Geeked on Golf


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The Sandbox – Closing Day at Sand Valley

My competitive playing career was not one of any real distinction.  My career as a geeky golf adventurer, however, now includes a distinction to which only one other man (my buddy Peter Korbakes) can lay claim.  We were at Sand Valley on Opening Day, and we were the only guests to also be there on the first season’s Closing Day.

We made our second trek of 2017 to Nekoosa specifically to play The Sandbox (name not yet confirmed), the 17 hole par-3 course created by the Coore & Crenshaw crew.  Michael Keiser graciously took the time to play a loop with us, and then gave us the run of the place.

The word that best describes The Sandbox is “joy”.  The first time around, we played a winner-calls-the-shot game.  On the second loop, we played with only a 7 iron.  The architecture is outstanding, with the course weaving in a figure eight through wooded, heathland, and duneland zones.  The teeing options are endless, and it begs for all manner of creative games to be played.  This is not a course for slavish adherence to the convention of stroke play.  This is a field custom made to unleash the pure joy of the game.

The weather was rugged, and the light no good, but I did get photos of all 17 holes (click on image mosaics to enlarge).  I have not bothered to include yardages, because the holes can be played from almost any distance the player chooses (especially when nobody else is on the course).


THE SANDBOX

HOLE #1 – The opener plays downhill over this center sand mound to a wavy green.  A gentle handshake with hints of what’s to come.

HOLE #2 – The 2nd plays slightly uphill to a narrow and deep green set below a dune and flanked by bunkers.  Gentle handshake time is over.  The green curves back and left close to the bunker.  Testy pin positions are available to the Super.

HOLE #3 – The 3rd is where two of the sweetest words in all of golf bring joy to the geeky heart – Double Plateau.  Macdonald and Raynor felt that the green should present its own strategic challenge within the broader challenge of the hole.  They would be proud of this beauty.

HOLE #4 – On the terrific 4th, the front right and back left sections of the green are divided by a ridge.  Shots can be played to both sections on the ground or through the air.  Upon reaching the back portion of the green, players get a first glance at the Road Hole beyond.

HOLE #5 – The green will accept running shots, but the contours gather balls to the bunker much more than it appears from the tee.  Get greedy going for the back pins and you risk a world of hurt.

HOLE #6 – There is more going on on the 6th green that it appears from the tee, and the bunkers that surround it demand a precise approach.  The devilish little bunker front center of the green is a reminder that nobody does little flourishes better than the C&C crew.

HOLE #7 – Tucked tightly against the pines, the narrow 7th green is flanked by bunkers and is meant to inspire thoughts of Pine Valley.

HOLE #8 – There are two things that I can never get enough of – biarritz and cowbell.

HOLE #9 – The 9th features one of the largest and wildest greens I have ever seen.  The central bowl was originally a bunker dividing a shared green for two holes in a prior version of the course.  One of the many benefits of short courses is that the architects can turn the creativity up to 11.  On the 9th, it might have hit 12.

HOLE #10 – The artful contours on the 10th make what is already a small green play even smaller.  Especially to the back left pin we encountered.

HOLE #11 – The tiny, elevated 11th green is fronted by one small bunker, and flanked short right and back left by two others.  A test of precision, with nowhere good to miss.

HOLE #12 – The 12th has a neat little green with front flairs left and right, which narrows toward the back, creating numerous pin positions that tempt and beguile.  Playing a one club challenge with Peter, I got up and down with a 7-iron from the greenside bunker. That is one of the many reasons why short courses are so special.  They are tailor made for memory making.

HOLE #13 – The Lion’s Mouth green on the 13th is set beautifully down among the sand barrens and pines.  So much going on here.  Bunkers front, left, right and behind, and a horseshoe green that packs plenty of challenging slope and contour.  This hole is simply outstanding.

HOLE #14 – On the Alps 14th, a large bunkered mound intimidates and obscures most of the green.  Nothing is quite so thrilling as the anticipatory walk to discover the fate of a blind tee ball.

HOLE #15 – The 15th plays downhill to an angled green fronted by a chain of bunkers.  A shallow trough through the middle of the putting surface makes the green play much smaller, especially to this back right pin position.

HOLE #16 – The Redan 16th has plenty of pitch from high front right to low back left which  makes aerial or ground approaches workable.  The green sits up on a plateau above the bunker, so whichever approach is taken must be confident.  If it ain’t up, it is in…trouble.

