WILDFLOWER GOLF COURSE Stuart Island, BC
Owner: Dennis Washington Design: Nine holes Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr. (1994/1999) Yardage: 2,332 Par: 31
Sure, no man is an island, but given enough wherewithal, there's nothing to prevent a man from buying one. When Montana industrialist Dennis Washington decided to build a lodge for family and friends on an exclusive chunk of Stuart Island in the Strait of Georgia off British Columbia, he knew he'd found a perfect piece of privacy. The land teemed with wildlife and its forest was lush. "It should have been a park," says its owner.
But he had other plans. Soon after purchasing the land, Washington invited Robert Trent Jones Jr. to come up and build a few greens for him. Jones demurred. Then Mother Nature made her pitch, devastating enough trees in a severe storm for Washington to read the signs. "God must have wanted me to build a golf course," Washington insists. After goosing the process along with dynamite, he called the architect back to the property in 1993. "Now build me a golf course," he said.
Jones did. As remote as a layout can be, Washington's nine-hole Wildflower Golf Course at Arran Lodge is reachable only by boat, seaplane or helicopter, and its membership, Jones likes to say, is made up of "Mr. Washington, cougars, bears and bald eagles" (plus guests as diverse as General H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Barbra Streisand). Wedged into fifteen acres, the wilderness track—a collection of par fours and par threes that includes a pair of crisscrossing one-shotters—wanders dramatically through spectacular rock outcroppings. Its back side, a sheer cliff, dispenses a heart-stopping panorama to the sea below."
The place is unique in the world," Jones maintains. "The physical attributes are extraordinary." And, for Washington, blessed. "It's like going to church," he says, a fitting evocation of his own little Amen Corner of the world.
THE DEC (DEAN ESTATE COURSE) Huber Heights, OH
Owners: Terry and Carol Dean Design: Four greens and six teeing areas mixed and matched for eighteen holes Architect: David Pandel Savic (1999) Yardage: 3,850 Par: 61
With the possible exception of the Old Course at St. Andrews, all golf courses were something else in a previous incarnation, and the DEC is no exception. "It was a dump," asserts retired investment analyst Terry Dean, and he's got the pictures to prove it. Once a well-tended orchard, the back six and a half acres of the twenty-two-acre family compound had become so overgrown, Johnny Appleseed would have shunned them. When Dean's mother suggested a polishing in 1998, the son planted a fantasy. "If we were going to make it nice and green," he proposed, "why not make it useful, too?"
Dean handed off his wish list—two ponds, three greens, an itinerary of nine distinct holes and a $50,000 budget—to David Pandel Savic. The architect added a fourth green to come up with a 1,635-yard par-twenty-nine circuit that incorporates different pin placements on each putting surface, several blind shots, approaches over water and a series of creative homages—a trinity of mini Oakmont church pews, a Scottish pot bunker and a Rae's Creeklike slope toward wet death. "It's really an awful lot of golf to cram into six and a half lousy acres," says Dean. Another addition—a semicircular clubhouse, attached to the existing multibay garage, with upstairs game and model-train rooms—helped distend the already swelling budget some twentyfold. But money was never the object. Golf was.
"A lot of things like this are done to impress people," Dean concedes. "This isn't. We built it to play it."
And play it they do. In the year following its completion, Dean and his wife, Carol, teed it up on 209 days, including Christmas and New Year's eves, and they still get out—usually just the two of them, but children, grandchildren and friends are certainly welcome—almost daily when the windchill's above freezing. Mixing and matching tees, greens and pin positions, they've even fashioned a second, slightly longer loop, discovering holes Savic never envisioned.