Category Archives: Course Spotlight

For Love of the Game

 

As I walked (limped) off the 18th green at Old Macdonald, my body aching from the pains brought on by a marathon of golf, and my ego aching twice as much, I felt a juxtaposition of disappointment and euphoria. Euphoric from just finishing my 72nd hole of golf (85th if you count the Preserve, a short, 13-hole, par 3 course) in four days at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Bandon DunesMy disappointment came from the realization that I would never again experience this golf paradise for the first time. I put my clubs in the car and sat in the driver’s seat, completely exhausted. I looked in the visor mirror and realized the golfer staring back at me was not the same golfer as the one who first teed off at Bandon Dunes three days earlier.

 Let me start at the beginning. I emerged from the wooded Oregon Highway 42 shortly before 3 p.m., my heart thumping in my chest. The stoplight at the confluence of Hwy 101 seemed to take forever, somehow teasingly aware I was mere minutes from my destination. But, by 3:30 I was checked into my room at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.  Small, but incredibly cozy, the room was packaged with everything a golfer needs. The mattress was soft to rest a weary back, natural stone flooring in the bathroom to massage the feet, two comfortable chairs, a TV, and of course, a fridge to store all manner of swing lubricant.  I didn’t stay in my room for long. I had to see the ocean. I climbed up a little trail near the hotel. At the top, overlooking the DSCF1348land leading to the edge of the Pacific, I couldn’t help but weep tears of joy. I made it! After months of saving, I wasn’t a golfer on vacation, I was a pilgrim on a religious journey, ready to take on the Bandon Dunes experience. Mine eyes had seen the glory of what was in store for me over the next four days.

Day 1-Bandon Dunes

Nervous, and pretty much sleepless from the anticipation the night before, I teed off at the resort’s eponymous course at 8:20 a.m. sharp, launching a beautiful drive down the right side of the fairway, flirting with the rough. My second shot, a sky-high 9 iron, put me on the back of the green. After a two-putt I walked towards the 2nd hole, ego thoroughly massaged. From 8:20 to 8:35 I was the best golfer I’d ever been. I’d parred the first hole at Bandon Dunes. However, The lord giveth…and the lord taketh away. From 8:36 to 12:13, it was a struggle.

Bandon Dunes is a resort course, no question. The undulating fairways, follow the natural landscape of the Oregon coast, and like any high end resort course, they’re as tight as a table-top. Those of us who have a tendency to hit the big ball first are in for a long day. If you aren’t familiar with the bottom of your swing, your 4 iron is likely to get you a good six feet of ball flight. I had my fair share of frustrating results, but my passion for the game was uninhibited. As I finished the Bandon Dunes course with my tail was between my legs and butterflies in my stomach, I realized I was in love. The mysterious mistress of golf and Bandon Dunes had me under her spell, regardless of how I played.

 Day 2–Pacific Dunes

As usual when one is in love, I couldn’t sleep from the anticipation of my second date. Promptly, again at 8:20, I launched my first drive into the middle of the fairway, I just wish it was the DSCF1296correct one! Day 2 at the Bandon Dunes Resort was a job-like test of my love for golf. I think I made one par, and lost about a trillion strokes on the fast greens and tight fairways. I got my first taste of the deep, numerous bunkers at Pacific Dunes as well, and it certainly wouldn’t be my last.

DSCF1288Pacific Dunes could be the most difficult course I played at the resort, but it was also the most beautiful. Nearly every hole is on the ocean, offering breathtaking sights. That’s why I played so poorly! The golf gods wanted me to spend more time taking in the course. At least, that’s what I told myself.

After the round, I left my clubs in the car (which is something I consider sacrilegious), went straight to my hotel room and collapsed on the bed. There’s something about golf where a dreadful performance completely takes the wind out of your sails. Later that evening, I resolved to get some pick-me-ups. I headed into the Bandon Dunes pro-shop near The Lodge. Souvenirs were aplenty in the building, with all manner of name brand logo merchandise from cigars, books, apparel, to golf equipment. You name it. They had it. All sporting the Bandon Dunes puffin logo. I walked out carrying a new shirt and a puffin head-cover, and went right into the bar. The Tufted Puffin is the Lodge’s restaurant, and was my haunt of choice when I wasn’t on the course. The food was great, the drinks were superb, and the staff was kind. After some retail and culinary therapy, I was feeling a little bit better as my head hit the pillow.

