The Full Scoop on Bandon Dunes’s New 5th Course – The Sheep Ranch

By Ian Critser

Photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

While on a recent trip to Bandon Dunes, we had an unusual resort guest sit next to us at breakfast one morning—Ben Crenshaw. While listeners of the LINKS Golf Podcast will have already heard about this encounter in Part 1 of our Bandon Dunes episode, most won’t know the actual reason he was on property. As it turns out, he was there on business.

The Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch course has long been part of the Bandon Dunes story, but unless golfers knew who to ask, it was unlikely they would know the property existed. Sitting just north of the rest of the resort, the Sheep Ranch has been owned and operated since 2000 by Phil Friedmann, Mike Keiser’s former business partner. Since then, Friedmann has used the property as a sort of personal golf playground, occasionally allowing access to friends and those in-the-know.

The original course was designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina and contained 13 green sites, but no numbered holes or an actual routing. Golfers picked targets from any point on the property and hit to it, creating a wide array of playing opportunities on what many consider to be the best piece of land for golf in the area.

Mike Keiser, Phil Friedmann, and Bill Coore at Sheep Ranch (Photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

While Friedmann admittedly relished the solitude at Sheep Ranch, he believed it was time to share the breathtaking property with the general golfing public.

“It was wonderful to have this incredibly special golf experience early on,” Friedmann said. “It is now time to share the magic of the Sheep Ranch with other lovers of the game.”

Once the news was announced that the Sheep Ranch was to become part of the resort, there was immediately speculation about its fate. Some surmised that it would stay the way it was, while others insisted a big name design firm would step in and design a completely new course. If it were the latter, then who would it be?

This is where our fortuitous breakfast encounter starts to make a lot more sense.

Photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

In mid-April of this year, Bandon Dunes officially announced that the design duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were going to design a completely new course on the site of the Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch. Keeping the same name for the new course, it will be converted to an 18-hole layout occupying a full mile of coastline. The biggest challenge was always how to fit 18 holes on the relatively small piece of property at the Sheep Ranch, but Coore & Crenshaw found a way.

Maximizing every inch of that mile, the new course will boast a staggering nine green sites perched on cliffs above the Pacific. For reference, the other four full courses at the resort have a total of six clifftop greens put together and sit on just over a mile and a half of coastline.

The centerpiece of the property is Five Mile Point, which dramatically juts out into the Pacific and was already a green on the original Sheep Ranch. In the new routing, it will be home to a massive double green.

Five Mile Point (Photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

In addition to the dramatic cliffs, the new Sheep Ranch will have another unique feature—or lack thereof. Coore & Crenshaw chose to not include a single bunker on the new Sheep Ranch, arguing that the course’s defense will be its massive undulations as well as the heavy wind that is ever present at Bandon. While the idea might shock some initially, Coore argues that replacing bunkers with fescue will enhance the property visually as well as help keep balls from tumbling down the cliffs.

The course will open for public play in 2020, and the resort has confirmed that the Sheep Ranch will be the last course ever built at Bandon Dunes. Despite that fact, it’s safe to say that Bandonistas will continue to flock to the Oregon coast for years to come.

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What do you think of this new course at Bandon Dunes? Let us know in the comments below!

Who Really Designed Bethpage Black?

By Tony Dear

Photo by L.C. Lambrecht

In February, we asked who deserved the credit for how a golf course turns out—designer, design associate, construction foreman, re-designer, restorer, renovator, shaper, superintendent, some of the above, or all of them. It’s an especially pertinent subject as we approach the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black as a question mark hangs over the identity of the man who created its grueling layout.

Huh? It was designed by A.W. Tillinghast, surely? Everyone knows it.

Indeed, ever since the course opened in the spring of 1936, Tillinghast has been the architect of record, and the world regarded his status as uncontestable. Much of it still does, but in 2009 Golf Digest’s Ron Whitten wrote that it was actually Joe Burbeck that deserved the recognition. Joe Who?

A graduate of Massachusetts Agricultural College, Burbeck regarded himself as an agricultural engineer and built golf courses in the Midwest, probably for Donald Ross. In May 1929, he was hired by Robert Moses—an extremely powerful and influential urban developer in the New York Metropolitan Area who created (and was president of) the Long Island State Park Commission—to design and build a pitch-and-putt course at Jones Beach on Long Island’s south shore, 45 miles east of Manhattan.

Following his presumably successful work there, Burbeck got a job managing Lenox Hills, a Deveraux Emmet-designed course on a 1,368-acre estate that once belonged to a Texas railroad magnate, but was purchased by Moses and renamed Bethpage Golf Club.

