay Park, two of which are now incorporated into the Sheahan Championship’s par 71 layout, the Future of Grange is being built now.
Health and safety concerns coupled with advances in technology forced the club to seek solutions to the challenges of the modern game and they turned to their favorite golf son, Paul McGinley, for solutions.
The result is a five-year project that the 2014 Ryder Cup winner has grown to love.
Forced to shorten the first course due to the danger of flying golf balls to homes and traffic – it was once 222 yards and a Dreiwald for most mortals – he used the extra space to create a wonderful short game area and putting green in front of the clubhouse in 2018.
Working in phases, McGinley and his design partner Joe Bedford continue to make changes to the course, which will test the cream of Irish golf during the AIG Irish Women’s Close June 11-14.
When the project is completed, it will have cost the club around 1 million euros. But McGinley is so passionate about the pitch that has made him one of the best players in the world that he’s offering his services for free.
“It means a lot to me and I really want to do it right,” the Dubliner said of plans to ensure Grange will continue to offer its members 24 holes, while retaining the inner and outer 12 holes that it is the envy of its neighbors throughout still allows the humble player to enjoy a fair test without lessening the challenge of Championship 18 for the scratch player.
“I firmly believe in the template and believe that the road ahead is paved with bricks from the past. I’m a strong believer in rethinking the mind of the designer and so I’ve spent a lot of time rethinking the mind of the original designer, James Braid.
“I was involved in the rebuilding of Wentworth and have also been a design consultant for Sunningdale for the past five years and all of this work has been based on looking at old photographs and Harry Colt’s design philosophies in the case of these two courses.
“With my design colleague Joe Bedford, we reviewed a lot of the literature on James Brand, examined old photos of Grange and spoke to many of the older members about sticking to his philosophy when it came to his bunker and green designs. We are not reinventing the wheel.”
The current phase of the project includes changes to the second that allow players to safely get from the clubhouse to the seventh tee on the old Love Course (a regular starting hole for the Outer 12) without having to force the 18th and third Cross the fairway and over the back of the second green.
McGinley recommended building a new bridge across from the second green, but it required giving players on the second tee a clear line of sight to the new bridge, requiring the distance of 3,000 square feet. of material from the front of the tee and a complete rebuild of the tee and first green.
With help from DAR Golf, the second green was redesigned to offer more pin positions on the left half of the putting surface, while reducing the ring of seven bunkers to three, all built to McGinley’s specifications.
“I like it when people can see the result of a shot,” he said. “The common denominator of great bunkers is that you can see out of all bunkers. So what I’ve been trying to do in Grange is not make them so deep that you can’t see the putt surface, but make them deep enough where you don’t hit out of them.
McGinley’s greatest challenge is to test the low handicap players without unduly penalizing the higher handicap players.
As a result, the “pimples” that pinched the beginning of the third fairway have been eliminated, not to mention a side bunker 60 yards from the green.
A similar transverse bunker was also removed on the par 3, and chocolate drops and braid-style mounds were created on the left side of the hole, giving the higher handicap players an opportunity to run the ball into the green.
The side bunkers at the mobile fifth are also gone, but new trees have been planted long to the left to make big hitters think twice about taking a driver while protecting the sixth tee from erratic shots.
“Grange was never about overwhelming the golf course,” McGinley explained. “It was always about moving the ball both ways, about accuracy and course management. Yes, you have to think about the young players and their fast ball speeds, but it’s also about making the court playable for people like my mother, who is 28 years old.
“We’re on a journey and it’s not about making the golf course easier, it’s about sticking to the old James Braid principles and being aware of the different levels of players in the club, making a hole a challenge for someone who can carry it 320 in the air and also fair to my mother who can hit it 180 yards.”
The Grange project is being carried out in bite-sized chunks with seven holes completed and plans to repeat three or four holes each year with the eventual redesign of the six Academy holes and their seamless integration into the braid design as key to configuring the par-71 Sheahan hole Course and the two 12-hole loops.
“Everyone thinks we have a lot of space, but the inner nine at Grange has a very small footprint by modern standards, so we have to box smart because of that,” McGinley said. “I’m not doing this for a fee. I’m doing it because I love this club and this course and I want to do it right. There is no room for error and I am sure the end product will give members what they want and deserve.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/golf/tee-to-green/mcginley-looks-back-to-pave-the-way-forward-for-grange-41616211.html McGinley looks back to pave the way for Grange to move forward