Bandon Dunes: Shorty’s

Among the novel amenities that Mike Keiser came up with for his Bandon Dunes Resort right from the get go was a very neat Approach and Putt Course called Shorty’s. Designed by David McLay Kidd, the guy who did the Bandon Dunes Course, this is a full feature short track with architectural detail commensurate with it’s big brother.

Built on the back side of the South Practice Range, it is convenient, practical and fun.  Holes from 92 to 177 yards with plenty of options in between on each hole, it is a great place to acquaint yourself with long pitch and run shots you will need across the links style and wind blown Bandon Dunes courses.

Shorty’s is open from Thursday through Sunday, when the North Range is in use.  Truth is you can play the Mini Shorty’s Routing of 1, 2, and 9 any day since they are safely out of the range of fire of the South Practice Tees.

The full 9-hole walk is probably less than an hour depending on how much trash talking you do.  Best part is that playing Shorty’s costs you nothing at all, it is free to all comers.  Just another perfect happy hour activity for you and your buds.

The photos below will give you an idea of the architectural interest of this layout as well as the challenge it presents.

The distances on each hole are the official yardage plates, though you can pretty much drop the ball anywhere you like on each hole to fit what you are working on.  Note that the hole names are based upon my impression and totally the fabrication of this author, not sanctioned by the folks who run this place.

Launch Pad

Here is where you start.  If the green flag is up Shorty’s is fully open, red flag not so much.


#1 The Devils Trap Door  86 Yards

Brings to mind the 10th at Pine Valley where the front bunker earned the moniker of the Devil’s A-hole. You have to flight something with grip into the right center of this green and hope it hold’s on.  As you can see in this reality TV ground level look, recovery from the Devil’s orifice is unlikely.

#2 The Uprights  113 Yards

Garo Yepremian would love the look of this one, just split the uprights for 3.  This is a good one for working on a 100 yard seven iron pitch and run shot.  Just trundle one up the front ramp and let it work to the pin.

#3 Cape  177 Yards

The Cape Hole was a classic Golden Age design configuration where the green was nestled behind a large body of water not sand.  Here you have to work your approach from right to left to avoid the cavernous bunkers and let the slope of the green bring it toward the flag.

Close up of the front right bunker also hints how the front ramp will continue to work your approach from right to left.

#4 Pine Valley  126 Yards

The name seemed like natural to me. Shallow green with a tiny opening between fierce bunkers and a pine tree squeezing you from the right for good measure.  The pines behind just complete the full George Crump look.

#5 Potchy  145 Yards

One of the longer carries over this lone pot to a long green that falls away from you.  It gets its name from the fact that this green is the closest to the South Range Tees so it is fully potched from ball marks making it resemble the rutty face of a pimply 13 year old boy.

#6 Dome  111 Yards

You can see how the right half of the green resembles the hood of a VW Beetle making really hard to hold a high approach.  Once again this is a good place to work on your long pitch and run out shot, letting the ground do the work.

Don’t let the shot wander left because there are two of these blow-out bunkers, much like you would see on the shore holes of Kidd’s Bandon Dunes Course.

#7 Gully-Vers Travel  108 Yards

The shot here must travel across a deep gully to this perched green behind another pot bunker.  The bank left of the flag can be dexterously used to feed a shot onto the green avoiding the bunker.  Links golf requires forethought.

#8 Misty May and Kerri  92 Yards

This green complex of this one honors the Gold Medal accomplishments that dynamic Olympic Beach Volleyball Duo Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh.  You may find yourself volleying pitch shots back and forth across this raised shallow table top green.

The look from the receiving side….equally steep approach back up.

# Homeward Bound  146 Yards

The final hole has all the architectural features bundled into it.  The layered, ragged edge bunkering from the right reminds me of some of the fairway bunkers on Bandon Dunes.  Mounding from the right masks the playing surface from clear view.

The green emanates from the hill on the right and has a deep low behind the front mound  that will shove timid approaches away from a flag in the back right.  Putting this green is an adventure all it’s own.

