For the Love of the Game:
Vision, Construction and Design of Three Oregon Golf Resorts
By Lisa Baker

An appetite for the best
Vision: Remington Ranch

In 2005, it didn’t seem so much like leaping off a tall building.

But now, the once-racing economy is shuffling along with the aid of a government-issued walker, and the sound of crickets is ringing louder than cash registers.

Let’s put it this way: If yours was the one of the homes-plus-golf plans designed for the Central Oregon desert, you wouldn’t be blamed if you fancied the feel of the wind whistling past your ears.

But Chris Pippin doesn’t even feel a mild breeze, unless you count the brisk shot of clarity available at the 7th hole of his oddly named Wicked Pony, an 18-hole adventure laid out at the feet of the Three Sisters.

It’s because this vision is not just “homes plus golf.” It’s a concept that banks on the notion that there is nothing better, clearer or more perfect than this place, with its juniper perfume, more- days-than-not of impossibly blue sky, and more ways than are countable to be part of it and play in it.

Remington Ranch, of which Wicked Pony is a part, is Winchester Development’s test of a vision that puts Central Oregon, and specifically the formerly sleepy Crook County, more known for cowboys and Les Schwab, at the center of a playpen it believes will rival Aspen.

Locating a facility like this one — 2,000 acres comprising 800 homes and 54 holes of golf arranged in a trio of courses — might seem more fitting in Bend, whose resort credentials are well-earned. But Project Manager Pippin and his team are sold on Crook County’s ragged beauty and county leaders’ appreciation for, well, visions.

“This is an emerging market. We’re just starting to see the beginnings of the boom, the influx of retirees and vacationers,” Pippin says. “It will be comparable to other great destinations.”

Why? “It has everything,” Pippin says. “More even than many of those places have to offer. For one, it’s a four-season community. There is something to do in every season, and it’s not just skiing and golf, but biking and hiking.”

Can you golf in the snow? Pippin says the elevation at the Crook County location, just 3,000 feet, is such that snow isn’t the issue it is at Sunriver or Bend, which are both significantly higher. “You can golf 300 days a year here.” It’s such a no-brainer that several other golf/housing visions are taking shape in the region, a fact that doesn’t faze Pippin, who says his plan goes after a niche not yet saturated by other offerings. “There are plenty of average courses. Ours is a different market: There will always be an appetite for the best.”

Wicked Pony, designed by golf architect Tom Doak and the first of the three courses at Remington Ranch, is expected to open this summer.

Building green, the right thing to do
Construction: Brasada Ranch

A riddle: When is green not green?

Answer: When it’s brown.

And brown is not — ordinarily speaking — the color of a golf course, unless the course is attempting to be green.

Clear?

Of course, we’re talking about “green” in the sense of environmentally sound, and there’s nothing hipper. If you’re a golf resort, however, greenness — we mean the color now — is expected.

But attaining that particular loveliness means participating in some ungreen habits.

Despite their tear-inducing beauty, golf courses, environmentalists say, are some of the least “green” places on earth. Thousands of cubic yards of earth are moved to elevate greens and tee boxes, or to carve out a valley or sand trap, disturbing habitats and natural drainage patterns. Trees are uprooted to make room for fairways while others are planted in more strategic places. Weeds and insects are kept in check through the wonders of chemistry; expanses of lawns keep their velvet look through copious waterings.

But in Central Oregon, the newest resorts are setting a new pattern and changing the definition of “lovely.”

Among them is Jeld-Wen Communities’ Brasada Ranch, 16 miles outside of Bend, an 1,800-acre golf/housing resort that features many more acres of dusty desert scrub and rugged brown outback than manicured grasses. Half the land is set aside as open space — property that remains untouched rather than retouched with the usual prissy cosmetics. Peter Jacobsen, who designed Brasada, said the plan was to retain the desert character and work with the jagged topography rather than attempting to tame it, calling the effort “a tremendous opportunity for invention.” Fairways were fitted to the contours of natural canyons; other holes “play across the tops and along the edges,” he says. An old trestle was retained to serve as a conduit for carts to return to the clubhouse. Native plants, where disturbed, were replanted. “We replanted a lot of the course in native species, which requires no irrigation,” said Jerry Andres, CEO of Jeld-Wen Development Inc. “And, grasses and weeds growing in the area are a natural part of the environment. We have a little more than ‘some’ sagebrush and a lot of natural ravines. It came out great.”