Burbeck moved his family into the clubhouse in time for Moses’s next grand plan—development of a 72-hole public facility he would call “The people’s country club.” The courses were to be the Green, Blue, Red, and Black (the Alfred Tull-designed Yellow opened decades later in 1958).

Moses signed Tillinghast in December 1933, the contract specifying 15 days’ work at $50 a day—a paltry sum compared to what the famous architect had earned on private projects prior to the economic crash of 1929.

“But the genius who created Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge in New York, Baltusrol and Ridgewood in New Jersey, and San Francisco Golf Club in California had fallen victim to bad investments and heavy drinking,” Whitten wrote, implying he needed the money and would take anything he could get.

Interestingly, the contract also designated Tillinghast a “consultant,” the interpretation of which has proven the major sticking point in deciding who really designed the Black.

Whitten says Tillinghast’s role was limited and suggests Moses only hired him to give the project credibility and appease the press. Others, most notably Geoff Shackelford, writing on golfclubatlas.com, and Phillip Young, author of Golf for the People: Bethpage and the Black (2002), say there’s plenty of evidence to suggest Tillinghast was designer. Young also asserts there was no way Burbeck could simultaneously design and build the Black as well as Bethpage’s Red and Blue Courses, hire and monitor hundreds of laborers, operate the clubhouse, and hold down his position as park superintendent, responsible for roads, golf courses, personnel, machinery, etc. Most importantly, Young says, Burbeck never claimed to have designed the Black.

Further muddying the waters are two articles that appeared after the course opened. In the July 1937 edition of Golf Review Monthly, respected editor and golf writer Lester Rice referred to Burbeck as “the architect who had designed and constructed three of Bethpage’s courses and renovated the fourth,” but in August, Tillinghast wrote in PGA Magazine that he considered himself fortunate “to be selected as consultant course architect,” adding “never have I received heartier support and cooperation than from Joe Burbeck, the state engineer who was in daily direction of the entire work from start to finish.”

The debate over who designed Bethpage’s notorious Black Course incites the wrath of Tillinghast apologists while mollifying those who believe Burbeck’s contribution warrants greater scrutiny.

There’s no doubt each man played an important role, however, and we can likewise be certain who worked on the course most recently. Prior to the 2002 US Open, Rees Jones undertook a major renovation, and he altered a dozen holes between ‘02 and the ’09 US Open. He made minor modifications to nine holes in preparation for the 2019 PGA Championship, the work beginning in 2012.

Over the last 20 years, Jones’s impact has certainly been substantial, but the course’s challenge has never changed. The Black was originally modeled on Pine Valley and is still as formidable a test as Tillinghast, or was it Burbeck, created 83 years ago.

The Masters Par 3 Contest

By Tony Dear

Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Tom Watson at the 2019 Par 3 Contest (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Matt Wallace is 1-for-1 at Augusta National. The 28-year-old from England has played in one competition at the home of the Masters, and won it. Of course, Wallace didn’t win the Masters (not yet anyway) but the Par 3 Contest which precedes the main event. The debutant won in a playoff at the third extra hole – the 8th – after he and 61-year-old Sandy Lyle had each shot five-under 22.

It was a special moment for the three-time European Tour winner certainly, but even more memorable perhaps was the hole-in-one he made at the 8th during regulation – the 100th ace recorded in the 59-year history of the Par 3 Contest which didn’t really become the national treasure it is today until 2008 when it was televised for the first time.

Players (Masters competitors, former champions and, until 2017, honorary invitees) never have taken the event terribly seriously, but as their bag-toting children and grandchildren, adorably clad in the club’s standard caddie uniforms, have become center-stage in recent years, so the atmosphere has gone full garden party.   

Matt Wallace (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

The Par 3 course, located in the northeast corner of the property, today measures 1,060 yards—60 yards longer than when it opened on November 14th, 1958. It was designed by George Cobb who had consulted for the club since earlier in the decade (and made several notable changes to the “big” course during the ‘50s and ‘60s) and who, in an effort to avoid disappointing other clients for whom he had built regulation-length 18-hole courses, always spoke of Augusta National’s Par 3 course as his best-ever design.

Cobb worked alongside Augusta National’s notoriously autocratic (though often misunderstood) chairman, Clifford Roberts, for whom building the Par 3 course had been almost an obsession since the early 1930s when he and Bob Jones had founded the club. In his 1976 book, The Story of Augusta National Golf Club, Roberts referred to the Par 3 course as his “pet project.”

Actually, 18 holes seemed to be the bare minimum Roberts wanted. He and the big course’s co-designer Alistair MacKenzie first had plans for a 90-yard 19th hole that would enable members to play double or quits after completing the final hole (it was never built as it would have obscured the view between the clubhouse and 18th green).

