Three more links courses coming to southern Oregon coastline?

Three more links courses coming to southern Oregon coastline?
By Adam Lawrence

The development of the coast of southern Oregon into one of the leading golf destinations in the United States is set to march forward with two more projects a step nearer construction.

A day before Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser won permission for the land swap that would allow him to proceed with the 36-hole ʻBandon Muniʼ project to the south of the town, a group led by former DMK Design shaper Jim Haley – whose connection with the area goes back to the construction of the original Bandon Dunes course – announced plans to build another course on a coastal site half an hour south.

Haley and his partner Jay Kenyon, completed a lease agreement with the owners of the Knapp Ranch, where the Pacific Gales site is located, near the town of Port Orford, back in 2010. Now, along with Chicago-based architect Dave Esler, he has gone public with his plans for a new links course on the site.

“I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and you know a great site when you’re on it,” said Haley, whose company Elk River Property Development will develop the course. “This is a great site. You don’t get them very often.” Haley has brought in another Bandon veteran, Troy Russell, as project manager. Russell said he saw the siteʼs potential immediately. “It’s more than just the ocean,” he said. “You have these other unique attributes, the lighthouse, Cape Blanco, the Port Orford reef just offshore and a view of the Coast Range. Plus, you’re looking down onto the Elk River, one of the most beautiful on the Wild Rivers Coast. It’s a cut above, a remarkable piece of property.”

Esler said: “We feel obligated to do something extraordinary because the site deserves it. That’s our goal – to put the best possible golf course we can on that site. It may even become the best one in the neighbourhood – it’s clearly something special. We want the routing to be a spectacular walk, with or without clubs. On the first green, you’ll be staring at the edge of two worlds, looking into infinity.” Several holes will sit directly on the ocean, including both the ninth and eighteenth, which will share a common cliffside green.

Haley and his team hope to be able to start construction in 2014 for a possible opening in 2016, but have many hoops to jump through as yet. No planning application has yet been filed, though it is slated to go to Curry County officials in the next few days, and sources close to the team indicated they expected a fairly straightforward approval process, due to the golf-only nature of the project – there will be no associated accommodation. In addition, fundraising is not yet complete – the Pacific Gales website states ʻinvestment opportunities are still availableʼ, though the source said significant funds were already committed, and the developers expected to raise the rest during 2014.

Elsewhere, Bandon Dunes developer Keiser has won the support of the state Parks Commission in his bid to acquire 280 acres of the Bandon State Natural Area in exchange for a US$2.5 million contribution to help the commission buy the 6,100 acre Grouse Mountain ranch in in Grant County, along with other sums designed to protect parts of the Oregon coastline.

Parks Commissioners voted unanimously in favour of the deal after Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber expressed his support in a letter. Assuming the final go-ahead is given, Keiser expects to proceed with the first of two eighteen hole golf courses that will offer special rates for local residents. Gil Hanse will design the first course; no architect has yet been confirmed for the second.

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