As golf season winds down in Buffalo-Niagara, our attention turns to domes, trips and television. You have domes and your remote control device within reach, so leave the rest to me. I’m going to give offer up a nine-part series (this is part seven) on eclectic eighteens across the USA. The only thread tying them together is my having played them. That, and the fact that all of the courses are worthwhile. You’ll never play them all in one sweep, as I once did, but when you find yourself in these regions, know that these courses are worth your money and your best game.
When you’re close to running out of room at an earthly paradise, you do what you can to extend the dream. In Mike Keiser’s case, he acquired a tract of land opposite the original course at Bandon Dunes, but recognized that there was not enough room for a full, 18-hole championship course. Was there enough room for an eternal nine? Didn’t matter. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were hired to design The Preserve, what turned out to be a 13-hole course populated by 13 par-three holes. The holes range from a wee pitch of some 45 yards up to nearly 160 yards, depending on wind conditions. Although there are tee markers, you’ll want to play a few different shots on each hole. Nearly all of them allow the golfer to putt from tee to green. Holes in one are somewhat common and commemorative gifts are provided by the course shop to celebrate your good fortune. Unfortunately, the two of us hit oh-for-26 that day.
Bandon Preserve has much of childhood gaming at its core. The emphasis is not on a score (not that it ever should be) but rather on creativity and the value of each shot as designed by the architects. The greens are not super fast, but they are undulating and somewhat deceptive. The bunkers are difficult at times, but always inspirational in their rugged appearance. If you haven’t already guessed, it’s the perfect place to play when you just don’t have another 36-hole day in you. After a round on The Preserve, you’ll find your irons dialed in for your next tour of one of the big courses.
I belong to this neurotic klatch of golf course architecture aficionados. They sound off as though they were on social media; nothing is mild. Everything is 100% something. Until I played Sandpiper, I was under the impression that it was a waste of a wondrous piece of land. That’s what people told me. Fortunately for the public golfers of the Santa Barbara area, they were incorrect. I would gladly play Sandpiper the rest of my days. It sits against the Pacific Ocean. At times, it drifts down to its shore line, while at others, it towers far above it. Some of the ocean holes play along the coast, others play away from it while more run directly to it. I’ll not trouble you any longer. View the pictures below and you’ll see what I mean.
A great course, a memorable course, offers few forgettable holes. In my estimation, there is only one of those at Sandpiper and it is arguable. The 18th hole is a par three over a pond, to a docile green. After the heroics of much of the back nine, this one feels like a bit of a pillow. It’s not all that different from the 18th at Pasatiempo, in theory, as it plays over its own version of a chasm. The difference is the benign nature of the green at Sandpiper, contrasted with the waves of the final putting surface at the great Santa Cruz course. If that’s the only complaint, I’ll take it. The stretch of holes from ten through thirteen is one of the greatest quadrilaterals I’ve ever played. The holes that sit inland may lack vistas, but they don’t suffer for lack of strategy and challenge.