Pacific Dunes

Green Keeper: Jeff Sutherland

14th hole, 135 yards; Hitting from one dune across a valley to a green which was found by lopping off the top of another dune, this is an altogether clever hole with everything falling away from the plateau green. Any ball that fails to find its mark may well end upfifteen or more yards from the green.

The 14th plays along a ridge line with trouble (often severe) both right and left. This is the golfer's last view of the ocean as the course turns inland for the final four holes.

15th, 540 yards; Along with the 12th, the 15th was the hole that always concerned Keiser as the golfer for the last time must cross the plain. Coupled with the fact that the golfer is leaving behind the ocean for good, no one wanted there to be any sense of a let down. There won’t be, as this hole offers that rare example of a hole that plays almost quite well whether downwind or into the wind. The green is loosely modeled after the Foxy Hole at Royal Dornoch. Downwind the golfer will need to squeeze his drive into a narrow neck to have a chance of reachingit in two and the sense of bounding along-iron up onto the plateau green makes for fine drama. Into the wind, the fairwayis an obstacle course as the player must negotiate a number of bunkers, the primary one of which is one smack in the middle of the fairway some 90 yards short of the green.

The view from the 15th tee shows the nest of bunkers 220 to 90 yards from the green with which the golfer hopes to get past in two. Tne last one at 90 yards from the green is in the middle of the fairway.

As this view from the 16th tee shows, there is no need for greenside bunkering on the 15th. The property for the fourth course (Old Macdonald) is in the distance.

16th hole, 340 yards; A favorite kind of hole, where the sight of the flag to the right lures the golferfurther in that direction than is wise. In fact, the idealplay into this angled green is from the far outside of the dogleg, atact that Renaissance also employed with great success at the 5th at Riverfront GC. In this case, the difficulty is compounded by one of the lumpiest fairways on the course and a short iron from an awkward stance is never a bargain. The green is on a natural shelf at the base of a sand dune and in a similar vien to the 6th, a birdie will prove far more elusive than the yardage indicates. With the wind from the north (behind and left to right), the player may also bash his drive near the green, taking his chances on getting a decent lie and stance in the hollow short and right of the green. From there, though, the 30-yard pitch is difficult enough to have players argue as to whether they would rather be 100 yards out in the fairway or 20 yards short of the green. The aspect of having appealing two shotters under 350 yards was foremost in Doak’s mind when he routed the course. Many of his favorite courses in the world – Crystal Downs, St. Andrews Old, Royal Melbourne West, Pine Valley – have such holes and Doak was determined for this to be the case at Pacific Dunes as well.

Finding a level stance is part of the challenge to approaching the 16th green.

The wonderful shelf green at the 16th, the angle of which suggests that approaches be played to it from the outside of the dogleg.

As the approach to the 16th is typically downwind, a 'good' pitch will often land short of the center of the green only to find this back bunker to the left of the green.

17th hole, 210 yards; Located in a sea of gorse, this one shotter is visually impressive. The four degree right to left slope in the 8,500 square foot green coupled with the ten foot deep left front bunker createmuch of aclassic Redan dilemma. Considering that the vast majority of modern courses that are built in windy environs put too much of a strain on the average golfer, Doak cleared a wide area to the right of the green so that the hole remains playable in even the summer winds. However, for those who like to see the screws tightened on the penultimate hole, some will lament the absence of the back right bunkering normally associated with a classic Redan.

The dramatic 17th: the play is over the bunker in the foreground (which is 40 yards short of the green) and then let the right to left slope of the land do the rest of the work.

18th hole, 590 yards; Played through a valley between two dunes, Don Placek’s detailed bunkering work makes the hole. Of special interest is the unique green side bunker that visually appears as one with another one that is actually sixty yards away on the far hillside. Such artistry is rarely found in golf architecture today and comes when the architect has his best people on site for as long as possible.

Placek's bunkering makes the 18th hole.

Having looked at the holes individually, one interesting aspect of the course is found in studying its routing: the lumpy, bumpy 1st and 2nd fairways which lead to the plain that the 3rd, 4th, and 6thth and 9th holes. The back nine enjoys the same change of pace: the par five 12th fairwayshares the same plain as the 3rd and 4thth with its heaving fairway. However, the 15thth and 18th. Such to-ing and fro-ing is nothing short of ideal. Doak used three of the three-shotters (3, 12, and 15) to chew up the plain. fairways are on before returning to the dune country for the 8 and leads the golfer into the dunes for the mighty 13 fairway returns again across the once gorse filled plain and leads to two of the lumpiest fairways on the course, the 16

Given that Pacific Dunes enjoys one of the thirty or so finest sites ever for a golf course, does the design equal the setting? Absolutely, as is partially evidenced by its world top twenty status by GOLF Magazine. In the past, the quality of some of Doak’s designshave been underminedby poor maintenance practices(e.g. Lost Dunes is consistently too wetwhile Apache Stronghold suffers from poor turf quality). Mercifully for Doak, hereon one of his greatest canvases, he was blessed with an excellent green keeping crew right from the start. Green Keepers Troy Russell and Ken Nice originally oversaw the grow-in andthegreen keepingfor its first several years.When Nice assumed responsibilities for the sister course Bandon Trails,Jeff Sutherland stepped in. The end resultis that these three men and their crew have achieved uniform fast and firm playing conditions throughout.The golfer has multiple options on how to play his approach shot into such greens as thesecond, fifth and eighth. Whether he elects to bank the ball off the short grass that surrounds these greens or play toward the middle ofthe greens in a more conventional manner, all options are available to him.In addition, the firm conditions allowPacific Dunestoprovide the raw challenge associated with the world’s finest links. If greens like the sixth and sixteenth were soft and holding,the course’srequirement for precise approach shotswould be diluted. Fortunately, such is not the case. The right men are in placeand thefast playing conditions throughout the courseare as good as any in the United States, allowing this design to reach its full potential.

Bill Coore made the most meaningful remark about Pacific Dunes when he said to a group of architects in March, 2001, ‘Pacific Dunes is the highest compliment to golf course architecture and it is what we should all strive for.’ Every student of architecture – as well as every golfer – needs to make the trip to see how special golf can be when the design equals its glorious setting.

The craftmanship and strategy on offer at Pacific Dunes is the equal of its setting. This bunker complex is between the 4th and 12th fairways.

The End