No. 16 at Bandon Dunes
The first course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort made Golfweek’s cover even before it opened in 1999. Owner Mike Keiser had swung for the fences and hit a tape-measure shot. Now home to 85 holes on the remote southern Oregon coast, Bandon Dunes has become a rite of passage for serious golfers and an homage to Keiser’s love of classical golf architecture. It also has inspired imitators in other remote destinations.
Keiser currently is developing a second course at Cabot Links in Canada, and is contemplating a multicourse resort project in Wisconsin. In a Q&A with Golfweek, Keiser shares his thoughts on how to build greens, his tendency to go against the grain, and the similarities between golf and greeting cards.
GW: How involved are you in the design of your courses?
MK: I’m extremely involved. (The architects) all know that before we seed anything, I need to approve it. I don’t actually see every last inch before they plant seed, but I have a pretty good idea of the general contours and shapes of the hole-by-hole progression of things. In particular I’m looking at greens, because greens are the soul of a golf course. I feel strongly that between St. Andrews and National Golf Links and Chicago Golf (Club) and some of Pine Valley’s greens, I would like most of my greens to fit into those four courses – especially the flatter National Golf Links and Chicago Golf greens. There’s always a debate. I want flat, they want contoured, and we end up somewhere in between.
GW: What is your handicap?
MK: Twelve and getting higher.
GW: I’m told by architects that you keep in mind the average golfer as you work on courses.
MK: I want the best tees for the retail golfer. That’s 5,800 to 6,300 yards. Those are the vast majority of golfers who pay me. . . . I’m interested in what we call the royal-blue tees, which measure 4,300 yards. I’m interested in the back tees, from 7,000 to 7,500 yards. But I’m especially interested in the 5,800- to 6,300-yard tees.
GW: Was Sand Hills (in Mullen, Neb.) a model to copy, or was it so unique that it was a model to avoid?
MK: I won’t say that it was a model to copy, but it was a model for (the idea that) remote can work. That opened in 1994, Bandon Dunes opened in 1999. . . . I knew what (Sand Hills owner Dick Youngscap) was doing. I was a little bit envious that he picked (Bill) Coore and (Ben) Crenshaw before I got to them, and I excluded Bill and Ben from the first course because Dick picked them. So instead I picked David Kidd, and that worked out great.
GW: Some of the remote courses that subsequently have been built have struggled. Why do you think that is?
MK: No ocean. I’m a fan, but have never been, to Sutton Bay, The Prairie Club. I have been to Dismal River; I have been ...
Click here to continue reading