Charles Howell III, Brandt Snedeker, and Charley Hoffman with their families during the 2019 Par 3 Contest (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

And he also enthusiastically endorsed MacKenzie’s idea in 1932 for a nine-hole “Approach and Putt” course measuring about 450 yards—a proposal MacKenzie revised a year later, expanding it to 18 holes and 2,460 yards.

Jones wasn’t convinced by either plan, however. It’s not totally clear why he didn’t go for the addition of a short course, but finances were surely a factor. The Great Depression had seen Augusta National fall woefully short of attracting the 1,800 members the founders hoped to sign up, and with so little cash in the kitty, it was perhaps a little extravagant.

By the late 1950s, however, Jones had come around to the idea. Roberts had asked Cobb to draw up a plan for a Par 3 course surrounding the newly created DeSoto Springs Pond (named for a 16th-century Spanish explorer believed to have traversed these parts) and Jones was all for it. “I agree completely that the construction of this golf course will be an important contribution to the beauty of the place,” he wrote in a letter to Roberts. “The par three would give us a pretty complete golfing layout.”

The usually-reticent, considered Roberts allowed himself a brief surge of excitement. “I am really rather bullish on the idea of making use of the short course for a distinctive pre-tournament event,” he said.

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In 1987, two new Tom Fazio-designed holes skirting Ike’s Pond (a fishing pond just to the south of DeSoto Springs Pond that was created in 1949 after being suggested by President Dwight D. Eisenhower) replaced the old 1st and 2nd—hence the yardage increase—which became viewing areas.

The course’s tiny greens are sown with the same Penn A-1, Pennlinks, and Penncross bentgrass mix used on the big course (the Par 3 had been the testing ground for this new bent in the late 1970s. It proved successful, so the big course’s greens transitioned from Bermuda to bent), and green speeds on the neighboring layouts are kept much the same.

After MacKenzie and Jones’s big course opened in January 1933, it took Augusta National nearly 26 years to go ahead with plans for its shorter sibling.

Thank goodness Cliff Roberts persevered and finally realized his dream for the Par 3 course, which invariably throws up some of the year’s most unforgettable moments.

Card of the Course
1. 130 yards
2. 70 yards
3. 90 yards
4. 130 yards
5. 130 yards
6. 140 yards
7. 115 yards
8. 120 yards
9. 135 yards

The New Bobby Jones Golf Course: New Life for Atlanta’s Oldest Public Layout

By Ian Critser

By the mid 2000s, the Bobby Jones Golf Course was no longer the fitting tribute to its namesake that it was on opening day in 1932. Although it sat on prime real estate in the heart of Atlanta, the city’s oldest public golf course had become hopelessly run-down. It was the type of course that drew visitors because of its name, but left them scratching their heads after the round, many vowing to never return. Now however, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In 2016, a group who shared a passion for Bob Jones’s legacy formed the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation with the intention to breathe new life into the historic course that bears the golf legend’s name. The Foundation raised more than $23 million dollars for the course and accompanying facilities, which include a state-of-the-art driving range, instructional centers, tennis courts, and a brand new clubhouse.

While the extra amenities are all worthy of buzz, the new golf course steals the show.

While the original course was a cramped 18-hole layout devoid of a driving range or practice area, course designer and native Atlantan Bob Cupp wanted to maximize acreage on the small property to make the course fun and playable for every type of golfer, all while including the proper practice facilities to make Bobby Jones Golf Club the main public golf hub of the city.

Cupp quickly determined that there was not enough room to accommodate a traditional 18-hole course along with the other amenities, so he pitched the idea of a reversible 9-hole course, creating 18 holes while only using the space for nine. Sadly, Cupp passed away during construction of the course, but his son Robert stepped in and finished what his dad started.

Officially opened in November 2018, the new course features seven sets of tees ranging from roughly 7,300 yards all the way down to around 3,200. There is also virtually no rough, so the interior fairways blend together seamlessly and keep the lost ball count to a minimum.

Another notable feature of the course is its massive and undulating double greens, where two hole locations with two flagsticks are cut on each green every day. The greens were my favorite part of the design and almost all of them beg for extra “I-gotta-try-this” putts from long distance over bold humps and ridges.

Normal daily play will restrict golfers to just one of the two routings—called the “Azalea” and “Magnolia” nines—meaning that on certain days the golf course will play in one direction, while on other days it will play in the exact opposite direction.

Due to the wide range of the teeing options and the two pins on each green, the first nine could be drastically differently than the second nine, despite technically being the same holes. Any confusion about the routing or where to go is quickly cleared up by Bobby Jones staff on the course.

