Destination Golf - November 2016 * - Page 51

Their turn left or right does reveal a favored side of the landing zone, but the movement is never so sudden as to eliminate an approach angle. The theme of the tricky topography continues through the remainder of the round. Holes that measure brief yardages are never simple in their resolution. A mound in the fairway might kick a ball off toward the rough, or simply impede its progress forward. An elevated green might feature a side fall-off toward a chipping area or bunker. The putting surface itself might reveal an internal spine that compels balls away from the flag, threatening a three-putt if care is not taken. The walk around Southern Pines is bucolic, and the golf will certainly be enjoyed. In its natural state, though, the course will rarely be overwhelmed. A mad dash from the eastern USA golf world to the west coast is in order, as we complete this final installment of Diverse Drives with a look at one course in California and two more in fabled Oregon. In the middle of downtown Ojai, California, home to artists and their wealthy patrons, awaits the municipal Soule Park golf course. Located 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, in the hills above Santa Barbara, Soule Park was marginally redesigned by architects Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner in the mid 2000s. The course was deluged by flooding from the San Antonio creek that bisects the golf course. Turf was washed away and repairs were necessitated. Hanse and Wagner restored many of the holes and flipped the nines, but the playing order has since been restored by the club. The greatest change came when the old 17th and 18th holes were completely reversed, creating an intriguing finish that brings the closing holes down toward Ojai’s main street and employs subtle ground movement to force final decisions on the part of the golfer. They are a nice way to close the round. Before we get to those holes, though, another 16 holes merit our attention. Many is the time that a golfer leaves a course and recalls that certain lengths of hole were the strongest feature of that particular layout. In the case of Soule (pronounced ‘soul’) Park, it is the par 4s and 5s where the identity of the track is forged. The movement of the course, etched by WF Bell and refined by Hanse, runs below massive canyon walls, along a floor. The holes seem flattish, yet are subjected to the slight tilt of the hillside’s influence. Greens are located at spots that appear unremarkable, but are absolutely appropriate when looking at the holes in reverse. These twoand three-shot holes often use natural features like the aforementioned creek, or a well-found copse of trees, to create a driving angle where a play for a better approach is tempered by the risk associated with challenging the feature. Soule Park is an affordable oasis in a mountainous region near lala land. The rates are ridiculously pithy, even when a cart is included, and the course plays fast and firm on most days. There is no fast and easy way to get there from here, or anywhere, but the drive up into the hills is part of the attraction. For an East-coast boy, Soule Park and courses of its ilk are stunning in their natural surroundings. Tall pine and oak trees are quite noticeable in the Carolinas, but actual mountains, adjacent to the golf course, are quite another when it comes to intimidation and simple awe. Our final two courses of this segment of the tour are appropriately located in what might now be considered to be a home of American golf. It is not the oldest locale for golf, not by a long shot. It is barely 15 years old. And yet, what the Bandon Dunes property in central Oregon, hard on the Pacific coast, has done for the spirit of the game, is immeasurable. Mike Keiser’s incredible double gamble, on both an isolated location and an untested architect, has paid off not just in financial reward, but in a re-evaluation of what the guiding principles of good golfing grounds should be. Gone, for the most part, are lush and expensive fairways, disappeared are gnarly, clubtwisting rough; absent are massive carries over water, where balls meet their doom; removed are the elevated greens where long iron and hybrid approaches are demanded (with a required carry over sandy wastes, for good measure.) Keiser’s return of the golfing keys to the bump-and-run and the low approach has been a welcome aboutface from the transgressions of the 1960 and 1970s in American golf course design. The original Bandon Dunes, opened in 1998, saw the arrival of David McClay Kidd on US shores. Kidd and Keiser worked together to create this American links along the Oregon cliffs. 4.5 hours south of Portland, even farther from San Francisco, Bandon was played-out timber country, fallen on hard times. The golfing grounds were hollow, elevated links land, covered in gorse. It was impossible for the golf ball to not trundle off, run out, bound along firm, sandy soil. Kidd was given run of the best pieces of the property, and his original course stands the test of time. Volume 3 • Issue 36 51