HOLE #17 – Playing to an elevated green, fronted by a devil’s asshole bunker, the short closer provides one last opportunity for birdie, or disaster.


We intended to grab lunch and head back out for two more loops.  Instead, we received an offer to play all 18 holes of Mammoth Dunes, and we simply couldn’t refuse.  Walking the routing in the spring, it was clear that Mammoth Dunes had scale, and an adventurous feel to it.  The open question was, would the details be as strong as the broad strokes.  I can now confidently say that the answer is, absolutely.  Cannot wait to get back and play both The Sandbox and Mammoth when they have matured.

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The boomerang green at the par-4 6th

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The cellar bunker on the par-5 7th

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From the tee on the par-3 8th

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The green on the short par-4 10th

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From the tee on the par-3 13th

For even more on Mammoth Dunes, check out Morgan Clausen’s detailed thread on GolfClubAtlas.


MORE GEEKEDONGOLF ADVENTURES

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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The Evolving Artist – An Interview with David McLay Kidd

Several years ago, I played Bandon Dunes and enjoyed it greatly.  Unfortunately, I have not made the trek back to the Oregon Coast, nor have I had the chance to play any of David McLay Kidd’s other courses (although I would very much like to).

Like many GCA geeks, I have followed the stories about the evolution of David’s career with interest, particularly those that have been written since the opening of Gamble Sands and his triumph in the Sand Valley bake-off.  Word out of Nekoosa, WI is that the DMK crew is creating something truly special and my recent visit to Sand Valley provided confirmation.

Wanting to learn more about the man and his work, I reached out to David when I returned from Sand Valley and he was gracious enough to make time in his busy schedule for an interview.

Preview play on DMK Design’s SVII begins next summer.  Until then, enjoy the interview.

 

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THE INTERVIEW

How did you get introduced to golf?

Son of a Scottish Greenkeeper, raised almost literally on a golf course.  My father was in charge at Gleneagles for over 25 years and was instrumental in securing the Ryder Cup for Scotland in 2014 (the last time we won).

When did you know that the game had a hold on you?

When I would look forward to going out in the wet and cold to work on the courses my father was in charge of.  I got and still do get such a kick out of the visual appeal of a golf course – playing is pretty cool too.

How did you get into the business?

Son of a Greenkeeper, it’s in the DNA!

Who is your favorite Golden Age architect, and why?

What’s this Golden Age you speak of?  As a Brit our Golden Age was a little different.  It was the time of the Great Triumvirate following on from Old Tom.  If that’s the question then I will say Harry Shapland Colt.  He introduced strategy to golf design, he liked quirky.

Who has had the most influence on you, both inside and outside of golf?

My father.  He has lived and breathed golf his entire life.  He loves the game and the courses we play it on.  He has done a lot for his profession, mostly unheralded.  He promoted sustainability and organics when it was laughed at.  He promoted further education when many in the UK at least saw his profession as semi-skilled at best.

What should every owner/Green Committee member learn before breaking ground on a golf construction project?

The question that is rarely asked is “what will these design ideas cost to maintain?”  That’s a question a club needs to understand before they build a course with 100 manicured edged bunkers and bent grass wall to wall.

What is your favorite part of a golf course to design?DavidMcLayKidd-MapWalk.png

In the dirt waving my arms dreaming up an idea and developing that idea in the field step by step, developing each detail as you go.  I have more fun doing that than any golf shot I have ever hit.

What do you love about practicing your craft?

I still giggle on the inside that I get paid to do something I would do for free.

How has your design philosophy changed over time?

I started out knowing that golf in the UK is played for fun, as a past-time by most.  Few play competitive golf and keep stroke play score, most don’t.  When I created Bandon Dunes I knew that, but as my career developed I was convinced that golf courses needed to be tough challenges and my job was to defend the honor of the course.  Golfers would have to show respect, or else be punished.

I have returned to what I know golf needs to be – fun, playable, entertaining, engaging, relaxing, enduring.  It should not be punishing.  Who wants to decide to do something that’s punishing?  I can make a course that’s challenging and alluring, while simultaneously making it playable.  It’s all down to width and making sure the rough offers the ability to find a ball.

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What do you want to accomplish in this next phase of your career?

I want to take the principles I have returned to and build the most celebrated and fun courses that have ever existed.  Gamble Sands and Sand Valley II will be my role models going forward.

Why are you excited to be involved in the Sand Valley project?