A massive two-sided driving range will be home to a high-tech instruction center as well as the Georgia State University golf team. The range is also where you’ll find many Atlantans taking advantage of the city’s first public driving range to open in years.

Directly adjacent to the range is the “Cupp Links,” a six-hole course with holes measuring 50-70 yards designed specifically for children 12 and under to learn the game. With Bobby Jones himself a former child prodigy, the Foundation was sure to make children’s golf initiatives a focal point at BJGC.

With a long-term lease on the property from the State of Georgia locked up, the future is bright for the new Bobby Jones Golf Course.

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Would you be interested in playing a reversible course? Let us know why or why not in the comments!

A Weekend at Troon North in Scottsdale, Arizona

By Graylyn Loomis

Troon North (Photo credit: Graylyn Loomis)

One of the benefits of being a golf writer is traveling to popular golf destinations around the country. With that travel comes frequent questions from golfers about where they should go next. Until recently, I had a large hole in my resume. I had never played golf in Arizona and had to answer any southwest U.S. golf questions accordingly. After a quick weekend trip to Scottsdale, I can now say I’ve played in the Grand Canyon state, but I also realized just how many courses I missed.

There are more than 150 courses in the greater Scottsdale area alone. One of our senior editors here at LINKS typically spends a month in Scottsdale each winter to escape the New York City cold. That editor wrote an article with his tips for planning a Scottsdale-based golf trip, which you can read here.

Troon North, 17th hole Pinnacle Course (Photo credit: Graylyn Loomis)

The purpose of my visit to Scottsdale was to play in the Troon Challenge at Troon North. Over 1,000 players at Troon-managed courses across the country tried to qualify for the Troon Challenge finals at Troon North. As one of those lucky aforementioned golf writers, I leapfrogged the qualifying stages with fellow golf writer Ryan Walker as my partner. We played 36 holes between Troon North’s Pinnacle and Monument designs and stayed at the Four Seasons Scottsdale, which is nestled into a mountainside a short shuttle-ride from the courses.

Even with my lack of Arizona golf experience I entered this trip understanding the importance of accuracy off the tee. The landscape is the Sonoran desert around Scottsdale is dry, rocky, and sandy. If your ball strays from the lush green fairways or rough, it’s almost certainly unplayable, if not lost. Further, most courses institute a local rule stating the desert areas are lateral hazards to discourage golfers from wandering into snake and other dangerous habitats.

Troon North, 8th hole Pinnacle Course (Photo credit: Graylyn Loomis)

In the last two years Pinnacle and Monument were re-grassed and their bunkers renovated. The greens were expanded back to their original sizes as Tom Weiskopf intended on the older Monument course and then Weiskopf and Jay Morrish designed later on the Pinnacle Course. Both designs are considered some of the best-conditioned in the area, due in part to their bentgrass greens, which stay green year-round and require no overseeding.

Our group was split on which course was more enjoyable, but I prefer Pinnacle, which has fewer homes bordering the course and a generally wider feel throughout. The famous photo from the property is taken on the Monument course’s 3rd hole, where a giant rock (the monument) sits in the middle of the dogleg right’s par 5 fairway. The story goes that crews tried to remove the boulder during construction, but gave up the fight and designed around the feature.

Troon North, 3rd hole Monument Course (Photo credit: Graylyn Loomis)

Off the courses, locals and visitors integrate the desert landscape into everyday life. I met more hikers, dog walkers, and people exercising on the trails around Four Seasons Scottsdale than I’d seen in years. Most had the goal of summiting nearby Pinnacle Peak, which provides stunning views of the area. The Four Seasons Scottsdale has also renovated their facilities in recent years and frankly, it was as much of a highlight as the golf.

I left Scottsdale thinking of the LINKS senior editor who spends his winters in the area… I totally understand why he does.

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What’s your favorite golf course in Arizona? Tell us in the comment section below!

The Battle to Save Lions Muny in Austin, Texas

By Adam Schupak

Ben Crenshaw (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Ben Crenshaw is taking a break from renovating Kapalua’s Plantation Course on the island of Maui to talk about a project near and dear to his heart—the effort to Save Muny.

He grew up a few blocks from Lions Municipal Golf Course, a historic gem that sits on golf’s endangered species list, and the golfer known as “Gentle Ben” is mad as hell about it.

“I’d say it’s fairly desperate,” says Crenshaw of what would amount to the loss of the only 18-hole public golf course in central Austin. “We’re afraid it is going to be developed.”