The Back Door

The look from behind shows you the mound that hides the front and the collar bunkering that rings the back waiting to catch an approach with too much enthusiasm.  Great holes are often kool looking from either direction.

Shorty’s Course Map

You can see the counter clockwise routing of the course.  It follows a tight circle for a very efficient walk, one well worth taking.

Bandon Dunes: Punchbowl

Mike Keiser did it again.  In 2013 he added one more piece of priceless frivolity to what already has to be the complete golf destination in the world.  Tom Doak designed the ultimate putting playground called Punchbowl at Bandon Dunes.

It has quickly become one of the most popular tickets at the resort, delighting folks of all ages in a kind of DIY-no classroom walls putting experience.

Hills and Dales…furry mounding and lots of whispy grass

This ginormous putting surface (total acreage undisclosed) sits just off the veranda of the Pacific Dunes Grill overlooking the great western pond with 18 holes sprawling across rigorous seaside terrain characteristic of the rest of the resort.

Wild Back nine wends through the trees

Inspired by the Himalayas green at St. Andrews Doak created this with a bit more drastic topography.  From the moguls on the big plateau at the north end around the large tree in the middle to the deep bowl on the south end there is an elevation change of as much as 20 feet.

Click image to experience the full Punchbowl panorama.

Click image to appreciate Josh’s eerie shadow and experience the full Punchbowl panorama.

This is a full service putting entertainment facility.  Open from 2 pm until dusk (they probably need six hours in the morning to cut this small piece of paradise),  there are 100-foot roller coaster putts, Daytona doglegs, and ridiculous topographical transitions that will challenge the most creative mind.

Starter’s Stand can accommodate the lines-just drop your ball in the ball slot until it becomes your turn.

Note the hole markers have integrated beverage stands…how convenient!

As you would expect at Bandon, there is a beverage cart close at hand to wet your whistle or simply calm the putting jitters as required.  Drink holders next to every tee and hole location and a course routing that can change every day.

The Tap-In Trailer is open when necessary-waiter service from the Pacific Grill at all times

Perfect for resolving unsettled wagers from the morning walk, a little fraternal fun with your compadres, or some serious work on the lag putts with the new saw grip.

There are even Viewing Lounges perched on the hill for watching the action

Punchbowl is a necessary add to every Bandon Dunes itinerary.  Once again Mike Keiser proves that he knows what we want even if we cannot tell him what it is.

Streamsong Blue

At the lowest point of the economic downturn in 2007, with virtually no new golf course development going on, the management of Mosaic Company called the two design firms of Tom Doak and Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw to come out and look at a reclamation project of vast acreage in central Florida from which they had been mining phosphate for a half a century.

Mosaic had made a deal with the state that, rather then expend the money to bring the ground back to it’s original condition, they would be permitted to build a golf resort on the property. Mosaic had in mind kind of Bandon Dunes East, multiple, free-flowing sand based golf courses in the middle of central Florida to attract the high end retail golf community. They could not have picked two better modern, old-school architects to help put this resort on the map in a very challenging economic environment.Doak’s reaction, when he stepped off the helicopter that brought his team for the first site visit, was a “Dorothy you are not in Kansas anymore” moment. There is just no way they would have expected to see such a turbulent piece of sandy topography in the state of Florida.

Given four parcels to consider, the two groups set about a collaborative process of identifying the best ground and prospective routings for the first two courses. The central part of the property had the tallest piles of sand and the deepest crevices from the mining days, so this was what they identified as the most opportune place to create 36 holes of walking golf with plenty of width and plenty of drama.

Tom Doak will tell you that his team got the more cohesive and dramatic part of this parcel which meant he could route greens and tees in close proximity to make the walking efficient. Better still, the width and elevation changes already existed to support his preferred design style, open and accessible green complexes with lots of adjacent short grass contour which would require careful thought by the players off the tee to get to the optimal approach line for the day’s flag positions.

With very little perimeter boundary in this part of the property and few absolute forced carries, he could provides players of all caliber a way to get around without the anxiety of penalty shots and searching for Titleists and Srixons. Nice feature in a resort golf experience.

