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Course Review - Pacific Dunes

This article courtesy of the Golf Architecture Magazine

PACIFIC DUNES - A brilliant new links on the Oregan Coast

Architect – Tom Doak


pacific dunes 5th

Oregon is not one of the places in the world that is synonymous with links golf. But that perception began to change with the opening of the first course at the Bandon Dunes Resort in 1999. The creation of a second course at the resort, so soon after the first, was seen by many as a gamble. Owner Mike Keiser wisely entrusted its design to the young American architect Tom Doak and his team at Renaissance Golf Design and they have repaid his faith many times over with their stunning new creation.

Blessed with a site that most golf course architects would die for, Doak and his team developed a routing that draws the golfer out to the ocean early in the round at the fourth and leads him back again at the start of the back nine. The oceanfront holes are challenging and spectacular but, in this reviewer’s eyes at least, are overshadowed by the quality of the inland holes.

Holes such as the 5th, a mid length par 3 played away from the ocean across a valley, was the first hole built by Doak and as pretty a hole as you’d want to see. But with teeth. The 7th is one of those holes that look like it has been there since time immemorial. Carved through part of a stand of pines, the tee shot emerges to an uphill fairway from where the view is of one of the most natural appearing green settings you could wish for, complete with a series of rough covered hummocks short of the green, topped with small gnarly pines (Hopefully growth retardent will enable these pines to remain this way!). A line of rough hewn bunkers at the left, lead towards the green and are set into the side of a natural dune ridge.



pacific dunes 10

A classic diagonal hazard is presented to the golfer on the ninth tee in the form of a sand ridge faced with blow-out style bunkers. Bite off as much as you can, especially when the flag is cut on the lower of the two greens that Doak couldn’t resist building for this hole. On the day of our visit, we played the lower green, which felt to be perhaps the most appropriate of the two to the lie of the land. An upper and lower tee then follows at the 10th, a long par 3 with the Pacific as its backdrop. Though more visually dramatic from the higher tee, the hole seems more earthy when played from a tee closer to green level. Then Doak challenged some of his own preconceptions by following this immediately with another shorter par 3 along the coast, with a green set almost invisibly behind dunes grasses and scruffy, scar-like bunkers.

right - the long Par 3 10th hole

pacific dunes 10

The run of finishing holes from the sixteenth through to the home hole are as good as you’ll find anywhere, with ancient looking eroded bunkers appearing as if they were sculpted by nature’s forces from the gorse and dunes grass covered sand ridges. Doak’s homage to the Redan forms the par 3 17th, while the last is a fabulous journey winding through a deep dune valley, around and over cataclysmic sand chasms to the home green.
Talking with Renaissance associate Jim Urbina and superintendent Ken Nice, it is apparent that care and sensitivity were the hallmarks of the construction process. In order to protect the subtle, small scale contours within some of the wilder humps and hollows of the fairways, heavy equipment was banned and light vehicles such as bunker rakes were used to provide surface finishing for the all fescue planted course. This level of attention is there for all to see in the wonderful and quirky shapes of many of the Pacific Dunes fairways that are kept essentially as nature intended.

pacific dunes14The new links at Pacific Dunes will undoubtedly make its entrance high in the rating ranks and it is a delightful example of what can be produced when a fine architect with a traditional strategic design intent meets an enlightened client with a marvellous piece of links country.

left - the short 14th

by Neil Crafter

courtesy of the Golf Architecture Magazine - click for more