I have been following the Pacific Gales project for some time and now that the environmental permits have been secured, it is full speed ahead on one of the most intriguing new course projects in North America. The project came about due to Jim Haley who saw potential in a ranch on the Pacific coast when he was working at Bandon Dunes. Nothing is created overnight and Jim has been hard at work on getting this off the ground for decades.
With the gang up at Bandon going crazy with acquiring and developing, Oregonians were understandably concerned about the environmental impacts of the development. However, the people at PG has taken great pains to minimize the environmental impact of the project.
The course is also taking a rather unique trip down the financing river as it is pre-selling memberships to "Founders" and once they have enough Founders signed up, they will break ground. Often golf course owners have a dream, spend a lot of money to build and then hope. PG wants to make sure the interest is there for before truly getting going. I have explored the perks of membership and it's pretty sweet. Unlimited golf for life with no dues, preferred tee times and significant discounts and other perks, being a Founder ain't cheap but its a good deal if you can swing it.
Don't worry, Founders won't get all the fun. The course will be open to the public so you will get to play this baby once it is up and going!
Dave is the architect behind the under-the-radar Black Sheep course outside of Chicago which is creating a lot of buzz in golf circles and has designed and renovated several other golf courses around the country. I had a Q&A with Dave that I hope gives you a sense of what its like to work on Pacific Gales:
ReGripped: Looking through your design portfolio, it seems that you have been mostly involved with designing or renovating inland golf courses. I imagine designing a seaside course like Pacific Gales allows you to work with new types of grasses, weather patterns and other on-the-ground elements. Has there been something site-specific that has particularly affected your development of Pacific Gales' layout so far?
Dave Esler: More than any other factors, the physical site and the local environment needs to drive the design decisions for a project to develop a unique character or sense of place, and that's certainly important to me on every project. The seasonal wind shifts, soil types and exceptional views at Pacific Gales have got the team thinking about a lot of design opportunities that may not present themselves on other sites. We always strive for "par-fluidity” throughout a routing, and at least half the holes at Pacific Gales will be "par and a half” to instill a sense of fun and adventure to make the golf course unique among its peers.
RG: Do you have any architectural flourishes that you like to incorporate into your courses (similar to Pete Dye's railroad ties)? I really like what you did at Black Sheep and Twin Orchard incorporating islands/ribbons of grass into bunkers (at least in the few pictures I have seen). Can we expect to see anything similar at Pacific Gales?
DE: I think you'd see that those two properties could not be more different. Everything I try to design (new, remodel or restored) is site, client, market, and owner specific. I'm sure we all have tendencies, or proclivities, but I rarely try to repeat myself, though I'm sure it happens. I think I would go nuts if I did the same thing over and over again. Part of the appeal of the game of golf is the uniqueness of each playing field, and I really strive to explore and develop the genus loci at each project.
RG:Will the golf course be walking only or will there be golf carts available to golfers? Relatedly, are you going to have greens and tee boxes relatively close together in a Scottish style or will the course be more spread out over the 200 acres?
DE: With or without carts, we plan to develop a vibrant caddie program for walkers, and requiring forecaddies for groups who may take carts. Having seen the life-changing benefits of programs like the Evans Scholars, Daniel Murphy Scholarships, Francis Ouimet programs, et al, we absolutely plan to give back to the community in that regard. I grew up caddying, so the final decision regarding carts is a tough one. Having said that, paths are very easy to camouflage and would provide a unique benefit for our clientele. I think (Gulfweed’s) Brad Klein told me that our Black Sheep routing had one of the shortest green-to-tee walk distances he'd ever measured, and that was certainly intentional. I've always liked the intimacy of tees being proximate to the previous green whenever practical. That self-imposed tendency really forces the routing to be very carefully thought out. In the end the quality of a golf hole will almost always win out, but disjointed routings tend to be a crutch, particularly on housing-free projects.
RG: What was the inspiration for the double green for the ninth and eighteenth holes?
DE: Symmetry, serendipity, hard work? The routing took a while to coagulate (it is still solidifying a bit, and will certainly get tweaked even through construction), but I discovered No. 17 pretty early on and that helped set the finishing holes as well as the clubhouse location. We also knew pretty early that we needed to be different in many ways from Bandon and allowing both nines to finish on the ocean with the clubhouse overlooking the cliff, sunsets and 9th and 18th greens was a pretty terrific find and an easy decision to stick with. The fact that there is mild promontory at just the right location was very fortunate (just like Pete Dye has noted about Casa De Campo having several concave shorelines rather than convex ones made all the difference at Teeth of the Dog — but knowing what to do with it requires some creativity, experience, and in his case, genius). The double-green finish at Pacific Gales, is *not* a wink to St. Andrews or anything like that. It is just a function of the amount of space provided by the site at that particular place for that unique desired use; two large greens on an outcropping on about a half acre means that they need to be proximate to one another — and in this case absolutely breathtaking.
RG: Are you anticipating more holes being built above and beyond the initial 18? How many courses could potentially be built on the property?
DE: Nearly everyone asks about the additional courses on site now, probably because Mike Keiser has made the multi-course project almost an assumption now with Bandon Dunes, Cabot and Sand Valley. The property is certainly large enough to accommodate more golf at Pacific Gales, but at this point we are focused on creating the best golf course and destination golf experience possible.
RG: Finally, all the best new North American courses seem to be in ultra remote locations like Bandon Oregon, Mullen Nebraska, Inverness Nova Scotia, etc. Pacific Gales is following in that mold with its construction near Port Orford Oregon. Are there any particular challenges in building a course in such a remote part of the country?
DE: Most new projects are "off the grid" a bit and require fuel, materials, equipment to be shipped in. But unless you're on an island or significantly remote so as not to have paved roads, the logistics are not too bad.
Thanks Dave for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it!
I am stoked about Pacific Gales. There are so many distractions in today's world. If you want to experience golf in its natural, wild state, you need to travel a few miles to get to the special clubs. Pacific Gales has the chance to be one of those special places and I can't wait to see what they do up there. I will let you know if I hear any updates about this track!
For more information on Pacific Gales, check out the link: http://pacificgales.com/
For more information about Dave Esler's design projects: check out this link: http://eslergolf.com/
Photos Courtesy of Pacific Gales- all rights reserved to them