Affectionately called Muny, the course has been part of Austin’s fabric for more than half of the city’s lifetime. It was constructed by the Lions Club and opened to the public in 1924 on land given to The University of Texas in 1910 by then-Regent Colonel George Washington Brackenridge. Ever since, it has served as a city park with pin flags, a recreational-leisure amenity on par with a swimming pool or tennis court, a community hub with golf as its centerpiece. But it is also in need of capital improvements and sitting on valuable acreage.

Muny is where Crenshaw scored his first hole-in-one, was awarded his first trophy, and later won the Firecracker Open, Austin’s longest-running amateur championship, not once, but twice. This is one of the places where Crenshaw learned the dark arts of putting.

“The concession sold little individual pecan pies, and we’d putt for pies,” Crenshaw says.

Architect A.W. Tillinghast is credited with designing what are now the three closing holes, including the tough par-4 sixteenth hole, known to this day as “Hogan’s Hole,” following his birdie there in a 1950 exhibition. (A photo hangs in the clubhouse of Hogan teeing off at the first hole.) Sandra Haynie won the Women’s City Championship there in 1957, when she was thirteen years old, and again in ’58, ’59, and ’60 for good measure. Fellow World Golf Hall of Famers Byron Nelson, Harvey Penick, and Tom Kite are all part of Muny’s storied history.

In 1951, Muny became the first desegregated golf course in the southern United States when it officially adopted a policy that anyone was free to play there. That was three years before the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

“A wonderful thing happened here,” Crenshaw says. “This place has touched so many lives.”

That historic status was recognized in 2016 by the United States Department of the Interior and National Park Service with its addition to the National Register of Historic Places.

But whether history will continue to be made here is a hot topic of debate. In 2011, the University of Texas Board of Regents, which has leased the land to the city since 1936 and to the Austin Lions Club for a dozen years prior to that, voted to allow the lease for the city-operated course to expire in May 2019. In February, the city council and regents jointly agreed to grant an extension for one year under the current terms of $500,000 per year rent.

That annual lease revenue, which is used for scholarships, bringing distinguished faculty to the University, and funding innovative programs, is only a fraction of the estimated $5.5 million a year the land could fetch if leased for a mixed-use development, the UT System’s executive director of real estate said in 2011.

“That figure is just absurd,” says Scott Sayers, Crenshaw’s longtime business manager and one of the leaders behind Muny Conservancy, the philanthropic arm of the citizens behind Save Muny. “There’s no way a municipal golf course can afford that.”  

Green space in the middle of one of the country’s boomtown cities—”We’re bursting at the seams,” Crenshaw says—is invaluable. Some real estate experts have estimated the school could reap a $200-million windfall if it sold the entire 400-acre Brackenridge land. But, the land also offers intangible benefits to society. Commercial development of Muny would mean the loss of 141 acres of central urban green space.

“Public courses are such an asset to a community,” Crenshaw says. “There’s an intrinsic worth about a really fine public facility. Imagine New Orleans without City Park, or Houston without Memorial Park. It’s the same thing. It contributes to the health of a community. Golf bridges the generational gaps.”

At 70,000 rounds annually at less than $30, Muny is the busiest of the city courses. In the morning it welcomes seniors, women and a diverse cross-section of age, race and economic class and in the afternoon the only 18-hole city course west of I-35 is home to eight different high school teams and the city’s biggest junior program.

Crenshaw has mapped out plans for a restoration of Muny without risking its historical integrity and offered his design services pro bono, something he’s never done before. His primary goal is to put the course back to the way he remembers it before the city flipped tees and greens at six holes in 1974. 

“We still can’t figure out why,” Crenshaw says, “but it compromised the layout.”

His goal is to enhance the practice area and upgrade the facilities, including the clubhouse. To be given a chance to do so, Crenshaw and organizers behind Save Muny will have to find philanthropic support in the private sector. Raising enough to appease University of Texas could be a tall order.  Crenshaw realizes there are many golf courses around the country facing a similar plight.

“Once a course is lost to development,” he says, “it’s gone forever.”

Muny is in danger of becoming another statistic. Golf course closings have outpaced openings in each of the past 12 years, according to the National Golf Foundation. 

“I drive by it every day and I look out upon it,” Crenshaw says. “If they develop it, it just makes me sick to my stomach. It really does, and it’s getting closer to crunch time.”  

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Do you have a municipal course in your community on the brink of closing? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Tiger Woods and Payne’s Valley at Big Cedar Lodge

By Erik Matuszewski

Payne’s Valley

During one of his recent visits to the Ozarks in Missouri, Tiger Woods brought his son Charlie along to help with the construction of the Big Cat’s first public course in the U.S.: Payne’s Valley at Big Cedar Lodge.

