Make-Your-Own Sheep Ranch: 7 Hypotheticals in The Spirit of Bandon’s Newest Course

The Sheep Ranch, Bandon’s fifth 18-hole golf course, has raised an argument among the muckrakers on golf social media: Is the resort better for having it, versus what was there previously?

In case you weren’t aware, the current route sits on a plot where 13 greens once lay, left by Tom Doak, connected by fairways expanding in every direction. No route existed. Merely 13 greens and your choice in how to get them. An idyllic experiment. Although many are thrilled with the fifth addition to the Bandon portfolio, there is a healthy number who argue that Sheep Ranch’s former purpose was the better.

And these people, let’s be clear, are likely overly idealistic. Calculate the logistics: To play at the former concept course, one required permission. A choose-your-own-adventure golf course is a major liability, potentially even for just two foursomes on the property at one time. The current setup opened the gates, so to speak. We appreciate the original concept, but it’s totally unattainable if open to the general public.

The property’s former purpose opens up a massive opportunity, however, if Mike Keiser decided that he wanted to raise an intense amount of money for some charitable purpose. Many are willing to cough up thousands at charity auctions for foursomes at a private course. Think what you could do (and the money the item would earn) to have free rein at the modern Sheep Ranch for a day?

The Coore and Crenshaw retooling resulted in greens that play more to the purpose of a set route, sure. But the Sheep Ranch’s relatively cramped plot also means there are far fewer “wild” areas…the dense dunes and fescue that separate holes at the resort’s other courses. This opens the door to bold ideas and alternate routes.

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The Top 100 Metal Albums of the ’10s: Black, Death, Doom, and even One Metalcore for The Kids

A long time ago, I intended this site to include more music writing. And then I acknowledged that the vast majority of my audience was here to read about golf. Not metal. This will be the rare exception.

The obvious question: Why release rankings for the Top 100 Metal Albums of the 2010s more than two years late? The short answer is because my buddy JT, whom I’ve always hated, didn’t suggest I do so until Summer of 2021. So it’s his fault.

Here are some essential stats: Eighteen of the album covers feature some level of skulls. Four were painted by John Dyer Baizley.

The rest is for you to find. I hope that if you’re new to metal, you find one album you can appreciate. If you’re old to metal, I hope you find something new. Or something to yell at me about.

Also, as a side note, all of the descriptions below were written as drafts, intended to be worked over later. But then WordPress broke, so I can’t edit it now. Apologies.

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Donald Ross, Tillinghast, Pete Dye and More Renovate The Best Courses BPBM Played in 2021

You know what’s great about being a middle-class dude blogging about golf course architecture? I rarely play the World Top 100 clubs that are so over-discussed on social media that it’s positively impossible for me to find a new angle on them. Everything I say about Rhode Island Country Club is going to be new to somebody!

Anyway, that’s how I justify to myself why you would have interest in reading my own “Best of 2021” list, despite its lack of World Top 100s. To be honest, any “best courses I played” blog post is inherently cliché. And so I created a fun activity (for myself, if not any of my readers): 

The six best courses I played during 2021 each came from a different architect’s pen. I considered what another architect on the list might do if they had the opportunity to renovate my least-favorite hole at a different course on the list that they didn’t create. 

For example, what would happen if Pete Dye renovated No. 9 at Davenport Country Club? Let’s find out! 

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The New Sitwell: Are the Alister MacKenzie and Willie Park Greens of Yore Possible in 2021?

At some point in your life as a golf course architecture aficionado, you’ll stumble across a photograph of the No. 12 green at Sitwell Park Golf Club, a Sheffield-area course that doesn’t attract as much international attention these days, despite the name “Alister MacKenzie” on the marquee. You, if anything like me at that point in my understanding of golf course design and construction, will squint your eyes and grin in the “you gotta be kidding me” method.

What is now known on message boards simply as the “Sitwell Park green” was created to combat a routing problem struck by MacKenzie during 1913. The routing required two greens, nos. 12 and 18, sit next to each other while requiring an uphill approach. If he had performed a common “cut and fill” to build the greens atop the hill, the putting surfaces would be both blind and punished but the newly-steepened slope. MacKenzie chose to create a large green that poured down from the top of the hill, full of roll almost unimaginable to the modern player (which you can see below).

