This story was originally published in Pacific Coast Golf Guide, Volume 23. Read the digital magazine here.
Piggybacking off the success of an ascending Tiger Woods, golf experienced an unparalleled surge in popularity and growth at the beginning of the century. Between 2000 and 2008, nearly a thousand new golf courses were built in the U.S. alone. This was great for golfers seeking variety, but developers seemingly forgot that golf wasn’t immune to the economic principle of supply and demand. When the economic downturn of 2008 happened—along with Tiger subsequently running his car into a fire hydrant, followed by a near decade-long run of injuries—discretionary income dissipated and the demand for golf courses waned dramatically.
Since 2008, course closures have been all-too-common as supply continues to self-correct to meet reduced demand. New golf course openings have been few and far between. Any new golf course project needed to be sensational to survive. These rules continue to hold true, but developers are now accepting the challenge of building new golf courses with the mandate that they must be fantastic enough to thrive in an industry that demands nothing short of excellence. Now, any time a new golf course opens there’s a pretty good chance that it’s going to be quite buttery.
With those lofty standards in place, there are still numerous golf development projects in the works on the Pacific Coast. An update on a few that are most likely to spark intrigue and interest from the Pacific Coast golfing community seemed in order.
Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Bandon, OR)
The most anticipated new course on the West Coast since…the last time Bandon Dunes built an 18-hole golf course back in 2010. With all four existing courses already rated inside GOLF.com’s Top 150 in the World, the expectation is that Sheep Ranch will be very much on par with the rest of Bandon’s all-star links. Despite course conditions that’ll be very similar to Bandon’s existing courses, Sheep Ranch promises to be a breath of fresh air, as it looks and feels dramatically different than its sister courses. Aside from an ingenious routing that occupies very little acreage, Sheep Ranch is absent of sand bunkers. Architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw opted to implement grass bunkers exclusively throughout the golf course to mitigate the bunker maintenance required on such a windy site. This wrinkle may prove to be even more challenging than the natural-looking bunkers that plague so many golfers on Bandon’s other courses. The Sheep Ranch is scheduled to open June 2020.
Brambles (Middletown, CA)
Project manager James Duncan describes the Brambles project as one that revolves around “authentic golf, walking, camaraderie, spirited competition and enjoyment of the outdoors.” The 18-hole Coore-Crenshaw designed course near Middletown in Northern California’s Lake County plans to follow the principles of minimalistic design that’s become intrinsically linked with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw over the past few decades. It will feature firm and fast playing conditions, subtle elevation changes, meandering creeks, and mature oak trees. Based on their impressive track record, the routing created by Coore and Crenshaw is sure to take advantage of the property’s best features. If all goes well, Duncan and his team could break ground as early as summer 2020 with the first tee shots being hit as soon as July of 2021.
Quicksand Par-3 Course at Gamble Sands (Brewster, WA)
With so many destination golf resorts constructing high-end par-3 courses, the team at Gamble Sands, along with architect David McLay Kidd, have devised a plan to create a short course experience that pays a bit of homage to the versatile routing at the Old Course at St. Andrews. Gamble Sands will be creating a par-3 course where a dozen-plus greens are scattered across 12 acres with each having several playing corridors. The end result will be a golf course that allows Gamble’s staff to change the routing daily and offer guests a different golfing experience each day of the week, and they appear to be on their way. Green sites have already been staked out and construction is set to begin this year, with an anticipated opening in 2021.
Mahá (Lake County, CA)
This golf course will be part of a luxury resort-residential community near the border of Napa and Lake counties in the Northeastern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area. Coincidentally just a few miles away from the Brambles project, the Tom Doak designed course will navigate through beautiful, dramatic terrain and will be unique in terms of routing. The 1st tee and 18th green will be a couple of miles from one another, starting at one part of the property and finishing at another. There are plans to have a clubhouse at the 1st tee, another small clubhouse at the turn, and a third clubhouse near the 18th green. Mahá is still in the beginning stages of permitting and development, meaning the golf course is still years away from opening.
Peter Hay Golf Course (Pebble Beach, CA)
Tiger Woods the architect has been tapped to create a new par-3 course for the Pebble Beach Company. Before coming to terms with the Big Cat, the Pebble Beach Company had originally planned on recreating some of the most iconic shots from the course across the street, Pebble Beach, as the core principle of Peter Hay’s redesign, but it appears that plan has changed. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2020 after the conclusion of the AT&T Pro-Am and is expected to be completed by year’s end. Whether this project means that Tiger Woods will start playing in the Pro-Am on a regular basis again remains to be seen.
Corica Park – North Course (Alameda, CA)
Building on the success of the recently redesigned South Course, Corica is giving a similar treatment to its other 18-hole track. The new North Course will feature the same firm turf and conditions that golfers have enjoyed on the South Course, but stylistically, the courses will be quite different. The South Course is modeled after the great courses of the Australian Sandbelt. The North Course will more closely resemble Scottish links with strategically placed bunkers and lots of undulations from tee to green. The North Course will have far fewer bunkers than the South Course’s 100+, but the bunkering will feature classic revetted bunkers, similar to what you’d see at St. Andrews or Carnoustie. Furthermore, the North Course will be void of any rough. The plan is to feature wall-to-wall fairways, giving mid and high handicappers lots of room on each and every hole. If all goes well, Corica Park will begin seeding and grassing in late spring 2020, and could have the front nine open for play as early fall of 2020, with all 18 holes scheduled to open by fall 2021.
All images in this article were provided by the golf courses and resorts they showcase. Thank you to Bandon Dunes, Gamble Sands, Brambles, and Greenway Golf for their assistance with this story.