From course designer, Dan Hixson
The Reversible Golf Courses at Silvies Valley Ranch are a distinctive concept in design with two 18 holes courses built on the same ground. Named after the famous war Generals and the Counties the ranch is located in, the Grant and Harney courses are reversible each day. There is also a 9-hole par 3 named the Chief Egan Course. While this idea may sound crazy and unconventional, the very first golf course, St. Andrews in Scotland is reversible. From a designers point of view it is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to build a course with almost limitless strategy and playability – not to mention the creative features and elements that can be applied to such a course.
Like each of the years while building this project, 2015 was full of unexpected turns and twists in construction. In the end, we completed the seeding of the main 18’s. We are very excited about the course and the turf establishment given all the circumstances of the year. Hopefully my description of our construction year of unexpected turns and twists is an accurate analogy of what guests will discover when they play the course.
The drought of the Western United States became crystal clear this summer with record wildfires especially in the Northwest. Fortunately, Silvies Valley Ranch avoided the fires but struggled when our irrigation well stopped producing water in sufficient quantities. We were forced to stop seeding early in the season until we could make the necessary adjustments to the well. This changed our finish work, seeding and grow-in schedules drastically. Eventually the water problems were fixed and we went back to work. Completing the main course was the main priority and was accomplished, but we were unable to finish and seed the par 3 course because of the water-based delays and the coming of fall.
Here is an aerial taken of the course in early October 2015 looking to the south. The irrigation pond on the bottom of the photo is actually the highest point of the course, which allows us to use the power of gravity to help with the irrigation. The background shows the ecological diversity of the Silvies River Valley, the Ranch, and the unusually dry conditions of the Eastern Oregon landscape in 2015.
In the fall we hired a new Golf Course Superintendent, Mike Combs from Washougal Washington. He came to Silvies in September and the grow-in and turf conditions improved weekly to the point we were able to play all the holes in the fall. Mike certainly has his hands full creating excellent playing conditions, but we are confident he is fit for the job and we are excited to have his skills and experience.
When showing the course to friends and family for the first time, most of them are completely surprised by three things:
• Most people have the impression that Eastern Oregon is all flat sagebrush country. Yes, we do have sagebrush surrounding much of the course but we also have Ponderosa pines, Aspens, Willows, Junipers, multiple native grasses, plants, flowers and the site is anything but flat. The topography is exceptional for golf and only required us to move small amounts of dirt while shaping the course.
• The scale and beauty of the environment. This truly is big sky country with the course spread out over 600 acres at an elevation of over 4,600 feet.
• How the reversible golf course is actually routed around the land. I love watching the lights turn on for people when they see how the course works forward and backwards.
Hopefully the following photos and the narrative will give you a better perspective of the above points and possible stir your interest in what these Silvies Valley Ranch is all about.
The construction of our clubhouse: “The Hideaway” is underway and due to be completed in the summer of 2016. It is seen here behind the 18th green of the Harney course.
The Hideaway will be “Off the Grid” electrically, run only by solar panels, to fit in with the Eco-Friendly nature of the entire resort. It is sited ¾ of a mile from the main Lodge and has wonderful views of the course and the surrounds. I will offer a personal no-money back guarantee; this will be a special spot to enjoy a few libations after golf.
Here is a bigger view of the Clubhouse area. The first tee of the Grant course is seen to the right of the clubhouse and the beginning of the fairway on the right. The 18th green of the Harney course on the lower left. Behind the clubhouse is the 1st hole of the Harney course (playing to the right) and the 18th of the Grant with the green left of the clubhouse.
This shows more of the same holes with #1 green on the lower right (also used as #17 Harney) and the short par 3 second hole of the Grant on the right (the green is just under the small butte in the middle of the photo). In the distance is the 3rd & 4th holes and the 5th fairway is seen as the bright green area just above the butte.
