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Kidd Discusses New Project in Idaho
David McLay Kidd, the Scotland-born golf architect responsible for the original 18 holes at Bandon Dunes, the seventh course at St. Andrews (called Castle), and most recently, the remarkable Tetherow Golf Club near Bend in central Oregon, is back at it again.
Kidd's latest creation is unfolding near Driggs, a town in southern Idaho. The 7,666-yard course at Huntsman Springs is now under construction. It's part of a 1,500-acre project that includes a mix of homes, a hotel, health and fitness center, commercial areas, recreational amenities, a buffalo park and a wetland conservation area. About 70 percent of the property will be preserved as open space. The project is backed by Jon Huntsman, the billionaire CEO of Salt Lake City-based Huntsman Corp., and his family.
Kidd was recently asked by Cybergolf for his thoughts on his newest course. Here's what he had to say during this Q&A.
What are your thoughts about the site, including the views, topography, soil and natural features?
DMK: The canvas we were given to work with was largely bland and devoid of significant landforms and topography but was blessed with tremendous surroundings and off-site views, particularly toward the Grand Teton Mountains that tower over the site to the east. The immediate foreground of the town of Driggs, however, was a bit cluttered and unpleasant. Nearly the entire western half of the 1,500-acre site was designated wetlands fed by numerous surface water canals and springs. Given sandy, gravelly soil and an offsite sand source for capping, we proposed a bold concept that embraced the wetlands by dragging them into the upland portions of the site, through golf holes that would be cut down into the site while maintaining and enhancing the various flows that fed them. The result would, in theory, allow us to lift the real estate components above the golf, which enhanced the offsite views and vistas from the real estate, and eliminated the distraction of the town from the golf.
Did you receive any guidelines from the development team before designing the course, such as to make it adaptable to players of all abilities, or did you have carte blanche to do as you wished?
DMK: Our client has been fantastic to work with and provided us with total creative liberty and support to carry out our vision. The entire development team's goal was to build a project unique and unrivaled by anything in the area and the greater Rocky Mountain Region. As a result we were very involved in the design of the entire site, not just the golf. The goal was to build a golf course that blended cohesively into every other element of the project it interfaced with, and for the entire project to carry out a common landscape character and theme. We strive to build courses that challenge the accomplished player with a bold risk-reward strategy, are fair and playable to the average daily golfer, while presenting different options to reach each green, all while carrying out dramatic theater that is memorable and exciting to play. With 250,000 cubic yards of imported sand, 45 acres of constructed wetlands, and some talented and passionate people on the ground, we pushed the drama aesthetically by seamlessly combining a number of textures.
How many acres does the course occupy, and how many acres of irrigated turf are there?
DMK: The golf course is comprised of 205 acres of which 85 acres is irrigated turf, including the practice area, and 26 acres are wetlands that we constructed to achieve a cohesive character throughout the course.
What are the predominant natural attributes of the site and the course you've designed? How unique are these attributes?
DMK: We had to consider a number of different hydrological features in the design and construction of the course. Several surface irrigation ditches were present on-site, as well as numerous springs and wetlands. Understanding the relationships of these features was critical. The imported sand also gave us an opportunity to create a rolling windswept sand dunes look to the course. We spent time away from the site and out in the dunes observing how the wind shaped the particular sand we were importing to cap with, as well as exploring various wetlands in the area with different types of plant materials and different locations along the flows feeding and exiting them. Creating something that looks real is always challenging. Their uniqueness will rely on how people perceive them, and whether they are able to distinguish which of these features are built or were there. If we've done our job well, it will be hard to spot.
Where do think this course ranks as compared to some of your other recent designs?
DMK: One of the things that captured our attention with this project was that it presented a number of challenges and opportunities to try things we hadn't done before, or at least hadn't tried all on one project. At the Castle course we built a dunescape on stunning oceanside cliff tops; at TPC San Francisco Bay we moved heaven and earth on the side of a mountain; Tetherow and Machrihanish allowed us to do minimal amounts of work on very natural and suitable sites for golf. Huntsman Springs, on the other hand, was a massive engineering project on our part. We used four or five different textures and landscape types to create a totally different style and flair.
We employed different construction methods while finishing and prepping for grass to create a rumpled rustic look and shape to the fairways; the bunkers where built by one individual with no more than a rake and a shovel twice - once before seeding and again after. With the exception of the designated wetlands, we had to dream up every piece of it, and the team on the ground has taken it a step further and built something beyond our wildest dreams.
In terms of a golf experience, we have never built a course with so much risk-reward, "do or die" and go-for-broke hole after hole, yet it is fair and playable. Wide fairways - some more than 150 yards - and with numerous options will challenge the skilled player while leaving plenty of room for the average golfer. We have been fortunate recently with great projects. Our hope is that each one we build is a little different and little better than the last.