Sand Valley Golf


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SUSTAINABILITY Minimalism sounds like a slacker's scheme, a path of least resistance—eh, just leave that there; the purists will love it. But effortless ain't easy; not in life, and not in golf courses. The genius of the designers at Bandon and Sand Valley and Cabot shows through in the hardest thing for any artist to learn: restraint. Resisting the urge to pound their tal- ents onto a canvas or a page or a landscape is the mark of master craftsmen, and summoning the humility to hide and let the work speak louder than their signatures—that's the mark of their masterpieces. Nothing about the golf at Bandon or Sand Valley felt min- imal—it was the game in full, calling on everything my clubs and mind and muscles could conjure. Let's call it what it is: not a minimal methodology, just the right one. And this ap- proach—right-ilism—goes well beyond the designs at Ban- don and Sand Valley. It seeps down into the properties' sandy roots. It's one thing to imagine links golf on our home soil, but it's another to ascertain how to maintain it—America's turf schools aren't training greenskeepers how to let Carnoustie go brown in August. Kaiser and Kidd and Doak and Coore broke molds at Sand Valley and Bandon, but I found two lesser-known names who keep breaking them every morning. Ken Nice has been overseeing the care of the sand hills at Bandon Dunes since they first opened for play, and his ap- proach to their maintenance bucks the modern trend of more chemicals, more fixes, more action in agronomy. "It's hard to sit back and not do something," he tells me. "We are trying to create a links experience, so if you look at what they do in Ireland and the UK, it's very similar to our approach here at Bandon. We're preparing a surface for a game to be played. If you're out to make a course just look pretty, then you're likely trying to maximize growth and yield. And that's where the chemicals and overfertilizing come in. Here, we're after courses that play a certain way, not look a certain way." Working 2,000 miles away from Bandon, Ken's counter- part at Wisconsin's Sand Valley, Rob Duhm, is cut from the same greenskeeping cloth. "Our focus is always on playa- bility, not what the course looks like or the color of the grass. Our inputs are minimal. We watch, and we react when we have to, but we don't just spray and water to say we've done it—our focus is always on how the course plays. We want the golf to be firm and fast and on sand. Because that's what we believe golf should be," he says. I resist the urge to high-five Rob from across the breakfast table as I listen and await my first round at Mammoth Dunes. Firm and fast, a description you've heard a thousand times, but you haven't understood it until you've placed a ball back in your stance and watched it stretch an impossible distance. Or maybe there was that time you watched your punch 7- iron hop, skip, and jump its way to finish pin-high. perhaps you figured it out when you putted from a hundred yards out, or finally realized why your caddie at Bandon keeps giving you the distance to the front versus the pin—because front is all you want on a course that forces you to consider the landscape, plan your tack through the contours, and then hope. It's golf with the land, not in avoidance of it. These sandy courses drain like colanders even in a downpour, so forget about what you thought your clubs do, and instead, imagine what they might. 36 | 37 sand valley sand valley pacific dunes

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