Even at the time, local players were scandalized and the green disappeared, replaced with a far more pedestrian model.

The Sitwell Green remains celebrated online. Tom Doak, a proponent, built No. 13 at Barnbougle Dunes as a tribute to the lost putting surface. But even that, one of the funkiest greens on the planet, seems a bit watered down compared to the inspiration.

I began to wonder…with minimalist golf being all the rage, what’s preventing the creation of Sitwell-level green slopes?

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The Bunkers at Broadmoor (Indiana) Country Club and The Indefinable Donald Ross

I was driving along Interstate 70 and decided that I wanted to play a Donald Ross…so I stopped at Broadmoor.

No, not the Denver-area resort. Although that Broadmoor checks all the above boxes, I live in Columbus and needed a quicker fix. That, and an email alerting me to all of the restoration work that had recently been completed by Bruce Hepner, led me to pull up short in Indianapolis and check out the other Broadmoor, a country club on the near-west side of town.

I’m the kind of guy who does bare-bones research in the lead-up to a round — usually looking at Google Map aerials — so I know what to expect and, more importantly, what I should ask about.

Immediately, from one glance at Google, I had several questions, and they all dealt with the bunkering. After playing the course, I had even more.

It’s dangerous to describe a “normal” Donald Ross course, as the architect created almost as many courses as his Golden Age competition combined, which gave him room to wiggle and tweak. I’ve read Golf Has Never Failed Me and I’ve played enough Ross courses to know that no one breaks Ross’s rules as much as Ross himself.

That said, the bunkering at Broadmoor struck me as highly irregular on three fronts. I was able to speak with Bruce Hepner, who oversaw the restoration for Broadmoor, so he could set the record straight on these three aspects of Broadmoor’s bunkering.

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Just a post-Royal St. George’s Essay on Approaching Golf Course Ratings and Discussion

GOLF recently ran a panel regarding Royal St. George’s, with particular focus on the concept of blind shots. The question (“are blind shots fair, or too gimmicky?”) came on the heel of Brooks Koepka’s suggestion that Sandwich featured too many of them. The GOLF group — featuring four of its panel of 100 raters — concluded, to differing degrees, that blind shots were in fact a good thing, distinctive to links golf.

The unanimous result disappointed me. I say this as someone who equally values the blindness present at Royal St. George’s.

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Don’t Buy The Hype: An Argument Against Allegations of “Subtlety” at Pete Dye’s The Golf Club

Reviews for The Golf Club often include one word more than any other: “subtle.” It’s a term long distasteful to me…as a former music writer, editor, and general writing prick. “Subtle” comes across as a crutch, communicating a realization that one enjoyed what they had just listened to or seen…but were not sure why.

If this pleasure was difficult to define, it must be “subtle.”

The Golf Club was not subtle. In many ways, it is Pete Dye’s least subtle design. It encapsulates the essence of Facebook’s founding mantra, packaged into a golf course architect: Move fast and break things.

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Alex “Nipper” Campbell and Potential, Unacknowledged Architectural Brilliance at 3 Major Hosts beyond Moraine

Nothing is more annoying than a humble brag posturing as a blog post. You’ve played a Top 100 golf course, and you’re sharing it with us by profiling said course! Thank you! The good news for you, my humble readers, is that I have not played a Top 100 course to crow down to you about. Nope.

But yeah, I totally landed a tee time at Moraine Country Club for next month and I’m pretty happy about it.

But in the name of journalistic integrity, as well as my own genuine curiosity, I sought out more information on Alex “Nipper” Campbell, the Scottish pro who designed Moraine. Namely: “What else did he do?”

The one-hit wonders of golf course architecture hold an appeal in their “what if.” What if George Crump had spread his apparent talents wider, rather than just dying over Pine Valley? Why couldn’t Henry Fownes have just done one more, away from Oakmont?

Moraine may be one tier below these courses, but not by far. The “mystery” of Crump and Fownes is relatively easy to put a lid on: “Sure, they could have created other world-class courses, but they didn’t.” Campbell and Moraine is more mysterious, because the golfer designed several other courses, none of which compare to his peak. “One-hit wonders” happen frequently in the music business, where one great album simply doesn’t translate into the future. We’re biased…but it seems that golf course architecture shouldn’t work that way.

