TPC Twin Cities to get a new look, with Lehman's help
BLAINE, Minn.—It's no secret that as currently laid out, TPC Twin Cities would be destroyed by PGA Tour pros.
As Tom Lehman notes, the fairways are wide, the greens are generous and the bunkers are manageable.
"There's room to hit it, there's room to recover," the two-time British Open champion said. "It's always in great condition, which is a big part of it. ... So, when you get nice weather and wide fairways and the greens are true, and really the inability to put the ball in trouble a whole lot, the scores are very low."
That will be addressed as soon as this weekend's 3M Championship concludes with the third round Sunday, Aug. 5. Tournament executive director Hollis Cavner said remodeling the course for the inaugural 3M Open will begin almost immediately.
"We start Monday, tearing this place apart and making it bigger and longer and everything," Cavner said.
Lehman, a Minnesota native consulting on the course's transition, provided some insight into the renovation process this week. Lehman said projects like this are tricky because you want to find a way to keep amateur players engaged while still challenging the world's best golfers.
"I think we've all seen that it's really, really difficult to challenge the top players," Lehman said. "When they're on their game, they're going to beat any golf course. So, I think our goal is ... we want you to beat this golf course, but you have to hit it straight and put it in the right position to attack the pins."
So, while length will be added on a number of holes, strategy is the name of the game. Lehman talked about putting more pressure on the driver. Currently, you can recover from a wayward tee shot because of TPC's massive fairways. A challenging course must penalize poor drives.
Lehman mentioned the 15th hole par 4, where the fairways are about 60 yards wide. Currently, if you drive the ball down the left side, it can catch a slope and run for days, which shortens the hole. The plan is to put more rough on the left-hand side and add a large bunker on that side of the fairway. That eliminate the runout, and force players to go right and contend with trees.
"If you do enough changes like that, where they're a quarter-shot tougher, over the course of 18 holes you've added maybe three or four shots of difficulty, which allows guys still to shoot good scores—but you've got to work hard to do it," Lehman said.
The general layout for the course won't change. Lehman said the greens are in good shape and don't need to be changed. The par 3s will largely be left alone, except for a new tee box on No. 17.
The biggest change will come on the signature par 5 18th hole.
"It's a very exciting hole, but it's way too short," Lehman said.
The tee can't simply be pushed back—there's a pond in the way—so the pond that sits in front of the 18th green is being made longer, and a new series of tees are being built. The goal is for players to still go for the green over the pond with their second shot but "they just can't be doing it with an 8-iron."
Lehman said there may be a couple driveable par 4s, potentially at No. 7, No. 10 or even No. 16. The course will go from a par 72 to a par 71, with Hole No. 3 moving from a par 5 to a par 4 with the tee moved up maybe 15 yards.
"We wanted the course to play more difficult, and as a par 5, No. 3 would probably play to a 4.5, half a shot under par," Lehman said. "As a Par 4, it might play to a 4.2, which is two-tenths over par, so that's a seven-tenth shot difference to par in one hole. So, I think that's the way you look to make the course more difficult—find things you can do to make it happen without being stupid and tricky. It's just straightforward golf."
Lehman suspects the renovation will be finished by October, well in advance of next year's PGA Tour stop in July. Will all those changes be enough?
Minnesota native John Harris thinks with how tight the course is around the greens, a windy day could make the course competitive. And, regardless of scores, defending 3M Championship winner Paul Goydos said next year's tournament will be entertaining.
"We have to add so much length, and we have to narrow everything down and just make it tougher, or they'll just go so low," Cavner said. "We want everybody to shoot low, we just don't want everybody embarrassing the golf course and us."