Whitman, Axland & Cutten makes progress with Oregon newbuild

  • Tribute Club
    WAC Golf

    WAC Golf is working with a figure of eight routing to highlight the ‘bookends’ of the property at Tribute Club in Oregon

  • Tribute Club
    Ryan J Birmingham

    More than half the holes have been rough shaped at The Tribute Club at Thornburgh in Oregon

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Construction is under way on a new 18-hole golf course, designed by Whitman, Axland & Cutten (WAC), in central Oregon.

The Tribute Club at Thornburgh will sit at the base of the Cline Buttes mountains, with sweeping views of the Cascade Range and the Three Sisters peaks. Vegetation on the near-2,000-acre property, which is untouched by development, includes sagebrush and juniper trees that are over 1,000 years old.

Used as a family ranch for more than 70 years, there has been a shift in focus for the land over the past 15 years. In 2006, Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and Dave Axland visited the site to design a golf course, but the project stalled following the financial crisis.

Fifteen years on, the owners decided to revive their plans and contacted Coore, who recommended WAC for the project.

“It’s a site that seemed like it had all the things you’d hope for to build spectacular golf that would stand the test of time,” said Rod Whitman. “It spoke to us immediately.”

WAC is working with a figure of eight routing. “The most dramatic holes were found at the extents of the loops, giving purpose for a routing that works to highlight the ‘bookends’ of the property,” said Whitman. “A steep ridge dotted with rock outcroppings adds drama to the ‘hub’ crossing between holes ten to eleven, and sixteen to seventeen. The bookends and hub do well to contrast the f latter and wider middle sections of each loop. The result is a fun, dynamic, and varied walk.”

Following clearing of the site in summer and autumn 2021, the design team moved in during the winter and began shaping. More than half of the holes have now been rough-shaped and irrigation lakes are nearing completion. Landscapes Unlimited is assisting with construction and grow-in. Six to eight holes will be grassed by late summer.

“The mental exercise of considering the limitless types of shots required to access a green, either along the ground or through the air, is both exciting and rewarding,” said Axland.

“This is compounded when one then considers the putts and recovery shots played over the putting surface contours. Constructing these surfaces from the seat of a bulldozer, while envisioning the ways in which the ball will bounce, roll and change direction, is just as thrilling to me as playing those actual shots.”

“As a design team we derive great joy from this artistic effort and believe our passion lingers in the design of the golf course.”

“Good green complexes require thought, and that focus should begin on the tee. A green and its surrounds can have a major influence on a player’s overall tactical approach to a hole. The greens at Thornburgh are thoughtful and varied, so that different pin positions demand different strategies, day to day.”

Keith Cutten said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the talents of our experienced and talented team. Each golf hole should present a unique challenge, one inspired by nature and contour. “We are just happy to have another fantastic opportunity to build a great golf course that everybody will enjoy.”

Preview play is expected to be available in 2023.

This article first appeared in the April 2022 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.