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The Challengers Bill Coore

  • In my experience, golf course design is way more about editing than authoring. My name is Bill Coore, and I’m a golf course architect.

    We’re at Bandon Dunes, on the coast of Oregon—one of the most amazing golf complexes in the world. We’re about to begin work on a new project a little further north on the coast of Bandon, a new course known as The Sheep Ranch.

    It was a property that about 18 years ago had some work done on it to create sort of an undefined golf experience that included a number of greens and just natural contours that were there that people could go play, and make up their own holes. It’s taken on almost a mythological aura during those years, so very few people have seen it.

    It’s amazing when people see this landscape from a distance or from altitude. The first impression is it’s completely flat. When you’re out in it, walking, you realize it’s anything but flat. It owns the most magnificent contours for golf that you could hope to see. Yes, they’re not as dramatic as the Pacific Dunes course here at Bandon Dunes, but in its way this is different from all the other courses and just absolutely ideal for golf.

    When we are approached about any project, the questions that come to our mind are what is the site, what potential does it have to create interesting, enjoyable golf? My design partner for over 30 years now, Ben Crenshaw, and I, we go to a site to let the site guide us, to tell us what to do.

    As you start to study the site, some things are obvious, I mean anyone who’s ever played golf could come here and say, "Oh I can see a golf hole going along the ocean." But some things not so obvious, you need to walk and get a sense of what the site offers.

    This is just an initial thought. It’s a par 3, they would either play almost directly downwind, or directly into the wind. For that reason, we have no fronting hazards such as bunkers, or severe contours, because we want you to have the possibility of landing a ball short of the green and rolling it onto the green. That’s important certainly into the wind, when you’re trying to get the shot lower, but even more important when you’re playing directly down a strong wind, because you have to land the ball short; if you were to land on the green it would go over.

    We give these type of initial concepts to our associates in the field. We give it to the guys, start working on this, and feel absolutely free to deviate from this at any point you see something happening that you think could be better.

    The key to being a good golf course architect: first of all, having a love for the game and appreciation for the game of golf, and what it’s provided for so many countless millions of people through its 500-year history. Beyond that, it’s having a knowledge of how different people play and what provides them interest and enjoyment in the process.

    You want the owner, without question, to be happy. You want the people who are going to come there to be happy, but you can’t control those things. If you can, as a designer, do something that you truly believe is the best that can be done on that given site, at that given time, then I think that’s all you can do.

    I’d like to say I’ve picked it, but I think it picked us. Pretty special.

How do we use the land to create interesting, enjoyable golf?

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