The team from Woods’s TGR Design was leveling some of the severe terrain that defines the layout, drilling into a hillside and inserting dynamite. It was 9-year-old Charlie’s job to depress the plunger, watching from safety about 150 yards away as the blast lifted the earth upwards and then back down with a muffled “whumph.” The dynamiting process allows smaller pieces to be taken away, leveling the ground and leaving a dramatic exposed rock face in some areas.

“We choreographed it knowing that Charlie was coming,” says Beau Welling, the Senior Design Consultant for TGR Design. “We had it set up so he could blow something up. It was awesome. He loved it. He was scared a little bit, but thrilled.”

Woods and Big Cedar Lodge Owner Johnny Morris

When Payne’s Valley opens to play as the latest amenity at Big Cedar, golfers are sure to be similarly blown away, particularly by the stunning ridges, deep valleys and a truly dramatic conclusion.

I recently caught up with Welling, Woods’s lead designer for more than 11 years, to find out the latest about a course named in honor of Ozark-native Payne Stewart.

Ten holes (including the bet-settler of a 19th hole) were fully grassed entering 2019 and look like they’re ready to welcome golfers, but Woods, Welling, and the TGR team are still in the process of shaping and building the other nine. The geology of the site presents some technical obstacles, but Welling says those challenges are also opportunities to create something truly special.

“This is not where Donald Ross would have shown up and built a golf course,” Welling said. “There’s a lot of work, engineering and construction that has to happen to turn it into this. If it wasn’t so difficult, it wouldn’t be as spectacular.”

The course will probably have a soft opening at the end of 2019 and open officially in 2020.

Payne’s Valley

When it does, golfers will find a walking-friendly course with wide fairways. They’ll play along, across and through exposed rock outcroppings, sweeping valleys, mature trees, rugged ridges and pristine streams. It’s intended to engage players of all abilities, from Woods’ peers on the PGA Tour to kids who visit the family-friendly resort with their families.

“There’s 85 to 90 acres of fairway. We want people to be able to get off the tee and be able to find their golf ball, hit it and have fun,” says Welling. “When you get closer to the greens, where somebody like Tiger Woods is trying to score, that’s where you really dial it up and protect scoring.”

The front nine is defined by a series of finger-like ridges, with the first two holes dropping about 200 feet in total after starting near the Mountain Top short course designed by Gary Player. Payne’s Valley then becomes relatively flat, with the back nine on one long ridge. Around many of the holes are escarpments that drop off to valleys and canyons below. The rough that lines the fairway isn’t meant to be penal or challenge better players, Welling said, rather it’s to keep a ball that’s traveling fast on the ground from going off one of the cliffs.

“It looks like a national monument,” Welling said. “I don’t know to this day how we’re getting back from the 19th green to the clubhouse, but John says he’s got it. That means it’s going to be something off the charts unbelievable.”

The 19th hole, called “The Rock,” will be a jaw-dropper of a finish, a par-3 that features 200 feet of elevation behind it. After finishing, golfers will somehow traverse a natural cavern system to return to the clubhouse.

Payne’s Valley

John is Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops and visionary behind Big Cedar Lodge. Course architect Tom Fazio, who built the Buffalo Ridge Springs course at the property, says Morris has the propensity to show up at a construction site early in the morning in his pickup truck and is often the last to leave.

“He has the ability to push the envelope,” says Fazio. “If you find a sinkhole, he’s going to dig it deeper.”

Morris has known Woods for decades. They struck up a friendship when Woods bought a fishing boat shortly after winning the 1997 Masters. Morris and his son delivered the boat to Woods personally, then spent the rest of the day bass fishing with the now 14-time major champion.

Morris more recently took young Charlie fishing, along with his own grandson, while Woods worked on Payne’s Valley.

Woods and Morris

“That was special for Tiger,” Welling said. “He had this experience 20 some years ago, and his son got to do that too.”

In a way, it sums up the overall ethos of Big Cedar Lodge, which aims to connect people to nature through fishing, golf, boating and a host of other recreational activities. It is the type of special experience Woods is trying to create at Payne’s Valley.

While the rest of us won’t get to push the plunger, soon enough we’ll get to see the final product. 

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What do you think of Payne’s Valley and Big Cedar Lodge? Tell us in the comments below!

The Augusta National Women’s Amateur and Champion’s Retreat

By Adam Schupak

8th Hole, Bluff Course

When former Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne was asked his thoughts on the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur to be played ahead of the Masters in April, he made the boldest of predictions.

“I think it will be the most-watched women’s golf event in history,” he said.

With apologies to Babe Zaharias, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam and the current stars of the LPGA, Payne may very well be right. Such is the anticipation for the 54-hole tournament announced on the eve of the 2018 Masters, which will have an international field of 72 players, with a cut taking place after 36 holes.

