Next on the Tee for Coore and Crenshaw - Sand Valley
By: Tom Cunneff
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw opened their first courses in 1991, at Barton Creek in Austin, Texas, and then at Kapalua on Maui, site of this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions. In a clear case of quality over quantity, the design duo has gone on to create 24 other original layouts, including the consensus No. 1 course of the modern era, Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska, as well as about a dozen renovations, most notably Pinehurst No. 2.
But with the official opening of Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia this summer, they might have outdone themselves—again. “It was a special opportunity for us, and Lord knows, we’ve had more than our fair share of special opportunities,” says Coore from his home in Scottsdale. “Cabot is an extraordinary site. It’s got tremendous individual character, from the cliff sides to the dune area to the inland forest. We’re very grateful to Ben Cowan-Dewar, the managing partner there who had found the land, and of course, [Bandon Dunes owner and Cowan-Dewar’s partner] Mike Keiser. I talked to Mike earlier this week and I said, ‘We’re just going to follow you around wherever you go.’”
Keiser is the patron saint of golf course architects, providing unmatched situations for them. Although Coore and Crenshaw currently have 13 holes finished on their fifth course for Keiser, Sand Valley in northern Wisconsin, the potential site for their sixth course together three miles north of Royal Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands may be the best yet. It’s also the first time the duo will have the opportunity to work in the birthplace of the game. It’s a beautiful piece of dune property along the sea near the little village of Enbo that already has the perfect course name, Coul Links.
“Cool” is exactly what Coore thought went he spent a week there in September. “It’s got great potential,” he says. “It’s right on the water and it has an upper plateau like Royal Dornoch, then it falls down to all the dunes between the plateau and the ocean. It would be extremely exciting for us, having never worked in that part of the world. Everybody’s on board, the owner, the town, Royal Dornoch. But we won’t know much more till the middle of next summer.”
Their next course to fully open will be Trinity Forest in Dallas next fall. It’s the first course they’ve done on a landfill, although it’s full of construction debris so there’s no grass-killing methane to worry about like there would be with an organic landfill. Despite the name, there are no trees on site. It comes from the fact that it’s located near the eponymous urban woods on the city’s south side.
“The land had settled out in such an unusual fashion that it has thousands of really interesting contours,” says Coore. “It will encourage a lot of imagination and play along the ground because it’s going to play fast.”
The next project for Coore and Crenshaw is Buffalo Ridge at Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Mo., which they’ll start work on this month. The course will sit on high ridges and will feature some terrific valley views off to the side, yet it will be very easy to walk and not overly severe like you’d expect. Says Coore: “I remember when we first went up there and I said to Ben, ‘It’s going to be hard not to build 18 cape-type holes,’ because they just present themselves so often in such spectacular fashion.”
They’ll also finish up Sand Valley starting in April with preview play on 13 holes this summer. “What I like about the site is it’s got completely different contours than what we work with generally,” says Coore. “It’s not really so much dunes as it is big sand ridges and valleys. It’s very aptly named. They created large situations for some really interesting golf holes. You look out over these long vistas and big rolling hills. It kind of feels like Shinnecock.”