 Day 3–Bandon Trails

My alarm blared at 6:30 the next morning. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling thinking,  Do I really need to punish myself again adding insult to injury? Haven’t I had enough?  Every golfer knows about the Herculean effort needed to go out and play after a particularly bad round. I walked onto the tees of Bandon Trails hesitant and untrusting of my game. DSCF1304Fortunately, I was able to keep it together.  Trails is the most unique course at the resort. With 70% forest, only a handful of holes run along the ocean. It’s beautiful and my personal favorite. The grass in the fairways is tight, but seemed a little more forgiving. The forested layout and the surroundings are almost out-of-place. As I walked among the trees on the seventh hole (I admit it, looking for an errant ball), I couldn’t tell whether I was a quarter-mile away from the ocean-from the edge of the continent-or one thousand miles away. Numerous elevation changes throughout the track make each hole unique, inviting, and enjoyable. The logo of Trails is a butterfly, and it’s appropriate. I felt light as a feather the whole round, even more in love with the Bandon experience.

Day 4–Old Mac

DSCF1334Old Macdonald, is the wildcard, and the youngest of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort courses. I was joined by my friend/colleague/mentor Cliff, for a DSCF1350round of golf where every characteristic of the resort’s courses are distilled into an 18-hole endurance test. It truly was golf turned up to an eleven. Every fairway at the first three courses rolls and undulates. DSCF1364At Old Mac, they turn mounds into hills and dips into valleys. I was dwarfed in bunkers, and I’m not afraid to admit I broke out the hand-wedge a couple of times. The greens at Trails and both Dunes courses are fast, but Old DSCF1338Mac’s are downright sinister. If an outsider was watching us putt, they’d come to believe that “Oh my god, are you kidding me?” is a required utterance after each putt. After our handshake on the 18th green, we shared the mutual thought as we added up our scores, Cliff & Colin–0, Old Macdonald–1. We played golf, and golf won.

End Result

So, there I am sitting in my car staring at myself in the visor mirror. My shoulders hurt, my right hand had blisters, and my left hand was noticeably paler than its counterpart. I had to get on the road soon. I had a long drive ahead of me. I turned the key and my car sprang to life. After fastening my seat belt and choosing the right CD for the trip, my eyes returned to the mirror. I could see the fatigue in his eyes and feel it in mine. I smiled. He smiled. And then we said, in unison, “I love golf.”

 

Patriots Point Links: Great Golf Great Views

 

“From an aesthetic standpoint, Patriots Point is on par with some of the greatest golf courses in the US.”

With today’s environmental red tape, Patriots Point Links would never have patriots-point2-768x411been built. Thankfully for golfers, when the course was built in the late 70’s, not as much priority was given to saving what might someday be an endangered species of insect, reptile or flora. Consequently, plans to build a golf course at the foot of the Cooper River Bridge just minutes away from downtown Charleston were allowed to move forward and Patriots Point Links became a reality.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Patriots Point is on par (pun intended) with some of the greatest golf courses in the US. Far and away, the most scenic hole on the course is number 17, but much more on that later. The course sits on the edge of Charleston Harbor and offers clear views of the city, Fort Sumter and ships arriving and departing for destinations around the world. And, if you look out across the harbor from the 18th green, you can see the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier named after the Battle of Yorktown of the American Revolutionary War.

patriots-point3Patriots Point offers a great practice facility where you can hone your game. They offer the largest all-grass lighted driving range in the Charleston area. In fact, this practice area was large enough to host a regional qualifying round of the Remax Long Drive Championship a few patriots-point1years ago.  The range has a variety of targets so that you can work on everything from a 60° wedge to a driver. The practice putting green offers the same speed and consistency as what you’ll encounter on the course. There’s also a short game area with targets to work on chip shots of 30 – 70 yards.
patriots-point5-768x432The golf course has been winning over the hearts of local golfers and visitors since 1979 when renowned golf course architect Willard Byrd undertook the task of creating this masterpiece. In 2001, the National Golf Course Owners Association voted Patriots Point Links South Carolina’s Course of the Year, and number 17 is a perennial favorite for “Best Par-3 in the Lowcountry.” Patriots Point Links offers four sets of tees, making the course both playable and enjoyable for golfers of all abilities. From the Blue Tees, the course measures 6,955 yards with a course rating of 73.2 and a slope of 133, while the ladies typically play from 5,562 yards (70.8/115). Most male golfers will find that the White Tees (6,393/70.6/129) will give them all they can handle because, when you factor in the wind, Patriots Point Links can play a lot longer.

