A Good Gamble

On that first visit to Brewster in ’08, Kidd met with the owners, the Gebbers Family, who have been growing apples at the base of the Cascade Mountains for over a century and, with more than 5,000 acres of fruit trees, are one of the largest apple-growers in the nation. (The “Gamble” part of the course’s name comes from Dan Gamble, who backpacked from Nova Scotia for the Methow Valley gold rush in 1885, and his daughter Martha, who married local farmer John Gebbers in 1927.)

The family was represented by Cass Gebbers and his brother-in-law Tory Wulf, who had been looking to enter the golf business since the late 1990s. In fact, he had actually begun building another course nearer town.

“Perry Dye designed that one, which we called the Cliffs,” says Wulf. “That was a totally different kind of site, though, and required a lot of earth-moving. We had a few holes seeded but because it was costing so much more to build and because of the trends we were seeing in the design business, we chose to halt construction there and focus more on the Sands site. It is our intention to complete the Cliffs Course one day, at which point we will have two designs at either end of the style spectrum.”

For the design of the Sands Course, Wulf had considered two firms – Kidd’s, and Coore & Crenshaw, the partnership headed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw which had built half a dozen of America’s top-100 courses, and who basically came with a guarantee of success.

“I know Tory and Cass were also talking with Ben and Bill, so I had the very best of my peers also keen to work on the project,” says Kidd. “I think that my office being in Oregon, theirs in Austin, Texas, might have helped us out.”

Wulf confirms it.

“We looked at who we believed to be the two top designers for this style of course and what we wanted to accomplish,” he says. “We really hit it off with David and his team, and his presence in the Northwest and his regional success at Bandon made the choice a bit easier.”  

Wulf, an occasional player who understood the business of golf more than the average layman, was familiar with the success of Bandon Dunes, site of Kidd’s first design in America – another factor that influenced his choice.

“I spent many hours researching successful golf ventures and the name of Bandon Dunes kept popping up,” says Wulf. “[David] was really a perfect fit for this project for many reasons. His passion for his product, as well as a knack for marketing that same passion, was a strong selling point.”

After his appointment, Kidd was itching to get to work. He told anyone who was listening that the Gamble Sands site was a lot like Sand Hills, the Nebraska course Coore and Crenshaw had built in the mid-‘90s, which most architecture buffs regard as the best course built anywhere in the world in the last 50 years.

“It definitely reminded me of Sand Hills,” says Kidd. “There was soft, rolling sand with sparse scrub vegetation. Really, the only difference was that at Gamble Sands, the site was framed by the most amazing of views of the Columbia River and North Cascades.”

Kidd would later tell Golf Digest that Gamble Sands was one of three perfect sites he had been given during his career, the others being Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Scotland’s Machrihanish Dunes.

“There’s no real estate,” he added, “no big clubhouse. It’s pure golf. And working with sand dunes is butter.”

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