Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with golf course architect Tom Doak about his latest project at Bandon Dunes, an 18-hole putting course at Pacific Dunes called Punchbowl. Situated next to the first tee at Pacific Dunes, behind the newly renovated patio at Pacific Grill, Punchbowl travels north and south in a crescent, hugging the base of a hill and fans out to the west. From the patio there is a clear view not just of the putting course, but of the Pacific Ocean.The grand opening for Punchbowl is May 2014.
Did you have any direction from Mike Keiser (owner and founder of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort) about what he wanted for the putting course?
He just said, “Make it really fun for people.”
Aside from Mr. Keiser’s direction, what was your vision for the putting course?
Our goal was to build a stand-alone facility that would be just as fun to play as any of the big courses, but on a smaller time scale.
Starting from the redesigned patio at Pacific Grill, walk us through the layout.
There are several different sectors of the green — a big plateau at the top (north) end with several moguls in it, a shelf along the west side, and a deep bowl on the south end at the bottom of Punchbowl. From top to bottom I think there is 15-20 feet of elevation change.In anticipation of heavy play, we had to design the green to be played in different configurations each day to spread out the wear, the same way you have to move the flag on a regular green. So, one day the first hole might be played up toward the practice green for Pacific Dunes, to the far right, and the next day you might have a 100-foot downhill roller-coaster putt toward the bowl in the bottom. I’m hoping we can convince David Kidd and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (architects of Bandon Trails) to draw up their own 18-hole routings for it.
What is your favorite design element of Punchbowl?
There is a pretty large tree growing on a dune down in the lower section of the green, with the putting surface going all the way around it. It will be a bit of a nuisance for the maintenance guys, but we really wanted to leave the tree.
Do you see the putting course being used for practice, or for fun — like a round of golf?
It’s meant to be as much fun as a round of golf and probably not great for practice because it might undermine your confidence. On the average day you’ll face several situations where it’s difficult to get down in two putts.You will find every kind of putt you can imagine out there, and probably a few you’ve never dreamed of. Don’t be surprised if there is a dogleg or two, where you want to play a bank shot around the corner.It will be great for playing matches at the end of the day, but also just fun to get out on by oneself and watch the ball take some crazy breaks off the big slopes.
Are design features of Punchbowl similar to other greens around the world, for instance the Himalayas at St. Andrews? If so, have you taken those features to another level?
I suppose you could find them if you were looking for them, but generally Punchbowl is more severe than any single green on any course. We did mimic some features of the Himalayas green at St. Andrews, particularly a couple of little “volcano” features where there is room for a hole location in a little hollow on top of a smallish dune.
I used to putt around the Himalayas a lot when I lived in St. Andrews for two months right after college, and it is certainly the inspiration for Punchbowl.
Punchbowl is similar in size to the putting course at St. Andrews, so you are likely to face a lot of fairly long putts in playing 18 holes. The main difference is that the Himalayas is pretty level from one end to the other, with a lot of internal dunes, whereas Punchbowl takes up 20 feet of elevation change from end to end.
I don’t know that I would say we’ve taken it to a new level — the original is really wild, and nobody has ever built a green in the U.S. that was anywhere near as wild as that. Before now, anyway.
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