Sand Valley Golf

2019

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SUSTAINABILITY t took me years to unravel the para- doxes behind the courses I couldn't shake: Their designs felt undesigned, their routings more intuitive than con- trived. They weren't overly tidy or ma- niacally maintained—they looked like playing grounds versus palace gar- dens. Nor did they feel built or tightly organized; rather, they played like pathways found between sand hills that hap- pened to be suited to striking and holing a projectile. And happily, blessedly so. These courses that wouldn't stop drifting into my sleep kept pulling me across the At- lantic, risking bankruptcy and couples' coun- seling to chase balls along the links of the British Isles. I have been fortunate to play every links in Ireland, and just about every seaside offering in Scotland, but my most vivid links memory is of that moment when my 12-year-old eyes first spied the pale, waving grasses atop the mounds of Ennis- crone in Ireland, and I felt a tug toward a new sort of game. Or a very old one that was all new to me. I thus refused to be enchanted by North American courses—fine for a walk and a game with friends—and placed all my pas- sions upon the coasts of the British Isles, the places I felt had been uniquely blessed with genuine links land. And then I visited Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley this sum- mer, and suddenly I was 12 again and driv- ing into Enniscrone. There they were—the sand hills, the kinked fairways, the grasses waving in the wind. And in my very own country. I felt igno- rant for doubting it, and then felt relieved to know I was not the only one who would travel past a thousand parkland courses to find golf in these new places that felt irresistibly old. At the root of this phenomenon of links at- traction lies an aesthetic we currently call min- imalism. It's a buzzword bounced around the golf blogosphere to describe a less disruptive method of course development, working with the ground you have versus engraving a stock routing into the landscape. It labels sim- pler, less adorned golf; it's celebrated as a roadmap back to a more soulful game, and is a word I have come to abhor. >> 34 | 35 sand valley I SUSTAINABLE ART by Tom Coyne Finding a good golf course doesn't require hard detective work. And discovering a great one can be an obvious revelation, a club logo pronouncing its prestige like a billboard. But identifying a truly great course—a transcendent, perspective-shifting, spread-my-ashes-here golf course—is no grade-school endeavor. It takes time and study, and the enlightenment of miles.

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