Sand Hills Golf Club
Twelfth hole, 415 yards; Bunkers sometimes guide a golfer how to play a hole. At the 1st, 5th, 11th, and 16th holes for instance, the closer the golfer flirts with the bunkers on the inside of the dogleg, the easierhisnext shot. Standing on the 12th tee, however, the golfer only sees the widest fairway on the course at 90 yards (whichis – ironically – bunkerless) and the green straightahead. The golfer feels free to swing away with no obvious trouble in sight. The challenge rests with Coore’s brilliant use ofthe natural topography as he routed the middle of the fairway along a spine that runs for much of the hole. To either side of the spine are twenty foot deep bowls, down in which the sight of the green is blocked.
Thirteenth hole, 220 yards; The key to this hole was to find it. This long one shotterplays from one dune to the top of another. The green is severely contoured, which actually aids the golfer down wind hold the shot on the green.
Fouteenth hole, 510 yards; A favourite half par hole, many a golfer mighthave a go at the green in two, even with as little as a mid iron. However, par is admirably defended with the smallest green on the course at a mere 2,800 square feet. Both the green’s angle at the base of a dune and its severe pitch from back to front often require the golfer to take more shots to cover the last40 yards than was needed for the first 470 yards.
Fifteenth hole, 470 yards; The 15th tee is the furthermost point to Ben’s Porch on the back side and a genuine roller coaster ride remains: the uphill climb at the 15th, the wild downhill ride at the 16th, the short 17th, and then the final march uphill at the 18th.Coore & Crenshaw lent thisthrilling landscapeits golfing qualities, in this case by digging out a pit bunker thirty yards shy of the green and using that fill tocreate another unique green complex,in this case a dome shaped green featuring a back to front tilt. The surrounding area of the green is kept tightly mown, with many a delicate chip shots to be had.
Sixteenthhole, 610 yards; There is all the room in the world to the right on this long hole. However, with the hole curling left and with the most menacing hazards down the left, the golfer is continually tempted to take on the hazards in order to gain an advantage. For instance, off the tee, the brave teeball skates past the left hand bunker complexin order to get a potentialseventy yards extra in roll. From there, the next set of hazards can be carried and the greenis evenreachable in two with any kind of helping wind. A drive missed rightwill still catch the fairway but remains well back at the top of the hill. From there, a long iron or three woodis neededjust toget past another bunker complex 150 yardsshy ofthe green. Because of how well this option filled hole plays in all wind conditions, many place it with the 14th at The Old Course as one of the game’s great three shotters.
Seventeenthhole, 150 yards; The architects could have easily created a stereotypical 220 yard 17th – goodness knows,they had heaps of room. Instead, they wisely opted for a ‘touch of poetry’ (a back tee of 175 yard was briefly put into play in 1996 and abandoned withina year). With its green encased by bunkers infested with native growth, this short hole allows the better golfer to shine through with superior ball control. While flighting the ball through the wind with a short iron is always vexing, it remains withinthe capabilities ofmost level of player. The contrast of this tightly guarded greenagainst the openness of the prior green makes the target appear even more elusive.
Eighteenth hole, 465 yards; Though by no means indifferent holes, the Home holes at Royal County Down, Crystal Downs, Ballybunion and Cypress Point do not fittingly capture the joy of playing at those similarly world class courses. The 18th at Sand Hills does however, as it is entirely natural, built on a specatular scale, isfull of options, and fascinating around the green. With the approach shot sharply uphill, the hole can be unmerciful in certain conditions. However, it is worth noting that the most level portion of any fairway on the course can be found at the base of the hill.
One great attribute that Sand Hills hadgoing for itfrom the start was thatthe project’s overriding goal was not financial but rather the simple desire to build a great course. There would be no swimming pool ormonsterous clubhouseor housing development considerations. Given the relatively low cost of building the course and its facilities, the owners weren’t saddled at the start with massive debt. A small membership of160 is enough to sustain the course in quality condition. They can afford to limit the rounds to 50 to 70 a day from Junethrough September when the course is open.
In short,a stunning property was turned into a great course at little expense by moving minimal earth. The resulting financial flexibility allows the owners to promote an environment that every golfer enjoys: a unique experience in an uncrowded, natural environment undiluted by outside interferences. At the end of many a thirty-six hole day, the golfer realizes there is no other place he would rather be.