Golf Course Architecture - Issue 56: April 2019

67 The course is dramatic from the starting hole, a big par five that plays from a high tee across a deep arroyo and then sweeps uphill and left to a green tucked on the edge of the corridor. It’s an intensely strategic hole, bunkered extensively up the left, low side, the inside of the dogleg, and not at all on the other. This is a theme that repeats itself throughout the course; the short route to the hole is protected by hazards, but there is ample width to bail out, and no sand on the wide side to harm you. I generally find myself looking at holes with bunkers on the outside of the dogleg and thinking ‘What is that doing here? You’re already out of position’, so I congratulate Eckenrode on his commitment to making his bunkers strategic. The third is a delight, a downhill par four which uses a natural valley that chokes down to a very narrow slot about 300 yards off the back tee. Big hitters might be best placed to club down here. But the hole then opens out again, and the green is set in a large area of short grass, with plenty of room to miss and plenty of short game interest if you do. Eckenrode’s greens are pretty complex without, mostly, going to the extremes. One hole that pushes against normal boundaries is the par-three eighth (pictured on the cover of this issue), whose green, set up on a ledge, sheds balls to both front and back. The happy medium is small, but the challenge and ridgetop nature set it apart from the other par threes. They generally are a fine set, with the eleventh playing sharply downhill, and the long fourteenth reminiscent of a number of Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw long threes, such as the fifteenth at We-Ko-Pa in Arizona or the twelfth at Bandon Trails – a hole with lots of trouble on the direct line to the flag, but plenty of space out to the side, enabling the player to bounce the ball in. This ground- focused approach is a theme throughout the course; greens are open and there are many helping slopes. Eckenrode says: “After the tenth, every hole on the back nine has slopes that help golfers bounce the ball in. I think it’s mostly a function of the land and routing, but it’s probably one of the reasons I think the back nine is so much fun.” Twin Dolphin was built by Eckenrode in collaboration with a high-class group of shapers, including Jonathan Reissetter, Kye Goalby, Blake Conant, Clyde Johnson and Cliff Hamilton. I have to say that I thought it was a delight. The combination of naturalness with a terrific routing – that must have been very difficult to find, given the nature of the site and its pre-existing vegetation – truly make for a course that is a joy to play. Eckenrode himself said, in publicity material, that he thought they might have built the best course in Cabo; this is high praise, as (just to pick one) Diamante Dunes has been as high as 36th in Golf magazine’s list of the world’s best. I have not seen enough of Cabo to comment, but I will say that anyone who values naturalism in golf will have to go a long way to find better work than this. GCA Photo: Evan Schiller Photography The third is a downhill par four in a natural valley