The walk up to the 1st Tee is your first workout of the dayThe hike up to the first tee box may leave you winded but the view unfurling beneath your feet will set a tone for this Blue Course experience. The hole is only 330 yards and there is plenty of open ground on which to land this drive, but the steep slope up to the green complex and the angle to the day’s flag that avoids the offset greenside bunkering puts a premium on picking the advantage approach line. As Jack Nicklaus used to say, you have to play the holes backwards in your mind if you are going to be successful on a course with so many strategic options in play.

All the options on the 1st Hole as seen from the top of the world A couple of sprawling holes in the next two bring you to the middle of the outward half, which is one of the most unique sequences on the course. It speaks to Doak’s ability to draw from the existing terrain natural looking holes with strategic challenge for the strong players while giving the lower trajectory players plenty of options for success.

4th Hole has a rustic flair of a links gem

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The fourth hole could have come straight out of the Coore-Crenshaw Bandon Trails Course at in Oregon. After hitting the drive into a generous upramp framed by bunkers on the left, the player who wants to challenge the flag has a super steep elevation approach to a blind green complex perched on a corner plateau above a constellation of nasty sand bunkers. For those with less adventure in mind there is a diversionary option to play at the huge bail out area right and long from which making a bogey should be a cinch.

Just 120 yard pitch, the green on the Par 3 5th is very elusive even with no wind

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What follows is a short pitch 120 yard Par 3 that most architects would not have the temerity to present today. The narrow serpentine green is 74 yard long stretching along a spine on the hill below that falls sharply away from the line of flight of your tee shot. If the wind is blowing at all the exposure of the green will make getting a ball to find and stay within a particular section of this green an act of pure golfing wizardry. Many a big hitter will be walking off this green writing down an above par score, scratching their head wondering what went wrong.

The next short, quasi-driveable Par 4 is where Tom alighted from his helicopter on his first site visit. From the tee you are looking up and across the brow of the hill to a wide landing area that feeds down to the foot of one of the most prominent dunes on the property. Given the juxtaposition of the slope of the green to your approach angle this could be one of the most difficult 75-yard pitch shots you will have to hit all day.

Pure eye candy off the tee box on the Par 3 7th HoleA short walking path brings you around the dune to the most awesome Kodak Moment of the day. From the precipice tee on #7 you get to watch the majestic flight of this 175-yard shot plummeting into the pocket of a catcher’s mitt green nestled into the base of the nasty dune complex on the other side of this mine-made lagoon. If you end up on playable turf it will be a big fish story to share at dinner tonight.

As you finish the opening nine, make sure to saunter over to their halfway hut that features an interesting array of southwestern fare. These tasty and homemade these tacos are not your typical dog at the turn.

When you look at the work of Tom Doak and his associates the real architectural genius is often displayed on holes where they did not manipulate the ground very much at all. Such was the case on the 11th, the number 1 handicap hole on the course where they draped a rumpled fairway over and across a low hill leaving just enough landing area blindness to put doubt in your mind of the best line to play. What follows is a long downhill approach to a bunkerless green that drops away with the natural flow of the land. Picking the right landing area short of the green with just the right release to let your approach leak onto the putting surface requires great judgment and skill. The brilliance in this hole was letting the ground speak for itself and not adding any unnecessary static to what nature presented.

The 12th is the first of two very technical holes….hazards leave no room for errorAs you approach the middle of the back nine the two courses coalesce as the Blue Course is working just inside the perimeter of the property and the Red Course is circling back along the property line toward the clubhouse. The short Par 4 13th is probably one of those holes that could have fallen into either man’s route plan and I expect there might have been pretty fiesty conversations on just how to handle it.

Doak is tempting you to reach for the Big Dog on the ‘driveable ’13thStanding on this tee the expansive driving area goads you into reaching for the big stick and maybe have a go at the green. Adhering to the adage “restraint is the better part of valor” is the way to go since even an 80-yard pitch into a slender, long green suspended above a seriously nasty waste bunker and the lagoon is all you can handle. The bail area to the right may comfort you but a recovery pitch from there brings the bunker across the narrow green back into your mind. This is a cleverly designed short hole which demands two controlled and accurate plays to get on without any serious scorecard damage.

