David McLay Kidd was an unknown when his Bandon Dunes opened to rave reviews in 1998. His cliff-top layout overlooking the Pacific Ocean formed the foundation for the eponymous resort that now has three (and soon to be four) courses and has transformed a small town in southern Oregon into a golf mecca.
Ten years later, few golf course architects are flying higher than Kidd. In the past year, he has opened three high-profile courses: TPC San Francisco at Stonebrae, the Castle Course at St. Andrews, Tetherow in the high desert of Oregon, and is scheduled to christen another, Machrihanish Dunes in western Scotland, in the spring.
The preview pictures of Machrihanish Dunes look spectacular, but it's going to have to be some layout to outshine Tetherow, which is, in many ways, better than the considerably high bar Kidd set for himself at Bandon Dunes.
While Tetherow may not benefit from a dramatic waterfront setting the way Bandon and Machrihanish do, it does have 18 strong, visually stimulating holes with undulating greens that demand both well-executed approaches and expertise with the putter.
Located in the central Oregon town of Bend, Tetherow sits on a site that had been victimized by a forest fire years ago that had spared randomly individual trees. Kidd routed the 7,298-yard layout so these trees would be either in the fairway or encroach play on six holes.
And on holes without trees, Kidd placed mounds of various size tufted with native grass in the fairways, as well as well-sculpted fairway bunkers. Put it all together, and the overall effect as you stand on the tee can be one of visual overload.
On every hole, the first reaction is: 'What is going on here?' And it can take a while before you figure it out. The effect can be intimidating, but as you progress through the round, you realize that these 'hazards' are mostly visual, and rarely affect play adversely as originally feared.
For example, the 400-yard 1st hole features a downhill tee shot to a fairway with bunkers, mounds and a tree on the right side of the fairway. My tee shot seemed to head into a mound that had a tree directly behind it. I assumed the worst, figuring that my ball would be in the long grass or at best, on the far side of the mound, with the tree blocking my approach.
As it turned out, my shot had scooted past both, leaving a simple wedge to the elevated green. So it was throughout the round, and I eventually learned to aim at the mounds or trees, which were strategically placed along ideal lines. It was a reversal of conventional thinking, one that Kidd almost seemed to encourage. Never once did I find myself in trouble.
Where I did have difficulties were on the greens, which had numerous slopes, ledges, backstops and fall-offs. They were perhaps a bit too severe, and the trick will be to maintain reasonable speeds, which they seemed to be when I played, just a few weeks after the course opened.
Overall, Kidd offers a diverse array of interesting holes, ranging from the 182-yard 17th, which sits in a former pumice quarry and has a tiny 2,000-square-foot green; to the back-to-back 4th and 5th, long par 4s that sit on an open expanse and resemble desert holes; to the 424-yard 6th, which has a split fairway and offers the most visual fireworks of any hole; to the 466-yard 11th, which begins a stretch of holes that are in the woods; to the 476-yard 16th, which features Tetherow's most heroic hazard, a large fairway bunker in the middle of the fairway that begs to be carried by long hitter to leave a wedge to the green.
Those are plenty of highlights for any course. But at Tetherow, even the holes not mentioned offer little respite from the exhilarating experience.
by Hunki Yun, LINKS Magazine