The first two rounds will be contested over two days (Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4) at Champions Retreat Golf Club in nearby Evans. The course, which is woven into stately Georgia pines, mature hardwood and wetlands along the Savannah River that separates South Carolina and Georgia, opened for play in 2005, featuring three nine-hole loops. Initially, it was planned to be a Gary Player design, but as Player explained, “We pivoted to make a one-of-a-kind experience that had never been done before.”

Player chose the 1999 Masters Champions Dinner as his setting to recruit Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer to share in building the private golf club. The three nine-hole courses at Champions Retreat inhabit a former untouched timber plot and are built around an island, a bluff and a creek. With three distinct properties to choose from, Player decided to divvy up the land “scientifically,” and wrote Island, Creek and Bluff on the back of three index cards. Palmer was granted first pick as the senior member of the group. He drew the “Island” card, and landed the most scenic of nines. Nicklaus went next since he had won more green jackets than Player and pulled the “Bluff” card, leaving Player with the “Creek” property.

For the ANWA, the Island nine will serve as the front nine and Bluff nine as the back.

1st Hole, Island Course (Photo by Martin Miller)

Palmer’s loop begins with a pair of par 4s and then beginning at the third hole the next five and a half holes are played on an island created by the confluence of the Savannah and Little Rivers, with the tee shot at No. 8 struck over water from the island to a green back on the mainland. Many of the Island’s fairways have been raised to take advantage of the vistas out in the rivers. Expect the views to get their share of TV time.

The fourth on the Island nine starts from the creek and opens up to the majestic Savannah and an approach around a giant oak guarding the green. It is considered the signature hole of the 27-hole complex, and it’s easy to see why. This is a stout par 4 measuring 400 yards, where the caddies will advise aiming for the broccoli-shaped tree in the middle of the fairway. In general, the Island nine tends to be more forgiving off the tee.

Prior to the start of competition, competitors will enjoy taking part in a Champions Retreat “tradition unlike any other” of trying to hit a tee shot from the back tee of the par-3 sixth hole across the Savannah River, which acts as a border between Georgia and South Carolina some 230 yards away. It’s the beginning of what could be a pivotal stretch with a pair of challenging par 3s bookending the drivable, straightaway par-4 seventh, which likely will be set up one day at 245 yards and the other at 270 and entice players to go for it. Expect it to yield a few eagles, but the putting surface is guarded by a fortress of bunkers that could penalize players.

Nicklaus moved little dirt in making The Bluff because he found the holes fit nicely with the existing rolling terrain and surroundings. The sharp doglegs, uneven lies and undulating putting greens on his loop will give competitors fits, beginning with the “gnarly” false front at the par-3 11th, which led my caddie to shake his head and say, “These greens will make you dyslexic.”

The front-left and back-right hole locations will be the most challenging at the par-5 fifth hole, which requires two good shots if you’re going to attack with the third.

6th Hole, Bluff Course (Photo by Martin Miller)

One hole later, the ladies will face the Bluff’s signature hole, a risk-reward par 4 bending right with a creek guarding the right side of the hole and the green. The smart play, Champions Retreat’s general manager Cameron Wiebe mused, may be to play conservatively to about 120 yards and take your chances at going after this skinny green.

The finishing hole is a par 5, where the tee likely will be moved up one of the rounds, creating decision time on whether to go for it in to two. A lake protects the left side of the hole and the tiered green is large and undulating with balls tending to gather in a bowl. There will be heroes and others left feeling like zeroes.

“There is a great deal of variety in the routing, with this nine featuring uphill and downhill shots as well as a balance of right-to-left and left-to-right holes,” Nicklaus said.

The course has undergone renovations in recent years that include better bunker systems, more efficient drainage, and tree removal for improved sight lines throughout its 27 holes, but only some extra TLC to improve course aesthetics in light of hosting the ANWA.

8th Hole, Island Course (Photo by Martin Miller)

Champions Retreat is designed to play fast and firm, but Augusta has experienced a rainy winter season more suited for the tropics. It left the course playing unusually spongy, but a drier February has helped and a typical March should bring out the Augusta flowers just in time for the tournament.

The playoff loop—should it be required—will be Nos. 10-11-17-18 on the Bluff, and only the top 30 (no ties) advance to Saturday’s final round at Augusta National, which could potentially produce some great drama come Thursday afternoon. A chance to play the home of the Masters just days before the men compete for a Green Jacket—it doesn’t get much better than that.

