The extremely downhill par three 9th
I really liked the ideas brought forwards by Bruce Charleton and Jay Blaisi. They have created a public facility with lots of width, so that weaker players can stay in play, and stronger players can play for position. They have gone to a massive scale which suits the site and allows them to take some creative chances by meandering holes and setting some really aggressive carry angles. The greens are large and often feature large contours which add to the fun. The chipping areas around the greens and feeder slopes certainly bring a lot of opportunity for creativity. I think this is an outstanding public facility that would be fun to play every week.
I want to make it clear that I like the course before you read on – because I’m going to talk about the lessons I received from playing five new courses together on the same trip.
At Chambers Bay was not a fan of the greens and tees that were pushed up as high as the designers could go. I found each of these instances pushed things too far. Where so many of the holes - like the outstanding 10th - fit the site perfectly. Some of the higher greens felt forced up into the hillsides – losing some of their charm and options. I had the same issue with some tees where they went up to extreme heights. I thought the intimacy was lost from that height – where as the tees that were down often created a charming atmosphere.
The biggest lesson in contrasting a course like Pacific Dunes (and Bandon Trails) with Chambers Bay (and to a lesser degree Bandon Dunes) is the detailing. Pacific Dunes teaches us that smallest details are the most important. It’s this last 10% that separates the good from the truly special. The amount of work is enormous because often it’s spending enough time tying in far enough out, or varying a simple line, blurring the edges, or fighting for perfection that is the difference. It is the intimacy that excellent detailing can provide – that can take even the largest objects and return them back to human scale – this is the magic ingredient that makes all the difference between something good and something that is sublime.