The company also dealt with the water issue, using satellite technology and humidity sensors to control water use on the course and ensuring that every drop of runoff doesn’t, well, run off. “We don’t allow runoff. We retain everything for use on the campus. And we’re still growing grass much more efficiently than they used to grow alfalfa,” Andres says.

The “green” construction practices don’t end at the 18th hole. Houses planned for the development are slated to be energy efficient, with overhangs and window designs that cut down on the use of heating and air conditioning.

But the most striking endeavor is Brasada’s clubhouse, built from recycled building materials and including a climate control system that uses recirculated water from golf course lakes. “Water is a more constant temperature than outside air,” Andres said. “And while the system costs more money short term, it is an excellent long-term investment in terms of operating costs. We will recapture the investment.”

In the meantime, the resort has captured several coveted environmental awards for its efforts and has garnered difficult-to-achieve green-construction credentials.

What does all this mean to the average golfer? Do they care that their course is sustainably built?

“I do think golfers care,” Andres says. “We live in an environment today where the population in general cares. And so, people don’t complain about not having real expansive areas of grass and they don’t complain about hitting across dry arroyos.” In the end, whether the investment is recaptured or whether golfers prefer greener greens is of less importance than this, Andres says: “It’s the right thing to do.”

Intimate with the Land
Design: Tetherow

David McLay Kidd thinks of himself as an explorer.

And as he goes about his job as a premiere golf course designer, it seems he is one, striking out each day, pack on the back, walking the hundreds of acres of wildland that will one day be a championship golf course.

Oh, he could fly over — landowners often want to ’copter him over the proposed grounds and give him the lay of the land in style. “But there’s no shortcut to putting your boots on and walking and walking and walking the land, and building a mental picture of it,” Kidd says. And so it was with the creation of Tetherow, a 700-acre 18-hole resort course in Bend that seeks to match or surpass the accolades heaped on Kidd’s previous Oregon creation, the Bandon Dunes golf course, ranked as one of the best in the U.S.

Walking came first. “It’s like when you were a kid growing up,” Kidd says. “By your teenage years, you would know every detail of the landscaping around you, every tree, every stream, every bush. You could run through that landscape in your head at night and know it intimately. I have to be intimate with the landscape.”

At Tetherow, it meant walking the desert “for days and days over a couple of summers, walking all the trails so I would know the landscape as well as the mountain bikers and hikers who traipse all over the place out there.”

The resulting course, he says, while somewhat similar to courses in his native Scotland, “is very different from the perfect country club model America has been used to for the last 30 years. It is the antithesis of Augusta National, which is perfectly green and perfectly manicured.”

Instead, Kidd and his design team drew inspiration from the high desert scrub and harsh terrain made all the more austere by the passing of a forest fire 15 years ago, leaving what Kidd called “a non-existent treescape — just a few sparse corpses.”

The Tetherow design preserves and even celebrates the scars and oddities, featuring tufts of bunch grasses and knobby areas in the middle of fairways. “The plant material — manzanita and clump fescues — are perfectly suited for golf, low enough that you can still find your ball and you can see over it,” Kidd says. “And it wants to grow — it doesn’t require fertilizer and water. It was easy to build it into the design and create something very sustainable.”

In the end, Kidd says, “golf is an excuse to explore the landscape. If I rape it and turn it bright green, that’s not exploring the landscape. It’s about the ultimate purity of golf.”

It’s a concept he launched in Oregon with the creation of Bandon Dunes, a design naysayers believed would be more of a novelty than a commercial success. “People back in late 90s said America wouldn’t embrace that … but America loved it,” Kidd says.

Balancing challenge with playability is another line Kidd treads carefully. “Building challenge isn’t the difficult part — golf is a difficult game for the vast majority of people. Tetherow does not have flat fairways and greens. In most places, you’re standing at an uneven stance and you’ll need a fair degree of luck — call it the rub of the green. We want to create something that looks extremely challenging and intimidating but is playable for as many people as possible.”

While the course at Tetherow is challenging, Kidd believes it’s the good kind of challenge. “We don’t want this to be the kind of course where you need to get a dozen balls with your green fee,” he says. “People take it so seriously — like golf design is a religion — but it’s not. We don’t want people to get beat up because if they do, they’ll say, ‘We played it once, and we’ll never play it again.’ We want it to be thrilling and essentially fun so that people come back again and again.”

Tetherow also will feature a spa, restaurant, recreation center, conference center, and 589 home sites. It’s slated to open this summer.


BrainstormNW - May 2008



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