Incredible ace with a putter at Sheep Ranch: Golfer talks about how she pulled it off

August 16, 2020
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The 16th hole at Bandon Dunes' Sheep Ranch plays 100 yards from the forward tees and there is a narrow strip on which the ball can be putted to the green. (Photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes Resort)

BANDON, Ore. — Sheep Ranch, the once-mystical hidden layout that is now a full-fledged course, opened in June to rave reviews that already put it potentially at the top of the Bandon Dunes Resort rotation. But you can’t be legendary without some golfing lore, and SR has its first such story—achieved by a mother of two who plays about six holes a week for giggles with her girlfriends.

Allison Koehnke, a 36-year-old from Salem, Ore., made the first hole-in-one of her life on Friday on the stunning, cliffside par-3 16th hole on Sheep Ranch. It was her first full round of golf she played this year. But it gets better …

She did so from 102 yards with her PUTTER, swinging it as if she was punching a wedge. And still it gets better …

As her ball made its way onto the green, it caromed off the golf ball of the husband of the couple with whom they were traveling and playing. Somehow, from there, it had the right trajectory to find the bottom of the cup. And finally, the topper …

Allison’s husband, Drew, got it all on video with his phone, preserving the feat for them and the social media world to enjoy forever.

“This is beyond unreal,” Koehnke, laughing, said in an interview with Golf Digest on Saturday evening after her group completed the usual path golfers take on a Bandon pilgrimage—a 72-hole romp over two days. “I never thought this would happen to me. I never thought I could hope for a hole-in-one.”

The news of the ace got out when the guys from the website No Laying Up posted the video first. They were playing at Sheep Ranch on Friday, and the Koehnkes shared the story and video while buying the gang drinks. After the social posts, Golf Digest went searching for the Koehnkes and, with crack sleuthing from the staff at Sheep Ranch, we found them at Pacific Dunes, with the same caddies they’d used the day before.

The anatomy of a putting ace goes like this: Allison Koehnke told her caddie for the day, Graham Banks, that she could be twitchy with short irons, and that her solution was keeping the ball on the ground with her putter. She relished chances to bomb 100-yard putts.

That stewed in Banks’ head until they reached the 16th. Allison’s moment. With the fescue grass cut tightly, the narrow runway to the hole runs smoothy, but there are bumps and undulations that pinball a shot in various directions. “Like playing a video game,” Banks lined Allison up. He coached her on getting the perfect height on her tee. She took a few practice swings, dialing in what they’d dubbed the “chutt”—chip-putt. Then came the real swipe, the putter rising about waist high and sending the ball in flight about a few inches off the ground.

On the video, the group intently watches the ball’s journey, and in the moment it drops, Allison falls to her knees and throws her hands up, as if she just scored the winning goal in a World Cup final. A second video at the green captures her celebratory walk to retrieve the ball from the cup.

Of the bizarre nature of her ball kicking off another ball to go in, Koehnke quipped, “It was scrappy. I’m a scrappy player.”

She credited Graham, the caddie, with encouraging her to try the putt in the first place. “It was a team effort," Koehnke said.

The news traveled to the Sheep Ranch clubhouse and Koehnke was awarded with a plaque. It was the sixth ace reported at Sheep Ranch since it opened on June 1, according to assistant pro Eric Urbina, and all six he said were maiden holes-in-one. No others were with a putter.

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Allison Koehnke poses with Sheep Ranch caddie Graham Banks in celebrating the "teamwork" of their hole-in-one with a putter. (Photo couresy of Allison Koehnke)

Lauding Koehnke’s effort, Urbina said, “It’s incredible. But I told some people that it didn’t surprise me. What do you do with all the wind we have out here? You putt it.”

In the glow of aftermath, Koehnke mused that there might be mojo at work. She says her 99-year-old nana, Trudy Felder, was an avid golfer who has made five aces in her life. Nana has made it clear that she’d be very happy to have those holes-in-one included in her obituary. “I guess this will have to be in mine now,” Koehnke said.

The experience has already fed Koehnke’s interest in the game.

“We’ve already talked about it. Before we get home we have to pick another place to go play,” Koehnke said. “It can be anywhere. When I get home, I’m going to want to play more than six holes a week.”