The finish is very strong-three of the four hardest handicap holes on this side are in front of you. The sequence begins with a very natural looking minimalist presentation of a Par 4 that plays similar to the 6th with about 50 additional yards on the approach. No bunkers to avoid in the green complex but the short grass surround contours and the pitch of the green surface make using the ground to control where your approach will come to rest of crucial importance.

The longest Par 3 of the day-plays effectively over 225 yards with the uphill green setting-is followed by a very kitchy truncated 575 yard Par 5 that requires three strong and accurate blows for a par opportunity.

Courses that finish with a grand look of the clubhouse are rare, but Doak was blessed with a perfect piece of sloping ground to create a memorable and difficult finishing hole to do just that. Standing on the tee it just looks like an horizon of fairway in front of you, there is no hint of what is to come if you can land your ball at the top edge of the hill that looks down at clubhouse green setting below.

The look down to the final green is surreal against the dunesThe long approach shot must carry a distracting bevy of bunkers almost 100 yards from the green complex and one solitary pot directly on line to the center of the green about 40 yards short. Doak provided plenty of bail room to the left but that is the devil’s bargain since even a short pitch from there is straight down the fall line and it will be difficult to keep a recovery pitch anywhere close to the flag. No, this approach shot is a hitch up your pants moment where a draw working around the pot bunker straight at the flag is the only sensible shot to play.

Taking the short walk off this green to the clubhouse staging area barely gives you enough time to exhale and appreciate how vigorous a golf experience Doak orchestrated in the Blue Course at Streamsong.

Streamsong, Florida

Architect: Tom Doak ( 2012)

Tee         Par      Rating       Slope       Yardage
Green     72         74.1         131           7176
Black      72         72            127           6698
Silver      72         69.7         123           6285
Gold       72         71.6         122           5531

(Click here to review Streamsong Blue Golf Course hole-by-hole descriptions)

For more Streamsong images click to see Postcard From Streamsong.

First Tee Outing 2018-Sweet Memories

The Keepers dedicated our 9th Annual First Tee Mentoring Outing at Woodmont Country Club to the memory of our good friend Arthur Blitz.  Arthur was a huge advocate of this event every year and we will recall his smiling face and infectious laugh each year we host this wonderful event.

Arthur Blitz had a special connection with these kids

The First Tee of Greater Washington D.C. brought 31 awesome kids to participate in an afternoon of pure golf fun.  We had 19 volunteers from our club along with capable professional golf staff as our guides doing golf clinics, a picnic lunch, and a couple of hours of course time with the kids.

These kids come every type of background you can imagine and they have gleaned from their First Tee experiences self-confidence, poise, and grace as well as being introduced to the game of golf.  It is a wonder to witness the etiquette, course awareness, and basic skills of these 7 to 17 year-olds who attend this event each year.

Well over 50 kids, volunteers, and staff make orchestrating this shot no small feat

Our volunteers provide the smiles, reassurance, and support to help these kids understand how much this game has to offer.

The volunteers donated their time and their hugs to make it a special day

It takes the help of the First Tee of Greater Washington and supportive parents to pull this off each year.

Roger and Katie, administrators from the First Tee Program

Some of the parents of these great kids mugging with Roger

To download any photos to your PC just right click on the image and pick “Save Image As” to save it to your computer.

Sometimes the mentoring is as simple as a smile or an encouraging word…the kids got lots of both.

The event commander Steve with a Grace-ful smile

Moe and Jonathan are old friends by now

Steve shows Carina a version of the modified four-point stance

Larry and Dale with Hannah, Yuna, and Angela on the practice ground

Alex, Steve, Gavin, Caleb, and Gene

Gene and John with Grace, Sabrina, Iris, and Michelle

Chet, Rich, David, Eugene, Salieu, Sam, Konnor, Paul, Steve, and Mika…quite a line-up

Grant, Eddie, Konnor, Malinda, Ricky, and Rick

The mentors share their knowledge and experience of how to work down a handicap

Jackie helps Sophie make some chipping adjustments

Rick and Peter…..proof is in the results

Eddie with Malinda and Yohan talking short game

Jake and Marilyn with Milan and Daniel

MIke and Jackie coaching Carina, Johan, and Avery

Moe, Sol, and Rebecca with Sean, Ryan, and Skyler

Best part is just stepping back and watching these amazing kids do their golf thing.

