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Pacific Gales promises to be on par with Bandon

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If you're a fan of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, then here's something that might excite you: There's more world-class golf being planned for the southern coast of Oregon.

The new course is called Pacific Gales, which will be located on a portion of the privately-owned Knapp Ranch in Curry County, between Cape Blanco and the town of Port Orford, about 30 miles south of Bandon.  If everything goes as planned, course construction for Pacific Gales is expected to begin next summer with a possible grand opening by 2016.

Many of the holes will be directly on the ocean with the ninth and 18th sharing a common cliff-side green. The holes will run north and south with a huge natural sand dune running the length of the property. There's rocky cliffs reminiscent of Pebble Beach, and corridors through twisted, wind-whipped pines and gorse-filled ravines that might evoke images of Pine Valley. It promises to bring every element of classic seaside golf into play, augmented by views unmatched anywhere else on the West Coast.

"I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and you know a great site when you're on it," said Jim Haley, managing partner of Elk River Property Development, LLC. "This is a great site. You don’t get them very often."

The connections to Bandon Dunes, which now has five courses, are more than geographic. Haley was the lead shaper for architect David Lay McKidd on the original Bandon Dunes links course that opened in 1999. Troy Russell, manager for the Pacific Gales project, grew up locally and was the first superintendent at Bandon Dunes. And Chicago-based architect Dave Esler, who is designing Pacific Gales, was actually one of the original finalists for Bandon Dunes.

"It’s a great opportunity, and frankly one that most architects would only dream of coming across once in a lifetime," Esler said.

Esler said he wanted the routing to take advantage of the spectacular scenery, whether you were playing golf or simply walking the course.

"On the first green at Pacific Gales, you’ll be staring at the edge of two worlds, looking into infinity. It’s drop-dead spectacular," he said.  "The routing is intentionally choreographed, constructed as theater really. We set the hook early, move away from the edge, build the drama again with long views, intimate peeks and anticipation of what’s ahead - the spectacular finish. We’d be pretty fortunate to be able to do that with one of the nines, but after a good bit of work, we’ve found a routing that provides that drama on each of the nines."

Haley first saw the property back in the late 1990s when he was working at Bandon Dunes. Jeff Knapp, one of the owners of Knapp Ranch, had worked with Haley before and invited him over for a crab feed. That's when Haley first saw the 1,100-acre stretch of oceanfront property. Not long after, Haley and his business partner, Jay Kenyon, completed a lease agreement with the Knapp family to develop 330 acres along the ocean. They then brought on Russell as project manager.

"It’s more than just the oceanfront property. You’ve got these other unique attributes, the lighthouse, Cape Blanco, the Port Orford reef just offshore and a view of the Coast Range," Russell said said. "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."