The owner of Bandon Dunes fully endorses the notion of shorter courses, and has many other things to say about how to generate more interest in golf, and more rounds.
I had a talk with Mike Keiser today that was quite revealing. For those of you who don’t know who Mike is, he is the owner and developer of quite a few signature golf courses across the country, and the world. His landmark facility, Bandon Dunes, is considered by many to be the best golf course destination in the country. It includes four courses: Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald, and a fifth, Bandon Preserve, that is soon to be opened—and was the reason for my phone call.
The Preserve is a 13-hole, par-3 course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, that’s nestled into a corner of the Bandon facility. A lot of talk has been generated by Jack Nicklaus’s recent suggestion that we build shorter courses (see “Long Overdue,” C&RB, June 2011), and for a visionary like Mike Keiser to actually build one was worth learning more about. He fully endorses the notion of shorter courses, and had many other things to say about how to generate more interest in golf, and hence, more rounds. Here are a few of his insights:
- He is an enthusiast for more par-3 courses to be built. The reasons are twofold; first, you can play a round in 2 to 2 1/2 hours and second, the game is really the second shot and approach shots. It’s a variation on “drive for show and putt for dough”— but true, when you think about when our game is good, and when it is not so good. Also, as we age, we may want to play more golf, but 36 holes of 6,000-plus yards may be too much.
- The current system in high schools for playing competitive golf is askew. Nowadays, it is based on lowest score, rather than match play. Mediocre-to-good golfers may opt for a different sport like basketball, soccer, baseball or football when they realize all their rounds will be posted, because impressionable teenagers don’t want their less-than-stellar scores shown in a way that could subject them to scorn from their peers. The reason for the current way of scoring and posting is to give the very good golfers a shot at a scholarship from a Division One school. The percentage of golfers who stand to get a scholarship is minute, to say the least, and because of the current system, good, athletic kids are discouraged from taking up golf. In the old days, high school golf was match play, and we had a great crop of good golfers getting into the game.
- Keiser has finished another links course, on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, that is already getting rave reviews. He made a very interesting comment about the process, noting that the Canadian government couldn’t have been more accommodating and helpful in creating and building the facility. That country has the same environmental concerns as the U.S., but the prevailing attitude was still one of “How can we get this done…and call if you need help.” Compare this to trying to do the same thing here in the U.S. (my comment).
Mike is a very accessible, gracious person, and his thoughts on golf are well worth listening to. After all, the motto of Bandon Dunes is
“…golf as it was meant to be.” By the way, the opening day in May for Bandon Preserve is sold out. I think Mike, and Jack Nicklaus, are on to something.