Rick, Dale, Bonnie, Susan, Larry, and Gary embraced the moment

All the kids went through the rotation of three clinics-range, short game, and putting-led by our professional staff.

The day started with an invigorating stretch with Konnor

There was long game work with Brice and Morgan at the range.

Brice going over fundamentals with the older kids

The youngest at the range with Morgan, Brice, Sol, Jackie, and Ron

Ricky has a strong address position

Jake and Mike worked on greenside short game skills with all the groups.

Jake sporting the classic Jim Colbert bucket hat demonstrates proper grip

The chipping lines under watchful eyes

Caleb gets some demonstration from Rebecca who knows her stuff

Skyler is a veteran of these outings and shows it to Sol

Got to love this pitching set-up from Grace

Malinda, after clean contact, snuggles it close

Clean up on Aisle 4….these kids can do it all

Dave Pelz has nothing on Konnor…his putting school is a full bag of tricks.

Conga Line Putting….working on the lag putts

Guys synchronized rake putting…who would have thought..

Girls were not to be outdone

The clinics worked up an appetite so they were followed by a break for a picnic lunch where we got to just sit and chat…..healthy sandwiches, real chips, fresh fruit, and some chocolate chip cookies for the big kids.  We were all single digit eaters.

Sol doing what Sol does best

Caleb, Rich, Chet, Rebecca, Gary, and Paul sharing stories over chocolate chip cookies

Eugene, Yuna, and Jonathan showing their “chip” skills

The girls work on challenging the Guiness Book of Records for aveggie stacking tower

Then it was out to the course to put what they learned to work.  It is amazing how these kids handle themselves on the course.  Fixing ball marks, raking bunkers, marking their ball properly, and respecting the efforts of their playing partners.

Ricky, Iris, Peter, Gene, Rick, and Gavin on the green

Rich with Caleb and Michelle

Susan and Larry were marveling at the course skills of Yuna, Daniel, Hannah, and Dauda

Gary staging a FootJoy commercial with Eugene and Jonathan

Chet taking a ride with Eugene and David

Ron, Sol, Dad of Milan, Milan, Sean, and Carina

Gary and Steve on the tee with Jonathan, Eugene, Salieu, and Paul

Moe and Alex on the 17th of the North

Sabrina and Grace are all smiles

John watches the elegant ball flight of Sabrina’s lay-up on the 15th

Mika ready to unleash on the 17th tee

Younger brother Alex has a loaded position at the top

Shaking hands with the kids and sending them away with a participation certificate and a few goodies to commemorate the event.

Konnor and Daniel

Sabrina and Konnor

One last bit of business to thank the volunteers, the golf staff, and the organizers for putting this together.  And most important, thanking these adorable and talented kids for being part of this memorable day.

One last infectious smile for the memory bank

Special thanks to Connor Farrell, Steve Keller,  Moe Dweck, and Roger Brown and the professional golf staff for all the hard work in assembling this event.  Thanks to Woodmont Country Club for graciously hosting this and the First Tee of Greater Washington D.C. for hooking us up with these awesome kids.

First Tee Greater Wash LogoRespect-Perserverance-Honesty-Integrity-Courtesy-Responsibility-Sportsmanship-Confidence-Judgement

August, 2018

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The President’s Putter

A perfect English January day for golf at Rye Golf Club (photo from

This is not what you think-The Donald has nothing to do with this.

Actually this is probably one of the most authentic golf competitions in history.  It is  an eccentric annual affair between alumni of Cambridge and Oxford that has been going on since 1920 at The Rye Golf Club in Rye, East Sussex every January.  Those eligible to play are current and former alumni of the universities thus the golfers are usually amateurs and ages may vary between 20 and 70 years. It is as much a reunion as a golf competition.