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Classic Course: Jupiter Hills

By Lee Pace

9th Hole (Photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

Since his days growing up as a caddie and apprentice club professional in the Philadelphia and South Jersey area, and later as a tour pro, George Fazio dreamed of one day owning and operating his own golf club. His vision was winnowed and focused in the 1940s by playing the Bing Crosby Pro-Am on the jagged and gorgeous California coast.

“My uncle said he wanted to build something on the East Coast to rival what he saw at Pebble Beach and Cypress Point,” remembers his nephew, Tom Fazio. 

George was playing golf in Florida one day in 1968 when he got a tip there was a parcel of land for sale in Jupiter, about 20 miles north of Palm Beach, that would make a terrific golf course. Fazio inspected the property, which was on the southern boundary of Jonathan Dickinson State Park near the headwaters of the Loxahatchee River.

The land included a natural sand ridge that gave the flat Florida landscape a rugged feel with 75-foot elevation changes. 

“George saw the hills and the dunes and elevations and said, ‘Wow, this is it. This is what I’ve been looking for all my life,’” says Tom, who was 24 at the time and running George’s golf-design company. 

George immediately called his wealthy friends from the entertainment, business, and golf worlds and told them he needed $1.2 million to buy the land. Bob Hope and carmaker Bill Ford were among the 10 original partners who bought into the project.

“They just sent the money because they liked and respected George,” Tom says. “They trusted him and each put in $120,000. They closed the transaction in April 1969 and we immediately began construction, allocating 150 acres for golf and the rest for club facilities and homesites.”

“It’s some of the best land for a golf course I’ve ever seen,” George had said. “In general characteristics, it’s a cross between Pine Valley and Seminole. It will be the only wooded course in that part of Florida. Every hole is tree-lined.”

17th Hole (Photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

Jupiter Hills opened in 1969, making this year the club’s 50th birthday. The first course, named the Hills Course, was joined in 1978 by the Village Course. The Hills is the only course in Florida to have hosted two USGA events—the 1987 U.S. Amateur and 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball.

“There is nothing like the Hills Course in the state of Florida,” says Robbie Hofmann, a Pittsburgh native who’s played the course since the early 1970s, has been a member for more than two decades, and is the current club president. “The elevation changes, the rolling hills, and the natural sandscapes that border nearly every fairway give it a look and feel you don’t find anywhere else in this state.”

Both courses have been renovated in recent years, the Hills in 2006 and the Village in 2017. Tom Fazio and his son Logan regrassed them wall-to-wall and tweaked the contours, rebuilt bunkers, and added new tees—longer ones for elite players and shorter ones to appeal to a broader variety of golfers.

“Fifty years—that’s a long time, but it doesn’t seem that long,” Tom says. “Jupiter Hills became George’s passion and it became his life. It was so important, we moved our office from Philadelphia to Jupiter Hills. George was there every day, and I set off building our design business.”

On this day in December 2018, Fazio pauses to tend to a grandchild he’s babysitting. His wife and daughter are out playing golf—at Jupiter Hills. 

“In the blink of an eye my grandkids will be playing there,” he says. “That’s pretty cool.”

First Peek: Ozarks National at Big Cedar Lodge

By Graylyn Loomis

Ozarks National 8th Hole (Photo by Evan Schiller)

Course number four at Big Cedar Lodge brings minimalists Coore and Crenshaw to the heart of the maximalist Ozark Mountains

It’s no easy task for a resort to broaden its identity and reach a totally new customer. Big Cedar Lodge in southern Missouri had long been known for hunting, fishing, and boating when owner Johnny Morris—founder of Bass Pro Shops—decided to add golf to the attractions. To get attention, Morris brought out the big guns, opening three courses since the early 2000s designed by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, and Gary Player.

Ozarks National is the name of the recently opened number four, for which Morris hired a pair of heavyweights, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. They designed a genius routing atop rolling ridgelines that presents stellar Ozark Mountain views and avoids the steep drops and long green-to-tee marches typical of mountain courses. The alpine terrain and limestone base are a far cry from the sandy sites with flattish landscapes the architects usually work on, but they found a way to incorporate their usual minimalist, naturalist style. 

“Our job was to fit this piece of ground and make it look like the course has been here for a long time,” says Crenshaw. The elevation changes force multiple decisions on every tee: Wide fairways hug the slopes, often funneling balls into the rough or bunkers, and golfers must consider where balls will bounce and run and what that might mean for the resulting stance and approach to the green. It’s a mental workout for the low handicapper and a fun, no-balls-lost day for the carefree resort player.

A fifth course—from another big name, Tiger Woods—is on the way; its clubhouse is currently under construction. Four pheasant hunting fields sit adjacent to Ozarks National and the distant booms of shotguns remind golfers that even with the expanding golf options, Big Cedar Lodge remains true to its roots.