Shouldn’t brilliance that resulted in a monument like Moraine have shown its face at other locations?

Campbell’s other offerings around the Dayton area certainly display some quirk, and no doubt the years have removed features that may better display Campbell’s skill.

Don’t worry: This isn’t a post attempting to claim Alex Campbell did not design Moraine Country Club. Rather, it’s an attempt to claim that Campbell’s hands were involved in the creation of several other courses…clubs more noteworthy than the majority of his remaining discography.

So here are several other courses where Campbell may have had a hand, and where he hasn’t received his due for it. From most likely to least likely:

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The Key to Restoring Augusta National: Make The Masters Match Play (5 Showcase Holes)

You already know this blog post is covering the most over-covered golf course in history, so bear with me while I touch upon ideals that have been cemented across similar forums for years: Strategic golf is good. Courses that give golfers multiple routes to reach either the same or varying conclusions (depending on execution) are good. 

These principles are often over-simplified as “risk/reward.” But risks and rewards only tell half the story. We often forget that the alternative is “low risk/acceptable outcome.” 

All too often we glorify the big risk taker and executor, while ignoring the conservative player who succeeds in a less sexy manner. This is ironic; Old Tom Morris, perhaps the very base of what we call “strategic golf,” was notoriously conservative. He lay in wait during matches, making decisions based upon the errors of his rivals. Considering he had largely designed the course where most of these matches took place, he forecasted when his opponent would be in trouble and took the safest route afforded to him (by their play). He often won passively, which is a win all the same. 

The aforementioned course, of course, was the Old at St. Andrews, which was also the prime inspiration for Augusta National. 

Jumping topics, I recently saw a tweet from Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg fame, praising the WGC Matchplay event at Austin Country Club. “Match play is the best format of golf,” he wrote. “There is so much more raw emotion shown by players and it’s easier for the casual fan to understand and follow. More match play please.” 

Many have called for a match play-based major, which would up the ante for both “raw emotion” and “easier for the casual fan to understand.” The most popular candidate is the PGA Championship, only because it’s the skinny kid brother to the U.S. Open and by far the less popular of the two. The logic against such a decision is that the PGA is also the least-likely to host at matchplay-friendly courses. The last three occurred at Bellerieve, TPC Harding Park and a Bethpage Black that’s gotten way too skinny for meaningful match play.

But what if there was a consistent host built upon such principles…a course designed to mimic Old Tom’s stomping grounds? 

You see where I’m going here. 

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Pete Dye’s Redans and the 2021 Major* Circuit (Whistling Straits, Kiawah Ocean Course and…yes, TPC Sawgrass)

As a blogger, I frequently find myself behind-the-times…intrigued by themes exposed in that weekend’s PGA play…which means they’re behind-the-times even if I hit “publish” on Monday. I found myself in a similar situation this weekend, while considering one hole at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course. 

The good news (a first for me!): The theme this hole inspired remains relevant as 2021 is a strange year that, thanks to last year’s COVID cancellation, will feature three major golf tournaments hosted at Pete Dye designs (note lowercase “major,” Players haters). 

Pete Dye’s not the first name that comes to mind when you think “templates,” but he’s got them. The most prominent (and worst) was on full display this weekend, as Sawgrass’s famous island par three turned Thursday into an Italian horror film for many pros. Dye’s second most-popular template, which can be found across almost every one of his designs, is the Double Dogleg par five, a concept he took from A.W. Tillinghast and now truly owns. Even Tillinghast (Dylan) would have to admit Dye’s (Hendrix) version was better. 

Dye liberally used another concept that was popularized by another architect, and this one is far less recognizable to the average GCA enthusiast…intentionally so. Dye certainly liked to play the “wild card” persona, which meant going out of his way to make it appear he wasn’t just copping a look from the MacRaynor factory when working with perhaps the most revered template of them all.

Here’s how Pete Dye took radical approaches to the Redan, and where you’ll see them during the 2021 championship season (plus a few bonus versions). 

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