The tournament is played by scratch match play and the winner receives a silver medal in exchange for their winning ball.  Over it’s storied 90 years, this event has attracted some of the greatest amateur golfers in Britain.  Past winners include five time tournament winner Roger Wethered, Cyril Tolley and Charlie Rotheroe.   The famous golf writer Bernard Darwin won the fifth Putter in 1924 and was a regular in this event into the late 1950’s.  Donald Steel, a famous British golf course architect and writer, is one of only three guys who have won the President’s Putter three times since World War II.

You are probably wondering why anyone would hold such a championship in the balmy weather of January in England.  Donald Steel says, “The tournament is probably best known for defying the elements but that is overdone. It is a genuine match play competition in which no effort is spared. My successes were based on a love of Rye, a good blood circulation and the ability to improvise. Otherwise, the playing attributes are no different to those in any other form of competitive golf. Good driving and a nifty short game were certainly no hindrance.”

A rarity occurred in 2010 and that was that the playing of President’s Putter was delayed a few weeks due to weather. (Photo from

They did manage to get the tournament played in 2010, albeit the third week in February, but they got it in.

This competition is “serious fun” and it adheres to the true spirit of the game says Steel, “You play hard. You play fast. But above all, you play to have fun”.

If you own a copy of “Following Through-Herbert Warren Wind on Golf” you can read his wonderful essay “An Entirely Different World: The President’s Putter” which he wrote after witnessing the event for the first time in 1971.  Typical Herbert Wind genius, he captures the unique flavor of the event and the hearty character of those who make this such an interesting tradition.  He says of their determination to play this event in the coldest, most inhospitable time of the year, “Because they are English, by and large, born eccentrics……..In no other people do you find that streak of masochism which sneers at the uncomfortable and revels in the hazardous”.

For more on this incredible annual event click to check out this GolfClubAtlas article about The Presidents Putter by David Normoyle.

July, 2018

It’s About Time!!

The European Tour has finally stepped out of the box and made the bold move that the PGA Tour should have made ten years ago-they have instituted a Shot Clock… least for this week.

Father time is looking over their shoulders….

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At the European Shot Clock Masters each player has 40 seconds to play his shot or it is going to cost them.  Simple system….immediate results.  The rounds over the first two days were close to 30 minutes faster on average.  There has been only one penalty assessed so far.   And the scoring average for the event has dropped significantly.

Nothing like empirical evidence.  Case closed.  Make it permanent!!!

We were chiming about slow play on tour since 2014 on this site in our piece “Slow Play-Throw A Flag” and I still like the drama of tossing the rag and pacing off the penalty.  But let’s take what we can get.

If all the tours adopted a similar system the accumulated tedium in the broadcasts from tortoise play would be disappear overnight.  The effect would flow to the recreational arena in no time.  Return of the sub four hour round!!  What a welcome sight that would be.

Hopefully the interest lobby for long broadcasts-the advertising community-will not continue to hold sway and the PGA Tour will put one of these experimental events in their rota.  We can finally move closer to a universal acceptance that slow play is one of the real disincentives to playing the game and there is something we can do about it!!


The Wrong Culprit

We have an old saying on Tour that when we’re putting poorly, we go get another putter, but it doesn’t take that putter long to know who has it.

Once it gets to know you, it will start putting just like the one you threw away.

Lee Trevino

Be The Ball (2000)

Charles Jones/Kim Doren

The New Rage-Approach and Putt Courses

There is a seminal trend building in the world of golf course construction to build short courses at destination golf resorts.  The trickle has now developed into what looks like a steady stream and I believe it is now starting to spread to high end private clubs as well.  For those who are looking at initiatives to “grow the game” this is very good news indeed.

For those of us with long memories, we can recall in the days of poodle skirts and weejuns when date night often meant a visit to a skating rink, bowling alley, miniature golf, or pitch n’ putt golf course with our honey.  Who did not look forward to putting an arm around her as you skated to carousel tunes or gently instructing her on proper grip of the bowling ball or the putter.  Unfortunately these fun “family” entertainment venues effectively went the way of the hoola-hoop and got wiped as the value of real estate in the exploding urban suburbs saw them replaced by more lucrative strip shopping centers, motels, and garden apartment complexes.

