What To Think About Old Macdonald

Old Macdonald architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina used many old school principles in designing the links course that pays homage to iconic golf course architect Charles Blair Macdonald. (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)
By Stuart Hall
July 1, 2011
Bandon, Ore. – If a course’s success is based solely on the opinion of the players who pace its grounds, then Old Macdonald’s reputation is on solid footing.
As the 35th U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship settles in at Old Macdonald for the final three rounds, including Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final, most players are lauding the course’s spectacular beauty and beguiling options.

“I like it, I’m starting to like it a lot more,” said Brianna Do, 21, of Vietnam, whose quarterfinal match was her third competitive round at Old Macdonald.

Such words would bring a smile to the course’s namesake, Charles Blair Macdonald, who is considered the father of American golf course architecture and was a founder of the United States Golf Association. Old Macdonald architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina used many old school principles in designing the links course that pays homage to Macdonald.

Upon first glance, Old Macdonald appears to have lived on the Oregon coast for decades, but it actually celebrated its first birthday in June.

Part of Old Macdonald’s appeal is the unique variety of options that can be played. Wide, rolling and firm landing areas, along with mammoth mounded greens, are testing the players’ nerve and conviction.   

“In a more traditional course there is usually one shot you hit to a green,” said Stephanie Kono, 21, of Honolulu, Hawaii. “Here there are like three shots you can hit. Those things are different. The shot I would normally hit is not always the right one, so I have to step out of my comfort zone.”

Marissa Dodd, 17, of Allen, Texas, has dived with 11-foot sharks off the coast of Bora Bora before, so no doubt Old Macdonald brings an element of excitement for her.

“I’m kind of an outside-the-box thinker when it comes to being on the course, so I like being able to choose the play that caters to my game,” she said.

WAPL stroke-play medalist Cheyenne Woods, 20, of Phoenix, Ariz., would prefer a tree-lined course more than Old Mac’s wide expanses, but finds the links course okay for match-play purposes.

“It's a lot easier, because you can just get [one bad hole] out of the way,” she said. “You're not 3 over through three, you are just 1 down. It's a lot easier for match play if you're not hitting it the best or playing your best game because it's just one hole.”

The word "grind" is commonly used in terms of getting around the course that can play to 6,098 yards for the women. Weather conditions and the USGA’s creative set-up philosophy can make it play even shorter.

“I’m definitely not used to this, but it certainly brings out your creativity, and forces you to grind,” said Tiffany Lua, 20, of Rowland Heights, Calif. “You have to grind your way through because there are so many tough up and downs, but you just try and play smart.”

The greens are large by most standards, totaling 13,500 square feet. By comparison, Pebble Beach Golf Links’ greens are roughly 75 percent smaller.

“I really like the big greens cause it makes my greens in regulations go up,” Dodd joked. “It makes putting interesting, but it’s really cool, especially when you drain some off the double and triple breaks.”

Kelsey Vines, 20, of San Antonio, Texas, shot Monday’s low round in stroke play, an even-par 71 in petulant rains and winds. The course scoring average was 82.587. Play returned to Old Macdonald on Wednesday for match play’s opening round, and 21 of the 32 matches reached at least the 16th hole.

Whoever wins this week’s WAPL, they will like Old Macdonald just fine.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA websites.

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