A long wait ended this weekend for members of Moraine Country Club as they were able to play their golf course for the first time since last July when a $5 million renovation began.
No golf course in the Dayton area has ever undergone such an extensive and expensive makeover.
The Moraine course you see today looks very little like the Parkland course with tree-lined fairways that members had been familiar with for many years.
It bears much more resemblance to the course designed by Alec “Nipper” Campbell in 1930. It is wide open with only a smattering of trees, mimicking many courses in Campbell’s native Scotland.
Over the last 85 years the Moraine course had developed problems. It was short by today’s standards and needed to be longer if it was to continue hosting championship events. It had serious drainage difficulties that led to diseases of the grass and inconsistent playing conditions. Heavy rains often resulted in the course being closed.
Without assessing the members, Moraine came up with a unique lifetime membership campaign to raise the funds necessary to update the course and driving range, build a new platform tennis facility and remodel portions of the clubhouse.
Architect Keith Foster, who specializes in restoring classic courses, was hired to perform his magic at Moraine. He has given the course an appearance similar to what it had when the club hosted the 1945 PGA Championship.
Guided by original drawings and photographs of the course, he sought to bring back some of the old characteristics while at the same time making some changes to improve sight-lines and play-ability.
For instance, he chose not to move the No. 3 green back to the original elevated hillside spot (still visible) to the left of the present green because the current location is clearly better.
On the other hand he completely rebuilt two par 3 holes that were not original, Nos. 12 and 15, and elevated by three feet the entire green complex at the par 5 fourth hole. He lowered the tee at the par 3 No. 5 to create a smooth walkway from the fourth green.
Women’s tees, originally placed off to the side of fairways, were moved into much better positions in line with the fairways.
You get a quick taste of the renovation at the first tee where a simple elevated teeing ground has been replaced by a large bentgrass area that includes the first tee, a practice putting green and a championship tee.
In recent years Moraine was notorious for the impossible slopes of its first three greens which had been designed for grasses unlike today’s bentgrass variations. They had become extremely difficult, even unfair. Foster softened the slopes to make them reasonable.
Members will notice Foster has increased the number of bunkers from 48 to 60. The green-side bunkers have steep faces that will be mowed regularly so balls can roll down into the sand. They have comfortable entry points, but good sand shots will be required.
The course now can be stretched to 7,720 yards to challenge today’s long-hitting golfers.
For anyone who saw Moraine last summer when all of the grass on the greens, fairways and rough had been destroyed, the condition and beauty of the course today is nothing short of remarkable. Under the supervision of green superintendent Jason Mahl, the grasses all have been well established.
For all the visible changes, however, the most dramatic improvement in the course is that which is buried underground. To correct Moraine’s water problem, nearly eight miles of drainage pipe were laid. Drains were placed under all tees, greens and bunkers.
A pump was installed to carry water away from the low-lying fifth hole and move it northward on the property. Boring equipment was used to install pipe that carries water underground from the frequently-water logged seventh fairway to a drain at the 16th hole.
Those improvements should enable Moraine to achieve its objective of having firm and fast fairways when the grass matures over two or three years.