Mike Keiser update: Pursuing not one, but two Oregon golf courses

When you call Mike Keiser to ask about one new golf course, there's always a chance you'll find out about two.

Such was the case on Wednesday when I was following up on a story about the Boy Scouts of America Cascade Pacific Council potentially offering Keiser a 50-year lease on coastal land at Camp Meriwether in Tillamook County, located 90 minutes west of Portland, Ore.

"I might or might not be pursuing two new golf courses in Oregon ," Keiser said from his office in Chicago. "By next week we'll know a lot more."

"Two?" I asked.

In addition to Tillamook, Keiser is revisiting the idea of Bandon Muni. It would be the sixth course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, his pure golf destination on the southwest coast of Oregon.

Keiser owns 300 acres 15 miles south of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort which, dating back to 2006, was always going to be a Gil Hanse design. Since then Keiser was in negotiations with the Oregon State Parks Department and Bureau of Land Management for a land swap that would have given him more land and allowed Hanse to build an additional nine or 18 holes, closer to the coastline. On Sept. 30, however, Keiser walked away from those negotiations .

Needless to say, and after seven frustrating years of unsuccessfully navigating political gorse, Keiser is moving on by going back to the original plan of just 18 holes.

On Sunday and Monday, Mike and his two sons (Michael, 34, and Chris, 28) will walk both pieces of land: the property at Camp Meriwether and the Muni land he owns. By Wednesday, Keiser said, they will decide whether or not to pursue one, two or none.

"I hope to do both," he said. "They could be really good."

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who built five of Keiser's 12 courses, have already done a preliminary routing at Tillamook.

"It's a beautiful place," Coore said of Camp Meriwether. "Heavily treed. Ravines. Ridges. Rolling hills. It's on the border of being too extreme. I can't imagine there's more than 130 acres. It would be a short golf course, Maybe 6,400 yards. Mike will have to decide."

Keiser says there's talk of using Boy Scouts as caddies at the Tillamook course.

"In the Portland area the Boy Scouts graduate 500 Eagles Scouts every year," Keiser said. "And they offer a merit badge for caddying."

Gil Hanse still on tap for Bandon Muni

As for the addition to Bandon Dunes, Keiser says Gil Hanse would still be the architect.

"He called and asked if I had the original routing," Hanse said. "I told him no. Then he asked me if I could remember it. And I said no. It has been a long time."

Hanse and his partner, Jim Wagner, provided Keiser with a new plan on the 200 of the 300 acres that would be able available for 18 holes of golf.

"The land was always spectacular," Hanse said. "But Mike was convinced the 27- or 36-hole plan, with at least nine of those holes always being available to the locals for a significantly discounted green fee, was the best concept."

The prolonged political stalemate was merely a speed bump in Keiser's quest for more golf.

By 2018, and in a 19-year stretch of golf-course development, Keiser and five architects will have built 11 courses in three countries.

Timeline: The complete works of Mike Keiser

1999: Bandon Dunes (David McLay Kidd)
2001: Pacific Dunes (Tom Doak)
2004: Barnbougle Dunes (Doak)
2005: Bandon Trails (Coore & Crenshaw)
2010: Old Macdonald (Doak and Jim Urbina)
2010: Lost Farm (Coore & Crenshaw)
2012: Bandon Preserve (Coore & Crenshaw)
2012: Cabot Links (Rod Whitman)
2016: Cabot Cliffs (Coore & Crenshaw)
2017: Sand Valley 1 (Coore & Crenshaw)
2018: Sand Valley 2 (Kidd)

"I plan on building golf courses until I die," Keiser said. "Or, until I run out of money. Whichever comes first."

There's also Keiser's pending development near Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands, Coul Links Beach , which would be another Coore & Crenshaw design. Keiser is waiting for the results of environmental studies before he can proceed with that project. He anticipates an update in August.

If Tillamook, Bandon Muni and Coul Links Beach are completed, he will have built 14 courses in 22 or 23 years.

"He is the most influential person in golf course development today. There's no question," Coore said. "And it's not just quantity, it's quality."

So, Mike, what's the secret?

"No one is building links golf," Keiser said. "And links golf is what we like."

Could it be that simple? That Keiser's popularity and success is just because he's a developer of links golf?

"He obviously recognizes talent," said Hanse, who has yet to build a course for Keiser. "But when he provides that talent with world class opportunities, that's when you're left with something special. He provides the architect the best canvas to perform their craft."

So let me get this straight: Best architects + best land = quality golf?

Architecture Week: The backstory of Sand Valley, Keiser's new project

Matt Ginella is Golf Advisor's Editor-at-Large and host of Golf Advisor Round Trip travel series on Golf Channel. Matt serves as resident buddy trip expert and captains a collection of VIP trips called Golf Advisor Getaways.
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Mike Keiser update: Pursuing not one, but two Oregon golf courses
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