Fast forward about 50 years and Mike Keiser gets the notion that at a destination golf resort like Bandon Dunes would be a perfect place to bring back the fun and high jinx of a short Approach and Putt Course (I prefer this traditional name from the Golden Age to the more crass Pitch n’ Putt moniker of later years).  From the beginning Keiser had the Par 3 “Shorty’s Course” just off the driving range at Bandon Dunes.  It was opened on alternate days when range balls were not flying in that direction.

Availability indication for Shorty’s-Green Flag it is open/Red Flag it is closed

But this was not good enough for Mike Keiser.  In 2012 the resort opened a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design-Bandon Preserve-a fully functional approach and putt course with real tees (and lots of them), real green complexes, and a fully stocked adult beverage dispensary in the middle.  The draw was instantaneous as folks found 13 real golf holes could be played in an hour and a half with a couple of clubs, a drink in hand, and a festive attitude.  There were no rules-play with as many people in your group as could corral, make as much noise as you like, and play the holes from any distance that met your fancy.

Four patrons at the Preserve….light carry bags…a bet…and some libations coming soon..

What was never discussed was that, with serious elevation changes, real green complexes, and a endless teeing grounds to choose from, this was a perfect place to hone your links approach game for the next day’s round.  It was a D.I.Y. Approach and Putt golf experience that became the delight of all the “retail golfers” who came to the resort.

The second hole at Bandon Preserve…that is a real serious bunker!!

Truth was this was not really a new idea at all.  Back in the 1930’s Bobby Jones asked Alister Mackenzie, the designer of Augusta National, to design the Augusta Approach and Putt Course for the members.   The innovative approach MacKenzie took was to have 9 double greens so the front nine could be played in one direction and replayed in reverse as a unique back nine.  Unfortunately with the pressures of the depression weighing on the operation of the club , it never saw the light of day.

Proposed Augusta National Approach and Putt Course (courtesy of National Park Service)

With the success of Bandon Preserve others started to take notice and various iterations starting popping up at resorts and high end private facilities across the country.   It is safe to say that these things are becoming standard fare as high end resorts are looking at them as combined family playgrounds and happy hour entertainment centers.  It is just another way to engage their patrons of all ages with new and different entertainment options.

New offerings include Tiger Woods putting his name on “The Playgrounds”,  a 10-hole short track at the new Bluejack National in Texas. Tom Doak did a short course in 2017 at Ballyneal Golf Club in Colorado.  Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner just finished “The Cradle” a playful addition to the PInehurst Resort.  Most recently, Jordan Speith had a hand in creating a 6-hole Par 3 Course called “The Lower 40′ next to the campus of  his alma mater,  the University of Texas, Austin.

The next wave of these approach and putt courses is likely to happen at a high end country club near you.  Since it can be done on a small parcel of land they already own at a fraction of the cost of a full blown 18-hole course, private country clubs will see these as a way of engaging new players, kids, and their older members.   These facilities are a great way to enhance an outside event or create a unique multi-generational club competition.

The best part is that players need only a couple of clubs and an hour to get a pretty robust golf experience.  Talk about a great vehicle for growing the game.

As they saw at the Preserve, these tracks also serves as an full-fledged short game practice facility which is much more interesting than a single practice green and a couple of bunkers.  Private clubs struggling to attract and retain membership will begin to look upon an approach and putt course as essential as the health club and the lap pool in meeting the needs of it’s membership.

The Maddening Difficulty Of It

It is not the love of something easy which has drawn men like a magnet for hundreds of years to this royal and ancient pastime; on the contrary, it is the maddening difficulty of it.

….But that is what fascinates man and leads him to leave business, home, wife, and children to pursue this hard mistress in the foolish hope of conquering her.

….Golf beats us all, and that is the chief reason we shall never cease loving her, nor ever give up our attempt to subdue her.

Robert Hunter

The LInks (1926)