The course is built on land reclaimed by the dredging efforts that once opened shipping channels in the Harbor. Because of the settling that has occurred over the years, the fairways can be a little bumpy but are no less playable. In fact, they can add an extra challenge by not always leaving you with a flat, easy to play lie. The fairways are in good shape and well maintained and the greens are some of the best in the area.

Most Memorable Hole

patriots-point7-768x388Number 17: Par 3, 130 yards (White Tees). Sorry other 17 holes, this one is a no-brainer. Number 17 has been voted the “Best Par 3 in the Lowcountry” year after year and it is easy to see why. If you’re into naming holes, you could call this one: “Hit the Green or Lose a Ball!” You’re playing to a small, fairly flat green surrounded by marsh and water. Add in wind that can come howling in from just about any direction and you’re in for a real treat. Once you get on the green – regardless of the number of shots it took you to get there – do a 360 and take in all the views. You’ll forget your score.

(Other) Favorite Par 3: Number 14, 168 yards (White Tees). Number 14 is the start of what local golfers call “The Swerve.” The stated yardage of 168 is relative and will undoubtedly play longer or shorter because you are at the mercy of the wind. If you can remember which way the wind played on number 13, here it will be the opposite. So, what’s most important is club selection; make sure you hit enough to get there. You may not feel the wind on the tee because of the surrounding foliage but believe me, it’s there!

patriots-point10-768x432Favorite Par 4: Number 5, 405 yards (White Tees). One of the reasons that this is the #1 handicapped hole on the course is that the prevailing winds make a long hole that much longer. If you can keep it low off the tee and scorch it between the two fairway bunkers, you’ll enhance your odds at par or better. From there you will probably have a mid to long iron into an elevated green which is going to require another extra club. If the pin is in the back left, golfer beware – it falls away sharply. Best bet is to play to the middle of the green take a two putt and walk away – QUICKLY!

Favorite Par 5: Number 18, 512 yards (White Tees). A daunting task to end the day. The best way to score well off this tee is to hit your best drive of the day, preferably with a little bit of a draw. That’s not an easy thing to do with the water of Charleston Harbor down the left and a grove of mulberry trees on the right. Although it’s not the longest par 5 on the course, getting on in two depends greatly on which way the wind is blowing. This makes it wise to leave an approach shot from a manageable distance. Accuracy is imperative on your approach shot unless you prefer to hit your fourth shot out of a bunker. There are 8 sand traps that surround the green, which slopes from back right to front left. A front pin placement can provide a harrowing end to an otherwise successful round.

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Last Word: By definition, Patriots Point Links lacks several key elements to make it a links-style golf course, but it is about as close as you can get in the US. What it does have in common with some of the world’s most famous links courses is the wind. No matter what time of day you play, the ever-changing winds are going to play a factor. They typically sweep across the harbor and give the course a different look and feel from day to day. This course has more of a parkland feel, with several holes running parallel to each other and no homes along the fairway.  Water plays a dominant role, however most of it is lateral and doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t – come into play. Navigating strategically placed bunkers along the fairways and around the sides of the greens can add stokes, but in most cases, the fronts are wide open, leaving the seniors favorite par saver, the bump and run, in play.

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Something else that makes it a favorite for both local golfers and resort guests is that this it’s not unusual to get around this track in four hours or less. It’s also not uncommon to find temperatures on the point 10 degrees cooler than the inland areas during the summer. Because of this and the proximity of greens to tees, you’ll find a lot of walkers in the summer. And they still maintain a 4-hour pace of play.

If you’re looking to play somewhere that is not only visually appealing but is also a shot-maker’s haven, then consider playing your next round here. For more information on Patriots Point Links, visit their website: www.patriotspointlinks.com or give them a call at (877) 709-5053.

david-theoretDavid Theoret writes about all things golf. See more of him on his website thegolfinguy.com

All photos by Belinda Theoret

 

 

