A Good Gamble


Though juggling a few other jobs at the time – Huntsman Springs in Idaho, Machrihanish Dunes, Laucala Island in Fiji – Kidd and associate Casey Krahenbuhl managed to clear some ground and mark a few bunkers before the brunt of the recession kicked in, causing the Gebbers family to put a hold on the project.

“We never stopped dreaming about what the course could be,” says Kidd. “It gave us time to revise the layout a little. I mulled over the style and design details constantly from 2008 through 2012, when we started construction.”

Kidd knew he had gone over the top at both Tetherow and the Castle Course in St. Andrews, which both opened in 2008. Though dramatic and visually stimulating, both were criticized for being too demanding and would require some softening.

“I wanted to get back to the playability and fun of Bandon Dunes,” says Kidd. “Because Gamble Sands is quite remote (three hours east of Seattle, two and a half hours west of Spokane) and open to the public, it has to offer a compelling, adventurous, fun round of golf to keep golfers coming back again and again, like Bandon.”

Kidd returned to the Oregon coast many times to visit the course that launched his career and won so many accolades.

“I wanted to re-examine the layout and reflect on what made it so popular,” he says. “I wanted to pick from its strongest character traits — adventure, strategy, playability, and fun.”

Kidd says that had he been able to build Gamble Sands in 2008, it may well have turned out quite differently.

“We started out at about the same time Tetherow and the Castle Course opened, which was during my days of building over-elaborate greens,” he says. “I didn’t want that at Gamble Sands. So, it’s hard to say, but I think if we had built it in 2008, it would have been more challenging and perhaps less fun for the average golfer.”

On June 1, 2012, Kidd, Krahenbuhl, and half a dozen of Kidd’s associates (along with half a dozen farmhands provided by the Gebbers family) picked up where they had left off and worked for three months before the weather turned. They returned on April 1 of this year and completed the course in early August, making construction time a total of seven months — the same as Bandon Dunes.

“We moved very little earth,” Kidd adds. “We did open up a couple of ridges and helped create a few big sand blow-outs, but by modern standards there was zero significant earthworks. They move a lot more to build an orchard.”

Water rights did prove elusive for a while, and the Gebbers were forced to buy some to make the project a reality, but Kidd describes this as “no big deal.”

“Other than that, there really were no stumbling blocks,” he says. “It could not have gone smoother.”

Wulf and Gebbers hope their new golf course will allow the valley in which they live and work to flourish.
“The area is dominated by agriculture,” says Wulf. “Bringing top-notch golf to the area will further tourism possibilities and hopefully trigger economic diversity.   We live here and always will, so we all want to grow the scope of our economic possibilities.”

This summer, after a few more months growing in and after the small but functional clubhouse (modeled on a Bend, Ore., brewery) is finished, Gamble Sands will be ready to welcome guests, some of whom might notice how David McLay Kidd’s design philosophy has evolved, but all of whom will recognize that Gamble Sands is a wonderful place to play golf.

“I am thrilled with the result,” says Kidd. “It is everything I hoped it would be. I wanted players of every ability to feel confident on every tee, not intimidated. I think it allows you to feel aggressive and, without the fear of total disaster, people will swing more freely, play better, and have a lot more fun. It’s a riot.”

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