These two photos best show the concept of “Free Form” design used on much of the course. The three holes coming together create a “playing field for golf” rather than traditional holes with defined fairways / rough / etc.. The course has plenty of more traditional type holes…except for the fact that most are played in both directions.
This is an earlier photo than the others of number 17 Harney, just after the seed germinated, but showing the excellent natural topographical features of the land. The long downhill par 4 shares a green with the 1st hole of the Grant course.
This is the fairway of #5 Grant (as seen in the earlier photo) with the same small butte on #2 Grant seen under the left limbs. The green for 5 Grant is just outside of the left edge of the photo. This is also the par five #14 Harney (playing away) to the green seen aligned with the butte near the Willows and Aspens.
With the US flag near, this is the par 5 opening hole of the Harney course, also the 18th of the Grant. This picture was taken from the cupola of the Hideaway. The green can be seen in the distance.
This is the semi- punchbowl green of #1 Harney. This short par 5 plays slightly uphill with the approach coming in from the right of this view.
The shortest hole of all 36 is the 130-yard number 4 of the Harney course, seen here from the 15th green of the Grant course. These fun short holes will be a challenge for everyone as they play over a very steep desert ravine.
Another one of the short par 3’s is #13 Grant. At 150 yards it has plenty of trouble with 5 bunkers and a very narrow putting green.
One of the holes envisioned during my initial site visit was the third on the Harney course (also 16 Grant fairway). The natural contours layout perfectly for this par 4 and needed us to only build a green, some bunkers, and a few level areas for teeing grounds to complete the hole. It is very satisfying to see it come to fruition.
Each year I have posted photos of the 7th Grant and 13th Harney: here is the 2015 version. Our Assistant Superintendent Torin Foster took this photo at a perfect light moment, truly showing the beauty of place. The teeing ground is used for the par 3 seven Grant on the right, and then on the next day, for the par 5 thirteen Harney on the left. The green seen in the lower left is 6 Grant, a long par 4 played up the corridor.
Here is a different picture of 13 Harney – 6 Grant with a dozen Wild Turkeys enjoying the turf. I could just as easily replaced this photo with a dozen Mule deer or Pronghorn doing the same thing. This hole is voted #1 by the animal kingdom for “Best Places to Eat”. Also seen dining here: porcupines, elk, coyotes, badgers, prairie dogs, American Kestrels, Pine Butterflies, Humans and a small black bear (actually about 100 yards away).
Another of the large “playing fields”, where multiple holes come together is seen here at #12 Grant / #5 Harney green. The tees for the 12th are below and left of the sun, playing as a par 4 towards us. The par 5 fifth comes in from the far right just out of view. Although they are not obvious, the tees for #6 Harney are on the left of the picture by the trees and the green can be seen above the sage patch, again below and left of the sun.
How lucky am I to be able to create a course where nearly all my wild ideas are met with a very positive YES? I really want to thank Dr. Scott Campbell and his family for allowing me the opportunity to design and build this course at Silvies Valley Ranch. It has been an unbelievable experience and responsibility to work on such a great piece of land and being part of the Ranch team. I also want to thank Norbert Painter, Torin Foster, Darryl Moulder and Jay Kenyon along with all the others who have helped, for their hard work in building the course. These guys all did a fantastic job of keeping me in-line, fixing my mess ups and working very hard towards the finished goal…I truly appreciate everyone involved.
We all look forward to the last steps of finally handing things over to our Superintendent Mike Combs and Torin who will transition all this from a construction project to maintenance to actually playing golf. I have said this about every project I have worked on: It is impossible for me to judge the courses quality as I am far too involved to be objective. I am very happy with the outcome of all our hard work and truly hope everyone that plays here has an experience like no other course before or after.
PLACE MOUSE OVER COURSE LAYOUT MAP BELOW TO ZOOM
This is the most current GPS layover of the courses. From the clubhouse the first hole on the Grant course starts to the north northeast, and the first on the Harney course plays due west with the tees near the flagpole.The par 3 course is on the right by the pond, but the GPS is not current.