Feature Interview with Randy Hunt
A 29-year Class A PGA Member and PGA Quarter Century Member, Randy Hunt joined the Prairie Dunes family in October 1999. Raised in Rapid City, South Dakota, he received a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Chadron State College. His career has included: Head Professional, Buffalo Dunes, Garden City, Kan. (1976-1984); Director of Golf, Alvamar Country Club, Lawrence, Kan. (1984-1988); Independent Contractor/Director of Golf, Overland Park Golf Club, Overland Park, Kan. (1988-1996); General Manager, Falcon Ridge Golf Course, Lenexa, Kan. (1997-1998); and Vice President of Operations, Kemper Sports Management, Northbrook, Ill. (1998-1999). Apart from being the General Manager at Prairie Dunes, Randy is also an avid reader and music enthusiast.
1) How did Prairie Dunes come to be built where it is?
A prominent Hutchinson family, the Carey’s, were golf zealots. In 1929 there were 6 golf courses in Hutchinson. A number equal to Kansas City and Wichita. The Carey’s were involved with 5 of the courses. W.D.P. Carey, second son of Emerson Carey, was studying at Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship
when he was visited by his father and brother. They noted the similarity between the dunes style courses in England and Scotland to the dunes land quite close to Hutchinson. Emerson Carey thought Hutchinson needed a ‘course with pride’ and proceeded to acquire the rights to some 800 acres of dunes land. The rest is history.
2) Please describe the property that Prairie Dunes resides upon.
The property is primarily very sandy dunes. It is truly unique because the type of soil found in this area is typically found in coastal regions, certainly not in the center of continental North America.
3) Why did Prairie Dunes originally open as a 9-hole course?
One cannot know for certain, but in as much as the course was commissioned during the depression years, the Carey’s chose to start with 9 holes, presumably for economic reasons.
4) Did Perry Maxwell lay out an 18 hole course or did Press Maxwell find the second nine holes?
It is our belief Perry Maxwell designed 18 holes. It is not known if Press worked from his father’s original design when the second 9 holes was added in 1957.
5) Is it true that today’s 3rd and 4th holes were originally supposed to be a single long two shot hole?
There has been speculation by some that was the case. However, it cannot be confirmed.
6) Where did Perry Maxwell build the 17th tee? Has thought been given to recovering that tee?
The original #8 tee (now #17) was just east of the original #7 green (now #10). In recent years the greens committee has studied the possibility of recovering the original teeing ground, but due to the nature of the routing of the remaining holes and the relationship that hole has to the overall par of the course, no action has been recommended.
7) What role do Coore & Crenshaw have at Prairie Dunes?
Prairie Dunes developed a relationship with Bill Coore nearly 20 years ago. Since that time Prairie Dunes has relied upon and greatly valued the input and guidance of the Coore & Crenshaw firm in regards to decisions pertaining to the course and its architecture.
8) In the past two years, mowed down chipping areas have been created around what green complexes?
The decision to create closely mown areas was reached in late 2002 or early 2003. Sloples & angles on about 1/2 of the holes lent themselves beautifully to this concept. Specifically holes 1,3,5,6,9,12,14&16.
9) How has that work been received?
The membership is very supportive of this change.
10) Is there any significant Perry Maxwell feature that is evident in black and white photographs that is now missing from today’s course?
None that we are aware of.
11) The golf ball has greatly different flight characteristics than it did when the Maxwells designed and built the course. In part it carries much further and the wind affects it less. How does Prairie Dunes expect to remain a thorough examination?
The essence of Prairie Dunes is its green sites and the angles the holes play in relation to the wind direction. We will focus on maintaining these strengths as well as adding some strategically placed bunkers and tees.
12) Prairie Dunes at 6,597 yards has never been about length. Are there any plans for creating new back tees for the 2006 Senior Open?
The Board of Trustees was considering a recommendation from the greens committee for some course modifications prior to the agreement to host the 2006 SR. Open. Once the contract for the Senior Open was finalized, these recommendations moved to the top of the priority list. Thus, we are in the process of adding new tees to holes #9, #13, #17 and #18.
13) Will any new bunkers be created for the 2006 Senior Open?
Four new bunkers are being added. One on hole #4 left of the green. One on hole #13 just beyond the existing left side bunker complex and two on #7. One on the left side in the landing area approximately 300 off the tee and one on the right side about 325 off the tee.
14) What other golf course related work is planned prior to hosting the 2006 Senior Open?
The primary work will focus on two areas. One, we’ll a clean up the edges of all bunkers and second we be leveling championship tees on holes #2, #3, #10 & #14.
15) How does the membership view the two tall cottonwoods narrowing the entrance into the 12th green?
On the one hand, they add a unique twist to a course that otherwise seems completely links-based. Conversely, there is no doubt that they have grown significantly since Maxwell’s death. Like any Club, we have a few locker-room architects that would like to see the tree removed, but these are minority opinions based on personal preferences and don’t reflect the attitude of the general membership. The 12th plays at 390 yards, downwind from an elevated tee. The canopies of the trees on either side of the fairway create a narrow opening and thus require a player to make a decision on how to play the hole prior to the tee shot. This is a good thing.
16) Over the four days of the 2002 Women’s Open, which hole played the toughest in relation to par? Which hole the easiest?
Hole #8 played the most difficult, followed closely by hole #13. The easiest hole was #7.
17) Not only did the Maxwells give the greens great pitch and interior contour but the greens are also relatively small in size as well. How original are the 18 greens of today? Have any had to be softened as green speeds increased?
With the exception of holes #1, #2 and #14, all greens are in the original location and possess the original contours. These holes were modified in the mid-80s by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
18) What is the fastest green speed that you like to see employed?
In season, we consistently keep green speeds at about 9.0-9.5. This seems to provide plenty of challenge for our membership. Occasionally, for special events, the green speeds will exceed 10, but we have to be very careful, due to wind speeds that can quickly produce dry conditions.
19) What grasses comprise the rough at Prairie Dunes and how do you keep it from getting too thick to the point where golf balls are never found?
The primary native rough grasses consist of Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Switchgrass, Indian Grass, and Sand Love Grass. We employ a prescribed burning program implemented in 1993 that is conducted every few years as needed and as tournaments allow. This program greatly influences the continuation of native grasses in these areas, and inhibits the encroachment of non-native species.
20) What are the origins/who built the large bunker to the left of the 14th fairway?
The ‘waste bunker’ on #14 is probably one of the biggest topics of discussion at the greens committee level. The bunker came about in the mid 80’s in an effort to speed up play. It was built by Doug Petersan. This bunker is scheduled to be renovated and changed significantly during the work currently being completed by Coore/Crenshaw representative Dave Axland.
21) Any other near term goals that the Club would like to see accomplished?
It is our goal to preserve Prairie Dunes in as close to the original concept as we can. To that end we have prioritized many projects that we will embark upon as soon as it is reasonable to do so. Included in these projects is the re-location of hard surfaces (cart paths) that will allow for the restoration of original site lines.