The Loop

Gamble Ranch: "...The Next Sand Hills."

February 25, 2011

"The U.S. is quiet," Kidd says, "but I've got a project in central Washington that might be the next Sand Hills."

Gamble Ranch will be built on 1,000 acres of sand dunes near Brewster, overlooking the Columbia River. Kidd was working on the property a few years ago, marking bunkers and starting to clear land, when the owners, a local farming family, shut the project down because of the collapse in the economy. "They're hoping to pull the trigger when the snow clears," Kidd says. "There are ribbons all over that place. I'd  spent a month marking out the course, and then it just stopped. There's no real estate, no big clubhouse and amazing views. It's pure golf. And working with sand dunes is butter."

Brewster is three hours from Seattle, two and a half hours from Spokane and an hour from a regional airport in Wenatchee.

Kidd also caught me up on a variety of other projects.

On the Castle Course on the outskirts of St. Andrews: It's reopening March 1. You'll have to use fairway mats until April. Kidd had been back over the winter to soften greens (Nos. 4 and 17). "My mistake, if I made one, the penalty for just missing greens was overly severe," he says. "We set out to create a course that generated a reaction. We hoped that most would love it, and we understood that some would hate it. We've achieved our objective in spades."


"They're still making changes to the Old Course 600 years later," he says. "I guarantee I could build a course that I'd never have to come back and make changes to: The fairways would look like driving ranges, and it would have 18 flat greens."

On Tetherow in central Oregon: "Exactly the same thing as the Castle Course," he says. "I've been back to make some small tweaks, softened some greens and improved playability." Kidd has worked on Nos. 2, 3, 7 and 9.

On working in China: "Every man and his dog is in China. I'm trying to stay out of there. Sometimes I'm thinking they're all talking to the same guy. I get some funny answers to the question, Have you been paid yet?' "

On Comporta Links in Portugal: "We've been working there for two and a half years. We're ready to break ground this summer. We're as close to the beach as legally possible."


On Guacalito De La Isla in Nicaragua: "We started there a few months ago. That'll be another course on the beach, just north of the Costa Rican border." Click here for more.

On the decrease in U.S.-based business of building courses: "I'm lucky enough not to have to chase every ugly frog and try to kiss 'em into a prince. I'd like to think guys like me and Coore and Doak will always be in demand in some spot on planet earth. If I have one, two or say three courses yielding fees, I'm good."

Kidd says course design is back to a time of quality and not quantity. "A lot was getting glossed over during the mad rush, and anyone who would tell you any differently would be lying. Ten days ago I was in Nicaragua, I had a shovel in my hands, I was working with the shapers, loving a debate about tee complexes. I haven't done that in years. My standards are to be on site every four to six weeks. At my peak, in 2007, I had seven projects going, and being on site that often was impossible."

--Matty G.