It allows me a grand stage to show how challenge and playability can co-exist.  We can create a visually stunning course that the most occasional of golfers can enjoy just like I did with Bandon Dunes the better part of 20 years ago.

What is it like to be designed a course alongside accomplished architects like Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw?

I am hoping that after 25 years of effort I might be able to suggest that I am ‘accomplished’ even if not so well known?  My profession is living through exciting times.  There are a number of very talented golf designers out there doing incredible work.  I would love history to include me in that group of relevant architects in the early part of this century.

What legacy do you hope to leave for the game, and golf course architecture?DavidMcLayKidd-WalkingGolf.png

The game needs to be fun.  I had my time on the dark side and I see the error of my ways.  I have spent many years considering how to make courses playable, challenging and fun as well as natural and sustainable.  These are all words I hear from my peers, but often do not see them played out in reality on the ground.

What courses are at the top of your hit list to see or play next?

There are so many places I have yet to play.  There are a number of East Coast gems I haven’t played yet (many I have).  I still haven’t played Augusta – it’s on my bucket list.

When you are not working or playing golf, what are you doing?

I am an avid pilot. I fly my own Cirrus Sr22T all over the US.  Last year I did 80,000 miles in my own plane.  I coach soccer and have coached my daughter from Kindergarten to Middle School.  I live in Bend, Oregon – the outdoors capital of the world, or at least Oregon – so we do everything from rafting to skiing to hiking to boating to fishing.  We are never short of something to do.


GAMBLE SANDS

Gamble Sands opened to rave reviews and continues to get glowing praise from all who have been fortunate enough to make the pilgrimmage to northern Washington.  The course was also of particular selfish interest to me as it was the cause of David’s inclusion in the Sand Valley bake-off, which he won.  I might never make it to Gamble Sands, but soon I will be able to go around and around on a DMK design closer to home.

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To get a glimpse of the style of design – challenging, fun, and beautiful – that we will likely see in Wisconsin, we need look no further than Gamble Sands.

#1 – Par 4 – 392 yards

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#2 – Par 4 – 262 yards

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#4 – Par 3 – 160 yards

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#5 – Par 5 – 497 yards

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#6 – Par 3 – 231 yards

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#7 – Par 5 – 473 yards

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#9 – Par 4 – 382 yards

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#10 – Par 3 – 140 yards

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#11 – Par 4 – 412 yards

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#12 – Par 4 – 300 yards

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#14 – Par 4 – 408 yards

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#16 – Par 3 – 195 yards

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#17 – Par 4 – 418 yards

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MORE DMK COURSES

David was kind enough to compile quite a few photos from the courses that he has designed around the world.  I was taken by how far flung his work has been, and also by how varied the look and feel of his courses are.  A player could be more than satisfied jetting around the world playing David’s courses for the rest of their golfing life (especially since his work is far from finished…).

(click on images to enlarge)

BANDON DUNES

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Bandon Dunes Resort – Bandon, Oregon

 

THE CASTLE COURSE

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St. Andrews Links – St. Andrews, Scotland

 

MONTAGU COURSE AT FANCOURT

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Fancourt Resort – Blanco George, South Africa

 

HUNTSMAN SPRINGS

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Driggs, Idaho

 

LUACALA ISLAND GOLF COURSE

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Luacala Island Resort – Fiji

 

MACHRIHANISH DUNES

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Kintyre, Scotland

 

NANEA GOLF CLUB

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Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

 

QUEENWOOD GOLF CLUB

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Ottershaw, United Kingdom

 

TETHEROW GOLF CLUB

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Bend, Oregon

 

TPC STONEBRAE

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Hayward, California

 


Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:

 

 

Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Architects Week II is in the books. Now for the show…

Once again, the folks at Golf Channel have put together a nice Architects week feature.  Matt Ginella continues to evolve as a voice for the good of the game, giving us a break from Tour & Tip coverage, to help us connect to the soul of the game – golf courses and the people who create them.

A WALK THROUGH THE WEEK

 

“The more I learn about architecture, the more I want to know.” – Matt Ginella

The week kicked off with a preview from Matt, Geoff Shackelford, and a panel.  Bill Coore was originally slated to start off the week, but dropped of the agenda at the last minute.  Such are the lives of successful men, perhaps.

