Blue Mound Golf & Country Club

Seventh hole, 165 yards; Raynor never visited Scotland so he might not have known that the fourth at Brancaster which inspired Macdonald’s Short, plays slightly uphill. Raynor knew that the Short at National Golf Links of America plays downhill to a wide green and visible putting surface. Hence, Raynor had no compunction in placing his Short green complexes below – some times well below – the teeing ground. Thanks to all the recent fine work (i.e. tree removal, bunker work and green expansion to where the green now measures 38 yards in width and 28 yards deep), this Short Hole has a sense of scale and grandeur that few other Shorts can match.

Raynor saw the drop in elevation into the Menomonee River Valley as the perfect opportunity to build a Short Hole. The sight of Mount Mary College (whose impressive tower was actually built three years after the course opened) is an added bonus. All told, this is one of Raynor’s most striking Short Holes.

 

Eighth hole, 445 yards; Uphill holes are often joyless but not here. In fact, the single most exhilarating shot at Blue Mound may be the approach with a long iron or utility club into this 7,900 square foot Punchbowl green that plays even bigger. Unusual for a Punchbowl, this one features really fine interior contours that serve to drain water off the green’s front left. Merely hitting the green is no guarantee of a par. Any eclectic list of Raynor’s best holes must include Blue Mound’s eighth.

On a picture perfect fall day with the afternoon shadows stretching across the fairway, the golfer doesn’t view scaling the hill to the green as a chore. Raynor’s cross bunkers short help break up the line while adding visual interest. On top, the Punchbowl green acts as a gaint catcher’s mitt, screaming for a bold, well played shot.

 

As seen from the right, note how high the short grass extends up the face of the Punchbowl walls. In this manner, all kinds of interesting things can happen. Such wasn’t the case ten years ago. At the time, it was a much smaller green surrounded by a blue grass bowl. The restoration process saw 3,000 square feet of tight short grass added into the playing mix, lending this hole its superlative playing characteristics.


Ninth hole, 375 yards;
The newly restored bunkers on the right are the best set of fairway bunkers on the course and create a nice tension with the ravine along the left. This remains a particularly fine driving hole even though it plays shorter with today’s equipment than Raynor would deem preferable. Along with the fourth, this green possesses the most back to front tilt on the course so staying below the hole is important. In trying to do so, the green’s natural false front becomes the predominant feature of which the golfer must be wary.

Hepner restored the three bunkers on the right and they give the club golfer much about which to think.

The stone clubhouse and its slate roof provide a handsome backdrop to the most graceful green complex on the course.

Eleventh hole, 380 yards; This is a great transition hole between the flatter property and that portion with more natural features. On the straightaway drive Raynor does nothing to preview the green’s precarious perch.

Given that this hole parallels the tenth which is played over relatively flat land, one might assume that this approach is straightforward with little peril. However, …

… such a conclusion would be wrong! A nine foot deep bunker wraps around the right and back and misses to the left are even worse as indicated by this view from behind the green.

Twelfth hole, 480 yards; Hog’s Back holes are confounding to play, especially when firm conditions are present. Blue Mound has long been hailed as one of the best maintained/presented courses in the Midwest and Green Keeper Tim Venes’s work shines even brighter on a subtle hole like this. Any kind of a draw left of center will hit the crowned fairway and likely be shrugged off into the rough. Similar fates await fades hit right of center. Given the hole’s length and interesting putting surface, approach shots played from the rough generally herald a slow march toward bogey.

Lots of drama from the twelfth tee but the real danger for the good player is the crowned fairway that Raynor achieved by expertly draping it over a ridge line.


Thirteenth hole, 185 yards;
Raynor’s ground game design features play properly at Blue Mound. Here is such an example where the high rough line to the right and the quintessential right to left slope enable this Redan to play as well as his more noted designs. The firm, true running surfaces mean that golf at Blue Mound is a delight no matter one’s age, be it fifteen, forty or sixty-five years old.

The classic high front right to lower back left slope is even more pronounced at the Redan par three than at the Redan two shot first hole

 

Though not always easy to achieve, the green keeping staff at Blue Mound do all they can to present short grass on the high side of holes. Options galore are the result for the thinking golfer.


Seventeenth hole, 190 yards;
A hump in the back middle right of the green bestows this Eden with its own unique playing characteristics. Guarded by a seriously deep Hill bunker left that hides the head of a golfer playing a bunker shot from his greened opponent the 17th is a strong penultimate hole.  A rear sand pit represents the Eden River at St. Andrews and combines with a longish Strath bunker to make right hole locations especially exacting. While the Biarritz and Eden were situated across flat land, Raynor imbued them with such superb quality that they compare favorably with the Short and Redan that enjoy superior natural features. One grimaces to think what modern architects might have done over similar flat land. Pete Dye (who acknowledges the heavy influence of Raynor on his own work) often resorted to unnatural earth moving to give his flat land par threes character. Witness the front nine at Crooked Stick where the third is goofy and water is a crutch at the sixth.

As seen from the back right hand side of the green, note the hump and its impact on today’s hole location. Golfers whose tee balls don’t find this relatively small section of the green will be reminded of St. Andrews which perfected the concept of large greens that are difficult to two putt.

 

Eighteenth hole, 560 yards; The Old Course at St. Andrews epitomized golf to Charles Blair Macdonald. In addition to the Road Hole, he frequently used design tenets from the Eden and Long. One benefit of switching the nines at Blue Mound is that the golfer concludes his round with both these much respected hole types, a fitting conclusion indeed.

 

There are plenty of other noteworthy features on this course in addition to the holes listed. The fiercely tilted putting surface at the monstrous 9,900 square foot Alps fourth green is one. Another is the convoluted tenth green which rises up from the fairway. Ben Crenshaw’s jaw dropped as he stood admiring the triple plateau tenth green during a tour with Bruce Hepner a few years ago.

While a round at Blue Mound won’t be confused for the rollicking rollercoaster rides at the more dramatic Yale or Fishers Island, it is a strategic and aesthetic delight. Hepner refers to the course as being ‘dialed in’ meaning that everything from the mowing lines to the condition and firmness of the turf are pitch perfect. Every detail, no matter how fine, is optimally presented and that is simply not true at 99% of the courses in North America. Though this 6,700 yard course will no longer host a PGA Championship as it did in 1933 (won by Gene Sarazen), Blue Mound offers something far better: A course that its members relish playing each and every time out and one that they never tire of playing. Few clubs can claim the same.