Sunday, February 19, 2012

Creating Sagebrush: #2.

News that Dick Zokol's no longer associated with Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club has made me a bit nostalgic. Looking back, I feel very privileged to have been a part of creating such a distinct golf course in such a stunning setting. It was great fun.

When Rod Whitman first visited the property where Zokol wanted to build Sagebrush, he thought it was going to be impossible to play golf there - particularly in traditional fashion, as Dick envisioned it. There's over 300 feet of elevation change across the property. Rod's opinion changed as the routing came together though; and, it's Rod's routing that allows the course to work so well.

Holes like the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th (!), 11th, 13th and 16th required a lot of effort to put together. But there are also a number of very natural holes at Sagebrush, like the long-ish par 4 second for example. Following is an interesting sequence of photos illustrating the very 'minimalistic' development of this hole (click on all images to enlarge).    

Before construction: The tee shot plays over a rise immediately in front of the tees that hides the fairway from view. Above is a look down toward the proposed green site - hovering above Nicola Lake, in the distance - from the top of that rise.   

During construction: Vegetation and topsoil was delicately stripped from the fairway area, with effort to preserve existing terrain. Topsoil was then screened on-site and replaced after shaping and irrigation installation. As you'll see below, very little shaping work was required in the fairway area at the 2nd hole. In this photo, you can also see the green 'padded out' behind the pile of stripped topsoil. A small ridge that jutted out of the hillside, at left, in front of the green site was cut down. Material from this cut was used to create the green pad.

Finished and seeded, with the 'green' clearly seen in the distance: The greens are consistently massive at Sagebrush. This one, at 2nd, is only half the size of the 7th and 16th greens, but probably still measures 12,000 square feet or more. Most interesting is the distinct right to left angle of the green. My favourite holes are back-left. When the flagstick features over there, you're well-advised to drive down the right side of the fairway or face a very tricky approach from the left side. There's a neat rise in front of the green as well that makes front hole locations equally interesting.  

Complete: The fairways at Sagebrush - which in most areas transition into native vegetation (there's very little rough) - were planted with fescue. Conditions are always firm as a result. The downslope in the foreground will propel tee shots way down the fairway at the 2nd, turning this 440-yard hole (which in a preliminary draft of the golf course plan was the first) into a drive-short iron some days. The bunkers cut into the natural knob right of the fairway were Zokol's idea; I remember being on-site by myself one weekend when I personally scratched 'em in. You can also see a small bunker right of the green in this photo; there are three more behind the green, principally designed to prevent balls from falling off a cliff there, and another left of the putting surface.

The 2nd at Sagebrush - an incredibly natural hole in an incomparable setting.


  1. Spectacular sequence of photos and comments. The hole and course are even more spectacular in person.

  2. Your dad is ahead of me Jeff, I wanted to get out there last summer, I spoke to Dick at the golf show in Toronto a couple years ago (we were on a panel together) and he said get out there and we will have a good time.

    What I admire (and know) is how some of the most difficult holes to build turn out to be the best holes on the course.

    Sorry to see Dick out at Sagebrush, I do believe he was the heart and soul of the place, you could feel it when he wrote and talked about it.
    I know you have the same feelings about it as Dick does (and I am sure Whit does too) but you are young and another challenge like sagebrush will come along.