Ducks Home Course An Emerald in the Sun

“Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain,” I said to myself, over and over, in a rhythmic chant as I drove back up the I-5 corridor. I haven’t gone this far since my trip to Portland last month, and the gray clouds looming overhead are giving me the idea that maybe this trip was a bad idea. I got off the interstate at the Creswell, Oregon exit and within minutes I was pulling into Emerald Valleythe parking lot of Emerald Valley Golf Club, home of the University of Oregon Ducks. The pavement was wet with the previous night’s rain, which continued to put a damper on my spirits. After a quick meeting with the head pro I was standing on the first tee box, my head full of contingency plans in case the rains came. As I stooped down and teed up my ball, an oak leaf blew across the tee box. I turned to see where it came from. I didn’t see which particular tree this leaf decided to emigrate from, but I did see the fairway light up with the sun’s emergence from its fortress of clouds. I smiled, and as I swung I couldn’t help but think sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in the Pacific Northwest this time of year will tell you that it’s a wet, wet season, but if you played Emerald Valley you wouldn’t think so. The course was in fantastic shape despite the battering that the region takes from rain on what seems to be a daily basis. The maintenance of this course is a feather in the cap of the management (a duck feather, I believe). So let’s start at the beginning.

The tee boxes were the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of teeing up. I’m not hyperbolizing here, they were that good. The tee boxes at Emerald Valley had everything they needed and nothing they don’t. There are yardage signs on each of the four tees (yellow, blue, white, and red) and conveniently placed ball washers, with towels. There were next to no divots, and what few were there, were filled with sand and grass seed and kept so neat that there were no piles of sand sitting like pimples on the box’s face. Their consistency was what you would expect from a championship course. Firm enough to provide a stable address position, but malleable enough to plant and remove tees with ease.

courtesy-emerald-valley-golf-club-2Moving on into the fairway (hopefully). At Emerald Valley the fairways are easy to miss; they’re very narrow and have several doglegs that offer tempting opportunities to cut the corner and save a stroke for those golfers who classify themselves as “high risk, higher reward.” Each fairway is lined with old oak trees, offering a semi-permeable barricade for errant shots. But even more important than the barrier is the view. The tree-lined corridors of Emerald Valley provide dozens of opportunities for pictures. At one point, I stopped playing just to enjoy the atmosphere. There’s a druidic feel to Emerald Valley, often leading to moments of isolation promoting just you and the game.

courtesy-emerald-valley-golf-clubAfter a good iron shot or two (or ten) and you find yourself on the green, you’re in for a real treat. These greens are what make or break your score. They roll true and fast, even in the current conditions (I shudder to think their speed during peak summer season weather). Well-maintained and trimmed, the greens at Emerald Valley are a privilege to lip-out putts on. Their difficulty I attested to their hometown team, the Ducks. Emerald offers a challenging championship level course to cut their teeth on.

After your round should you find yourself in need of a celebratory drink or a back-nine-bargrieving one, the restaurant at Emerald Valley is a solid choice. The Front Nine Restaurant is a small, diner-like affair that has an unassuming air to it. Looks can be deceiving, because the food is fantastic. I highly recommend the patty melt. With a great kitchen comes a great bar. The Back Nine Bar offers a full bar that specializes in drinks made with fresh fruit juice. And it wouldn’t be a bar in Oregon without microbrew beers, which are present in the Back Nine’s draft selection.

In the pro shop, you’ll find yourself in the company of a kind and knowledgeable staff. I met Chris, the head pro, and his assistant professional, Colin (what are the odds?). I had a great chat with them 20161112_120112before and after my round. They couldn’t have been more accommodating and generous. U of O pride is alive and well in the pro shop, with an entire wall devoted to memorabilia of the team. The shop is stocked with several different brands of merchandise bearing the Emerald Valley logo for souvenir golfers (like me). If it’s used on a golf course, you can find at Emerald Valley.

So, everything I’ve said so far is the technical stuff about a golf course, the physical components that every golf course in the world has, just to varying degrees. That Emerald Valley’s amenities rank in the 95th percentile of courses I’ve had the pleasure to play made the visit a pleasure, but there’s one thing that can’t be measured physically, and that is character. Right before my round started, Chris told me how Emerald Valley is a very “old-school” golf course, with the greens and tees very close together. As I meandered the fairways I got a sense of nostalgia, which surprised me. It finally occurred to me that Emerald Valley reminded me of the course I used to play when I was a kid. It put me at ease during the tension of playing a new course and trying not to embarrass myself.

A championship course can seem daunting and intimidating to newcomers, but Emerald Valley has a very approachable demeanor and the course itself seeks to put you at ease. It’s a difficult course for sure, but with each swing the course makes you feel at home. The world needs more golf courses like Emerald Valley.

At a Glance

Emerald Valley Golf Club
83301 Dale Kuni Road
Creswell, OR 97426
http://www.emeraldvalleygolf.com/
Phone: (541) 895-2174

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