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As a group of fortunate Broken Tee Society members prepare to become some of the first to play the Coore & Crenshaw-designed Sheep Ranch, who better to give a preview of what to expect than Bill Coore himself? What follows is a hole-by-hole walk, including images and Coore’s sketches, through one of golf’s most anticipated openings in years.
The opener is actually a completely new hole that was never part of the original Sheep Ranch. It’s a par 5 that starts off right next to the clubhouse, and playing over the hill, cascading downwards towards the ocean. The green is set hard right on the ocean. Like a lot of our courses, we begin with an introduction of what you are about to experience. Hopefully this is representative of that.
It’s a very short par 4, depending on the season in which you play it. In the summer this hole should be played primarily straight downwind and could be driveable for a lot of players. In the winter it will play much different: straight into the wind with a full-pitch second shot. It plays to an original Sheep Ranch green. Although it’s much different now, it’s in the same location and approximately the same elevation. No matter how short the shot is, the green will require something precise to get it close.
The third is a pitch-shot par 3 that plays straight towards the ocean. It actually plays into the double-green that’s known as Five Mile Point—the most significant and recognizable stretch of coastline on the property. This hole plays to the upper part of that double-green—No.16 plays to the lower. This is an entirely new hole at the Sheep Ranch, and one that is semi-blind because of the natural dunes that were there. Regardless of the season this will play into a cross-wind, making the pitch shot quite interesting.
It’s one of the more lengthy par 4s at the Sheep Ranch. It plays over the hill and into a valley. If you can carry the hill with a north tailwind, your ball will cascade far down into the valley and turn it into a relatively short hole. Your approach is played into a punchbowl green set in between some natural dunes. It has probably one of the most interesting and beautiful fairways in terms of its natural contours. It’s just fantastic.
Another par 3 playing towards the ocean, but this time at a slightly different angle. It’s a medium-length hole playing to a plateau—almost a platform-type—green. Again, set right on top of the cliffs. It’s a beautiful green built by Jim Craig, who’s worked with us on so many of our projects.
This is one of our two par 4s that play from promontories sticking out toward the ocean. You play from the promontory across the ocean to the fairway beyond. It plays to the south, which will play much shorter than its listed yardage in the summer. In the winter, on the other hand, it will play much longer. In either case the determination will need to be made on how much proverbial “bite off” you’d like to take on. In each case, they are tee shots unlike any other Bandon course. You are playing, from a point, diagonally across the ocean to a fairway.
This happens to be one of Mike Keiser’s personal favorites. While playing you are looking straight south, down the coastline of Bandon where Pacific Dunes lives. Downwind, you simply do not want to fly the ball on the green. The ball will release over the green which sits very hard against a bluff. Without question, you need to land it short and let it trundle. Into the wind you can fly it hole-high.
We turn away from the ocean here for the first time. It plays as a dogleg to the right and after playing this hole a few times, you’ll find that if you can position your tee ball on the hogback ridge that runs down the middle of the fairway, you have good vision and a wonderful angle to the green no matter the wind. If you play a tee shot that does not find the ridge, you are either on the lower left or right side of the fairway, playing a blind approach to the green. It’s one of the most interesting green settings and complexes on the entire course.
We turn back toward the ocean for this medium-length par 4. When you get in the fairway and prepare to play your approach, you get the sense that the green is immediately adjacent to the surf at the sea. In fact, it’s set away a bit, but on a bluff. This gives the riseline of the green the illusion that it’s right on the edge of the water. Something Mike Keiser likes to call an “infinity green.”
No matter which way the wind blows, the 10th is one of the most demanding par 4s on the course. The greens here are not overly contoured, but this one does have a very prominent back shelf that the pin may be placed upon from time to time. Like No. 4, the 10th fairway, given the natural contours we found out there, is one of the most interesting fairways on a golf course.
This is a stout par 5 that plays back past the clubhouse. It’s going to play more into the wind in the summer. The fairway meanders through groupings of evergreen trees, which is really the first time you play back into trees since the first hole. You play fairly level through the first two landing areas, but the green is set much higher in an old quarry-type area, where some sand had been mined out during the construction of the original Sheep Ranch. When we first found the green site we thought it was very interesting: It was completely blind from the fairway, but we later knocked the rim of the quarry off and used that dirt to cascade down the hill and get the lower fairway to climb up and into the approach area of the green. Mike (Keiser), Phil Friedman, Ben Crenshaw and I all refer to this as the “volcano hole.” The green is set into the crater and the front rim of the volcano was broken through where the fairway flows like lava.
Another tough par 4. It starts at the clubhouse area and plays down the hill into another rollicking fairway toward a low-profile green. It will play primarily cross-wind, off your right in the summer and off your left in the winter. It will be one of the more demanding 4s on the golf course.
If you looked at 13 on the scorecard you’d say, “This has gotta be a piece of cake.” This short par 5 plays somewhat parallel to No. 12, but to a green set below the clubhouse in a pretty sandy site. The fairway itself is sort of a big zig-zag. On the straightest line, it’s not a very far hole from tee to green. Even if you’re in a position to go for it—or if you’re trying to hit it in three or four—given the straight cross-wind and the way the green is perched, you have to be pretty darn precise.
I have to say, this is one of Ben’s and my favorite holes. It’s a very old-world type hole that is fairly lengthy. The tee shot is hit basically blind over a big hill, and there is some fairway out to the right so you can play out that way. But the ideal route would be over the big hill, somewhat like an alps hole, except in this case it’s with the tee shot, not the second. Once over the hill, the fairway twists and turns, eventually rolling back up to a plateau green. And even though the green is significantly inland, you just get the sense that it’s not so far away from the sea.
This is a baby par 4. The green is set literally on the cliff and on an angle to the line of play similarly to No. 10 at Riviera. Unless you’re trying to go for it, the ideal play is left of the green and toward the ocean. That way you can play your second into the access of the long, skinny green. We’re prejudiced, but we happen to think it’s a pretty interesting little hole.
This will most likely be the most recognizable hole on the course. We actually incorporated a green that Jim Urbina had built there many years ago for the original routing on Five Mile Point. As I told Jim, “We just liked it so much we stole your green.” We did add the third green onto it, but we’re very grateful for Jim and Tom Doak. Not just for this one, but for a few green sites out there that they found and created. No doubt, lots of pictures will be taken here.
This is the second of the two par 4s that play from a promontory across the ocean to a diagonal fairway. The back tee of 17 is basically a part of 16 green. If you’re playing that tee, you are playing completely over the ocean. If you play a tee up, you are playing more down the fairway, with the coastline hard on your left. Just a really pretty setting. There’s also a series of old cypress tree snags which are very distinctive and individualistic in their appearance and presentation.
Interestingly enough, Nos. 2 and 18 almost share a combined tee behind the 17th green. It’s a very compact area of the course and there wasn’t a lot of room to build tees that were separated. It was originally intended as, and still might be, a par 4. In the winter though, it will play very stout. We have had some very good discussions that perhaps it should be listed as a par 5 and of course that will make it a very short one for the resort guests, primarily. The green is set up into the hill just immediately below the clubhouse, so the approach shot is fairly demanding.
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