Mike Keiser and Herb Kohler every had been suggested they could be loopy once they determined to construct resorts.

The leaders of two of probably the most profitable golf locations in the US have a number of attention-grabbing issues in frequent. Each have run profitable companies and each love golf, although neither had intensive expertise in creating golf resorts once they dove headfirst into the trade. It was that final proven fact that led critics to say they could be a bit of out of spherical for wanting to construct golf programs.

“Everybody who noticed it both mentioned, ‘You’re an fool,’ or, ‘Breaking even is extremely uncertain, however you already know, possibly,’” Keiser mentioned of his early plans for what grew to become Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the western coastal cliffs of Oregon.

Stated Kohler of Vacation spot Kohler’s American Membership and its 4 programs in Wisconsin: “Once we constructed our first course, this Sheboygan Press sports activities editor wrote an article about what a horrible thought, what a silly thought. … ‘No approach Kohler may make its approach in golf.’ Ha! Nicely, over time we’ve got stunned some folks.”

Each males proved their doubters improper, after which some. It would take a bit of loopy to construct a terrific vacation spot. The top consequence: Bandon Dunes and Vacation spot Kohler, together with Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia, every have 4 programs ranked amongst their state’s listing of Golfweek’s Finest Programs You Can Play.

These three resorts take completely different approaches to their normal companies – Bandon is hyper targeted on its golf, whereas the American Membership provides a broader menu of facilities similar to its luxurious spa and Reynolds Lake Oconee prides itself as a group with a variety of out of doors actions. However in relation to Golfweek’s Finest rating, it’s all in regards to the programs.

Golfweek’s raters have submitted ballots on 3,972 programs. To have one course earn a spot on any of the seven rating lists on this problem marks a resort, personal membership, municipal facility or daily-fee operation as particular. A number of dozen services have two programs that seem on the Golfweek’s Finest Programs You Can Play listing, which incorporates 530 programs throughout the nation and acknowledges the very best public-access tracks in every state. A handful of elite locations have three programs on the Finest Programs You Can Play listing.

Bandon Dunes, Vacation spot Kohler and Reynolds Lake Oconee have 4. The tales of how these resorts got here to be supply an interesting take a look at a number of spectacular patches of land.

Bandon Dunes: Scotland within the Pacific Northwest

“It is so simple as nice linksland,” Keiser mentioned of Bandon Dunes’ success. “It’s the sand dunes on the ocean.”

Keiser’s inspiration was Royal Dornoch within the Scottish Highlands, a distant vacation spot with sand alongside the surf that attracts gamers from around the globe. An avid golf traveler and co-founder of the Chicago-based Recycled Paper Greetings, Inc., he wished to see if he may recreate such a golf setting in the US. And whereas he had opened the personal nine-hole Dunes Membership (No. 39 on Golfweek’s Finest Prime 200 Trendy Programs listing) in Michigan in 1995, he had by no means tried to construct a resort.

His seek for good sand led Keiser from the East Coast to the West, and within the late 1980s he was scouring California for an out there website that provided an ideal mixture of dunes and surf. He obtained a name from Annie Hunter, an actual property agent who knew a few 1,200-acre parcel in distant southwestern Oregon that included a mile of ocean frontage. He toured the location and was blown away by a view throughout a rollicking panorama coated with gorse, Scottish broom and large dunes earlier than dropping off 100-foot cliffs into the Pacific.

“As a golfer, you may see all of it,” Keiser mentioned. “In the event you’re a golf developer with Royal Dornoch because the mannequin, then there it was.”

Keiser mentioned he didn’t realize it on the time, however there are 50 miles of supreme oceanfront sand dunes that stretch north from Bandon Dunes. He calls it America’s linksland. The land on which Bandon Dunes was constructed won’t even be the very best of the sand, Keiser mentioned, however it was out there.

“In the event you had been to overfly these 50 miles, which I’ve executed, you’ll say, “Oh my God, it’s all sand, and it’s all attractive sand dunes,” Keiser mentioned. “A few of it’s on cliffs, some is just not. … I used to be astonished. I didn’t know there was such a factor.”

Keiser purchased the land and set about turning it into his dream, utilizing his personal capital as a result of, as he mentioned, no banker or investor would have accepted the dangers. It was an enormous gamble, however he wished to know if golfers would journey to such a panorama to play hyperlinks golf within the U.S.

Finest Programs You Can Play – The Fab 4

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort – Oregon
Course State Rank
Pacific Dunes No. 1
Previous Macdonald No. 2
Bandon Dunes No. 3
Bandon Trails No. 4
Vacation spot Kohler – Wisconsin
Course State Rank
Whistling Straits (Straits) No. 1
Blackwolf Run (River) No. 5
Whistling Straits (Irish) No. 7
Blackwolf Run (Meadow Valleys) No. 9
Reynolds Lake Oconee – Georgia
Course State Rank
Nice Waters No. 2
Oconee No. 4
Nationwide No. 8
The Touchdown No. 10

“I subscribe to it as a enterprise man utilizing my very own cash, that this might be throwing good cash after unhealthy,” he mentioned of constructing what at first could be a one-course resort. “But it surely’s such a superb website. … It’s shut sufficient to Dornoch that I’ve bought to offer it a try to discover out what no person was capable of inform me, which is, do American golfers love hyperlinks golf? The symptoms from the variety of rounds that Individuals play on the Previous Course and at Royal Dornoch say that there in all probability had been sufficient.”

With a plan to give attention to the golf as a substitute of spas and different typical resort facilities, Keiser employed a comparatively unknown and untested designer to construct the primary course, Bandon Dunes. David McLay Kidd, the son of superintendent Jimmy Kidd at Gleneagles in Scotland, bought the nod.

“I considered it as a package deal, father and son,” Keiser mentioned. “I may see Jimmy actually wished it to work with David, and he spent loads of time on the bottom strolling by means of gorse, which isn’t straightforward, arising with the format that we finally constructed. So it was a mix of Jimmy, who’s nonetheless alive and doing nice, and David collectively.”

And if Keiser didn’t like Kidd’s work?

“I additionally knew that I may hearth them,” Keiser mentioned.

With the clubhouse set again removed from the cliffs to offer the very best land to the course, Kidd laid out six oceanfront greens as a part of a quick and bouncy observe that opened in 1999 and grabbed the golf world’s consideration. The resort’s authentic 18 is now ranked No. Three in Oregon on Golfweek’s Finest Programs You Can Play listing and No. Eight amongst Golfweek’s Finest Prime 100 Trendy Programs within the U.S.

The second course, Pacific Dunes by Tom Doak, opened in 2001 and has outpaced its older sibling within the rankings, reaching No. 1 within the state of Oregon on the Finest Programs You Can Play listing and No. 2 on the Golfweek’s Finest Prime 100 Trendy listing.

The group of Invoice Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed the third course, Bandon Trails, which opened on larger terrain other than the cliffs in 2005 and has climbed to No. Four within the state’s Finest Programs You Can Play and No. 14 among the many Prime 100 Trendy.

Doak and Jim Urbina led a group that constructed the fourth course, Previous Macdonald, which opened in 2010 and has risen to No. 2 in Oregon’s Finest Programs You Can Play listing and No. 5 on the Prime 100 Trendy.

These 4 18-hole programs are complemented by the dramatic 13-hole, par-Three Bandon Protect constructed by Coore and Crenshaw, the Punchbowl placing course constructed by Doak and Urbina, and one other brief course integrated as a part of the follow space. As if that wasn’t sufficient golf, the resort has teamed with Keiser’s Recycled Paper Greetings co-founder, Phil Friedmann, to construct a fifth course simply north of the unique property. The Sheep Ranch, changing a 13-hole unstructured format, is an 18-hole course by Coore and Crenshaw scheduled to open within the spring of 2020 with 9 oceanside greens.

The 4 current programs have modified the golf panorama within the U.S. As an alternative of the manicured strains and water hazards introduced at most resorts of the previous 40 years, the Bandon foursome depends on pure ruggedness and wind to maintain issues attention-grabbing. The sand is all over the place, providing a enjoying expertise far more in keeping with Scottish or Irish hyperlinks. The agency and quick surfaces make a participant take into account what occurs to a golf ball on the bottom simply as a lot as what may occur within the air – it’s an exhilarating method
for many Individuals who’re accustomed to a extra aerial sport.

Keiser mentioned the resort attracts 85 % of its visitors from the West Coast, particularly from British Columbia right down to San Diego, however gamers come from around the globe to pattern American hyperlinks golf within the dunes. Keiser mentioned an intense give attention to golf with out all the standard resort facilities has been a differentiator. As an alternative of a tennis professional, Bandon Dunes, with an emphasis on strolling, employs a military of caddies – the resort makes use of as many as 350 caddies throughout peak season, a distinction that pleases Keiser.

“Eat, sleep, drink and play golf – these are the 4 stuff you do there,” mentioned Keiser, whose success at Bandon Dunes has led to his improvement of different golf locations similar to Cabot Hyperlinks in Nova Scotia and Sand Valley in Wisconsin. “I’m astonished by the entire enterprise. Truthfully, once I simply give it some thought, it’s astonishing that it has labored in addition to it has.”

‘Gracious dwelling’ within the Badger State

Kohler grew to become a golf developer on the behest of buyer suggestion slips.

The Kohler household had constructed a profitable manufacturing enterprise that was based in 1873, increasing from its preliminary farm implements similar to plows to incorporate plumbing merchandise a decade later. It has since turn out to be a pacesetter within the development of what it calls “gracious dwelling.” Past its plumbing enterprise, Kohler additionally produces furnishings, engines and turbines, amongst different merchandise.

Throughout from its manufacturing headquarters close to Sheboygan, Kohler Firm owned a dormitory named the American Membership in-built 1918 to accommodate immigrant staff. As a younger CEO of the corporate, Herb Kohler wished to develop the constructing right into a boutique lodge, however he met resistance from the corporate board, which twice rejected his hospitality ideas earlier than relenting.

In 1981 the American Membership was reopened, providing a stage of luxurious that has made it a AAA 5-Diamond Resort Lodge since 1985 and Forbes 5-Star lodge since 2012. The 241-room property, which incorporates the Carriage Home, is the Midwest’s solely 5-star, 5-diamond resort lodge. However initially, it didn’t have any golf programs. Enter the shopper feedback.

“I didn’t know a lot or something about golf. What I did have was a tenacious accountant who collected suggestion slips,” Kohler mentioned. “… He mentioned, ‘All of them kind of thanks for taking your visitors to a public course over right here and a personal course over there. However due to the quantity of land that you just personal, why on the planet aren’t you constructing your personal golf course to suit along with your boutique resort lodge.’”

Kohler didn’t need simply any common course – his group members had main championships on their minds. “And that was our ambition proper from the outset,” he mentioned. “We wished tournaments, and we didn’t need the weekly tournaments, so the one attainable factor was majors.”

The Kohler group got down to discover a course designer who may ship main alternatives. After an preliminary plan from a pair of unnamed designers did not fulfill Kohler, he went on the lookout for a recent perspective on the best way to construct in a valley close to the American Membership.

“This one explicit chap, he was an odd duck, however he had two programs specifically that had been of curiosity,” Kohler mentioned. “One which had simply been open to the general public, it was the TPC at Sawgrass, the house course for the PGA Tour. And no less than 20 completely different execs who had an opportunity to play it had been terribly upset, they usually had been making their emotions identified to the native press. … It kind of fascinated me. What I favored about it was, he had this want to get into the psyche of a professional and actually befuddle him.

“This fellow, Pete Dye, took them proper to the sting of embarrassment, they usually didn’t like being embarrassed, however I loved it.”

Kohler additionally favored Dye’s Honors Course close to Chattanooga, Tenn., which Kohler mentioned may problem an expert however was constructed to be manageable from the right tees for amateurs – potential resort visitors.

“So right here was this single individual, a bit of unusual as he could be – he all the time wore khaki pants and all the time wore tennis sneakers – however right here was this single one who may befuddle the professionals however was thoughtful to the amateurs when he needed to be,” Kohler mentioned. “And I favored that mixture.”

Dye constructed two nines for Kohler at Blackwolf Run, the preliminary River and Valleys nines that opened in 1988. Kohler mentioned there was a three-month ready listing to play the mixed 18 – not good for resort visitors who wished  to get in a fast spherical – so he commissioned Dye to construct 9 extra holes that opened in 1989. That didn’t alleviate the wait listing, so Dye added a fourth 9 that opened in 1990. The routing was reconfigured into two distinct 18-hole programs: the River and Meadow Valleys that play on both aspect of the Sheboygan River.

However nonetheless the ready listing was too lengthy.

“Now we had 18 extra holes than we supposed, and we nonetheless had that goldarn
three-month lead time,” Kohler mentioned. “So I needed to exit and search for extra land.”

He discovered 560 appropriate acres a number of miles to the north, a plot with two miles  of shoreline on Lake Michigan. After Kohler handled a number of regulatory points, Dye started work on a comparatively flat tract that included a abandoned army airfield and an adjoining wetland. Greater than 13,000 truckloads of sand had been excavated from a website 10 miles away to assemble dunes that climbed greater than 70 ft.

With every truckload of sand on the new Whistling Straits, the property slowly grew to become The Straits course that opened in 1998 and The Irish course that opened in 2000.

“Pete and I had this normal settlement that The Straits course could be one thing like Ballybunion (in Eire), however that was the closest we bought to any specifics in design. It was all Pete thereafter, and he did an exquisite, great job,” Kohler mentioned of the course that options eight holes on the sting of the huge lake. “It was the sand that gave it the character and gave the fairways some pace.”

The Straits course, specifically, has achieved worldwide acclaim. It has been the location of three PGA Championships (2004, ’10 and ’15) and a U.S. Senior Open (’07), and it’ll host the 2020 Ryder Cup with Wisconsin native Steve Stricker captaining the U.S. squad. The Straits additionally has risen to No. 1 in Wisconsin on Golfweek’s Finest Programs You Can Play listing and No. 7 on the Prime 100 Trendy programs listing.

Blackwolf Run’s River course is subsequent in accolades for Vacation spot Kohler, at No. 5 within the state on the Finest Programs You Can Play listing and No. 89 on the Prime 100 Trendy listing. Whistling Straits’ Irish course is No. 7 and Blackwolf Run’s Meadow Valleys is No. 9 within the state on the Finest Programs You Can Play listing.

Blackwolf Run has hosted two U.S. Ladies’s Opens, in 1998 and 2012, on what the resort calls the Championship Course – the 2 authentic nines. That runs the whole of majors to 6: two girls’s, one senior and three for the boys. Not a foul tally for an idea that began on buyer suggestion slips.

Kohler mentioned the corporate has 5 guiding ideas, two that the majority immediately affect the corporate’s golf programs: to dwell on the vanguard in design and know-how in product and course of, and to have a single excessive stage of high quality irrespective of the services or products.

“Sure, it’s tough, however that’s our job,” Kohler mentioned. “And we’ve got to do it higher than you or any person else may count on. We now have to do it with a consistency. We are able to’t miss our mark in some companies and count on it to not influence our repute. That’s why you see the 4 programs of the standard they’re.” 

Newcomer Reynolds Lake Oconee scores massive

Reynolds Lake Oconee is a newcomer to this threesome, with a fourth course reaching rating on the Finest Programs You Can Play listing for 2019. The property has 117 holes divided amongst six programs by a number of designers, together with the personal Creek Membership by Jim Engh.

Mike Scully, a former school (College of Illinois) and NFL (Washington Redskins) participant who took over as normal supervisor at Reynolds Lake Oconee in 2018, mentioned the rolling terrain of central Georgia and the lake make all of the distinction for the 4 programs which might be ranked.

“You wouldn’t imagine we’ve got the elevation adjustments that we do,” mentioned Scully, whose golf profession consists of being the director of golf at Medinah close to Chicago and Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz. “And having the completely different designers is nice – you could have a special expertise irrespective of which course you play.”

Nice Waters, constructed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1992, leads the group’s programs at No. 2 in Georgia on the Golfweek’s Finest Programs You Can Play listing. Nice Waters is present process a renovation by Nicklaus and is scheduled to reopen this fall, and Scully mentioned he expects the brand new presentation to be, within the phrases of the Golden Bear, “Spectacular.”

Additionally included on Georgia’s Finest Programs You Can Play listing is the Oconee Course by Rees Jones that opened in 2002 and is available in at No. 4. The Nationwide’s mixture of its Ridge and Bluff nines by Tom Fazio, which opened in 1997, is No. 8. The Touchdown, constructed by Bob Cupp in 1986, is No. 10.

Scully credit their excessive rankings with a consistency throughout the property, led by vp of agronomy Lane Singleton. About 70 % of play is from members and 30 % is resort play on the group, which options neighborhoods, rental cottages and condominiums, and a Ritz-Carlton lodge on-site.

“I’m a washed-up soccer participant, and I realized a very long time in the past {that a} coach is simply nearly as good as his star gamers,” Scully mentioned. “We run one nice play six completely different occasions. … It’s that consistency in what we do and the way we set it
up every day. That’s our greatest alternative and that’s our greatest problem, and that’s what we give attention to.

“I imagine that apart from being the golf mecca of Georgia, we provide a way of life right here that’s unmatched. With the flexibility to play golf, tennis, the health, boating – it’s a lake life that’s unmatched. … We may be arrange for a guys’ journey, a {couples}’ journey, a ladies’ journey, a household journey. We examine all of the bins.”  Gwk

(Word: This story seems within the June 2019 problem of Golfweek.)


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