Gamble Sands - A New Beginning for David McLay-Kidd PDF Print E-mail


By Jason Bruno

The day after the exciting U.S Open finish at Chambers Bay,

I left Tacoma and high tailed it 250 miles northeast to Brewster,

Washington to take a spin around David McLay Kidd's latest

design - Gamble Sands. I was invited a while back by DMK

design, and finally worked out the schedule with the staff to

make it up there on day 14 of our 15 day west coast trip (that

started at Bandon Dunes before U.S Open week and concluded

at Salish Cliffs in Shelton, Washington).




Before we get to describing DMK's layout at Gamble Sands, I would

be remiss if I didn't mention the spectacular vistas on the drive along

the Columbia River on our way to Brewster.




The understated ranch style clubhouse blends in perfectly with the

surroundings at Gamble Sands.

Gamble Sands which opened in 2014, is a form of course design

rebirth for Scottish architect David McLay Kidd. Early success in

1999 as Mike Keiser's leadoff hitter at Bandon Dunes, Kidd

suddenly found his services in high demand. Feeling the need

to live up to his new stature as a "Michelangelo" of course

design, DMK thought his work should produce tougher courses

worthy of the new found attention. The Castle Course at

St.Andrews and Tetherow in his adopted state of Oregon were

the result of his resistance to scoring mentality, and although

these designs brought awareness to his work, most of it wasn't

positive. As time went on, it became apparent to many in the

industry (including Keiser) that Kidd had lost his way. While

interesting, these designs were way too tough for the average

player. Searching for the magic that he once had, he returned

to Bandon quite often and began to realize the error of his ways

. . . a shift in design philosophy took place and the nucleus would

be about the overall experience - playability and fun.




The first hole at Gamble Sands is a slight dogleg left that plays

392 from the back tees, the green (pictured above) is tucked

left behind the native desert scrub.




The Gebber family, which is in the orchard and cattle ranch

business picked Kidd to design their course, and in turn Kidd

promised to deliver a "layout that would fall from the sky and

lay softly on the land." By the second hole (pictured below) I

gained a sense that Kidd was back on his game.

The drivable par 4 - second is one to behold, at only 262 yards

from the back tees (301 from the Championship "Medal" tees)

a draw over the cross bunker will have you rolling the rock for

a chance at a deuce. The fun starts early at Gamble Sands and

views aren't too shabby either.



With very few forced carries, generous fairways, no boundries

or water hazards in play, and large putting surfaces of modest

undulations, Kidd utilized the surroundings to create a golf

course that will have you experiencing all of the positive things

you love about the game. Drives carry forever with the hang

time of a Ray Guy punt against the backdrop of the clear blue

sky and Northern Cascade Mountains . . . and when they land

on the firm Fescue fairways, they run forever. Yep, I said Fescue.

A links surface in a very un-links like setting.




The par 3 - fourth plays 160 yards, notice how Kidd's design

allows a run up on the left for the high handicapper to cut a

fade onto the surface, the better player can work a shot into

the diagonal green or take dead aim.




The 497 yard par 4 -fifth is a brute that's well guarded by the

large blowout bunker on the right, the smaller bunker on the

left will catch run up shots that stray offline.





The Redan style sixth is the bully of the one shotters at Gamble

Sands tipping out at 265 yards from the Championship tees.

Anything out to the right shaped with a slight draw will funnel

it's way down the slope and onto the green. Being a big fan of

Seth Raynor and C.B Macdonald, this is by far my favorite par3

at GS.





The par 5 seventh plays only 473 yards from the back tee and

344 yards from the forward tee, and although the approach

plays uphill, the tee shot plays straight downhill. An aggressive

play over the cross bunker pays huge dividends. The view (photo

bove) shows the right to left slope in the green complex, precision

is required here at the seventh.





The 307 yard eighth is another great opportunity to put a red

number on the scorecard, and another view to soak in.





The 382 yard ninth is another good birdie hole, a tee shot left

center leaves the best angle to this slightly uphill left to right

green. If walking, take note - the ninth hole at GS does not

return to the clubhouse.





The view from behind the 9th green shows a tier that bisects

the upper and lower portions of this elongated putting surface.




The 12th hole is the third drivable par 4 hole at Gamble Sands.

Tipping out at 333 yards, DMK designed tees for everyone to

get home - the forward tee here is just 189 yards.





The 408 yard fourteenth challenges the long hitter to carry the

sand down the left and allows the mid/high handicap player to

take the safer route down the right.





The 467 yard par 4 fifteenth hole is the toughest par coming in,

note the tear away type bunker on the left that has become the

go to style of minimalist designers like Doak and Coore/Crenshaw.





A greenside view of the fifteenth. Missing your approach here is

no bargain to save par.





The home hole at Gamble Sands is a very reachable 500 yard

par 5. I reached from the left fairway bunker, narrowly missing

my 30' eagle putt. The Fescue greens were flawless, along

Old Mac (two weeks before), Gamble Sands had the finest

Fescue surfaces on our trip.


Although word is really just getting out about Gamble Sands,

it should be an absolute must play destination for the dedicated

golf traveler. After the round, I can happily report that DMK has

found the magic again. The joy I felt walking off the 18th was

the same that I felt after playing Bandon Dunes for the first time.

When you factor in the routing, the scenery, the playability and

the playing conditions - Gamble Sands is hands down the most

enjoyable new design (not the toughest) we've reviewed in more

than a few years.


During a time when golf participation is down and the governing

bodies are banning things like the anchored stroke, the game

needs a panacea to turn the tide and bring golfers back . . .

courses like Gamble Sands are a start in the right direction.

Special Thanks to DMK Design, OB Sports and the staff at Gamble Sands.


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