“Think of golf holes as human. You are wrestling with another animate object.” – Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

After a visit with Tom Weiskopf and discussion of his recent updates to TPC Scottsdale, next up was Robert Trent Jones, Jr.  It was an interesting segment with the veteran architect that culminated with discussion of Chambers Bay, the 2015 U.S. Open venue which promises to be a strong follow-up to last year’s game-changing event at the renovated Pinehurst #2.  “It is both the aerial game and the ground game,” said Jones of Chambers.  Clearly, he is excited to the see the best golfers in the world take on his course.

“Let the land speak and lay golf holes out that were relatively straightforward.” – David McLay Kidd

The old guard gave way to members of the next generation of great architects – David McLay Kidd, Mike DeVries and Gil Hanse.  This trio has already produced a portfolio of amazing courses, including my home course the Kingsley Club.  They are also working on some of the most exciting projects in golf – Sand Valley #2, Cape Wickham, The Rio Olympic Course, and now Streamsong Black.

“He’s so creative. He’s a real sculptor with the Earth.” – Alice Dye on Pete

A full day was given to Pete & Alice Dye, perhaps the most influential duo in golf course architecture history, not to mention a heart-warming story of love and marriage partnership.  Geoff Shackelford said of Mr. Dye, “He was sort of a change agent; that will ultimately be his legacy.”  Hard to argue with that assessment.

“It’s something I’ve had on the back burner for 20 years.” – Tom Doak

The week wrapped up with Tom Doak sharing what might be the most exciting thing to happen to architecture since C.B. MacDonald realized his “ideal hole” architecture at National Golf Links of America.  The reversible course at Forest Dunes.

The architects segments were great, as was the commentary between Matt and Geoff, and I highly recommend combing through the clips as a means to find leads to take you on further explorations into the field of golf course architecture.

There are really only three things that disappointed me about this second Architects Week:

  1. The lack of new faces, other than Mike DeVries.  I understand the need for the big names to keep the ratings up and the momentum going for GCA coverage.  In spite of that reality, it would have been nice to have more international representation, and a no-less-talented, but lower-profile architect or two.
  2. The lack of “field time”.  The modern minimalists who are at the forefront of architecture today like Tom Doak, Mike DeVries and others consistently point to the field as the place where the rubber hits the road in GCA.  Driving a bulldozer, shaping the sandy earth, doing the finishing hand work – generally playing in the dirt – this is where architectural magic happens.  Although I love the interviews and the routing discussions, it would have been great to see Matt strolling and chatting with at least one architect on-site.
  3. The segments were just too darn short.  There was not a single segment on the show that didn’t leave me wanting more.  Much more.  At a certain level, good entertainment leaves you wanting more.  But golf architecture coverage goes beyond entertainment.  Given the time appropriate for a subject with the depth and breadth of GCA, it could be educational and inspirational.  It could truly expand the horizons of the audience, and connect them more deeply to the soul of the game.

 

I have made my argument for a regular GCA show on Golf Channel in this previous post.  Architects Week just reinforced my commitment to keep agitating until this gets done.

For now though, you can get your GCA fix on GolfClubAtlas.com, and here at the ever-expanding Geeked On Golf GCA Video Archive.


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GEEKED ON GOLF VIDEO ARCHIVE

A comprehensive collection of links to golf course architecture and history videos

It is exciting to see increased discussion of golf course architecture on Golf Channel and other televised golf coverage, with Matt Ginella and Geoff Shackelford leading the way.  Perhaps some day, we will see the GCA show I argued for in this previous post – The Art of Course.

In the meantime, this video link archive has been created to be a resource for all those who want in-depth exploration of golf courses, architecture and history.  Many thanks to my collaborator Kyle Truax (on Twitter @TheTruArchitect) for his extensive contributions to this archive.

A few words about the format and structure of the archive: Wherever possible, a playlist on my YouTube channel has been created for each subject, and can be played right from this page.  Links to videos from sources other than YouTube have also been provided, with hyperlinks in the video titles.

With proliferation of GCA-related videos, the original single page format was getting to be a bit unruly.  I split the archive into three parts.

GOLF COURSES

All golf course specific video links have now been moved to the GeekedOnGolf Global Guide.

GOLF COURSE ARCHITECTS

This page features architect interviews, presentations, etc. that are not course specific to a single course.  See the Architect videos here…

GCA COMMENTATORS

This page features the Golf Channel architecture features, as well as videos from other commentators and architecture enthusiasts.  See the Commentators videos here…

If you have any clips to add, please feel free to tweet them me at @JasonWay1493 or leave them here in the comments.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Copyright 2019 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf