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A first time visit to Rodeo Dunes with Jim Craig

It's not everyday that I have the opportunity to perform a site visit and traverse areas denoted as a possible future golf destination.  Sometime in August 2021, I received the invite from Michael Keiser Jr. to walk a site he'd located for potential development as the next Dream Golf Destination.  I've known Mike since we worked together at Bandon Dunes, albeit at the time I never knew that his father envisioned and built the place.  It wouldn't be until later that we began to reconnect, sometime around the start of Seamus Golf, and now it was an honor to have this chance to see a site before it was built.  I'd heard of these special visits where Mr. Keiser (Senior) would bring along friends to walk properties and have their basic insights included for discussion while compiling the basis for a potential course routing. 

The location was just a short drive northeast of the Denver airport.  On the first pass when planning my visit, I was convinced there had been some error since every other Dream Golf site I'd visited had some component of a lengthy couple hour drive from the local airport. This was just half an hour to forty minutes away from Denver International.  This meant that of all the Dream Golf properties, this could be the only one that was unequivocally easier to reach than Scotland by a golfer traveling within the continental US.

"Rent a four wheel drive, we'll be headed to Roggen, Colorado to tour the site in the middle of a working cattle ranch."  Michael had clearly made several visits already, and I was still surprised I was one of the handful of chosen adversaries to make the visit and perform the tour.  We would meet at a basic gas station just outside the ranch entrance.  My first notable observation that I might never forget was the high taste level of customers to this gas station, as it had the best selection of Cheez-It's I'd ever seen.  I'm a Cheez-It fan, thus I took a photo.  See below.

Not long after arriving to the remotely located meeting spot, I noticed a big white truck pulling up with a fellow who stepped out that had not only spent some time in the sun, but sported a weathered polo with an exclusive club logo on it.  In my experience, this almost always means I've encountered an enthusiast golfer or a golf course builder / shaper judging by the dings in the pick up truck.  Either way, I profiled him and quickly decided that this was my type of dude and I'd be seeking to get to know who it was quickly since neither he nor I belonged at the gas station.

It didn't take long to realize that this was none other than Mr. Jim Craig stepping out of the truck, and we subsequently began chatting.

I'd first meet Jimmy when he was out shaping the Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes.  I was at Bandon with a few friends, and had opportunity to tour this site under construction with one of the friends.  I promptly asked Christian Hafer, to see if he could shoot some of the in process work early one morning.  During that visit, Christian would snap away, and below is one of my favorites wherein both photographer Christian and shaper Jimmy are caught in the midst of their craft on the future site of the 3rd/16th shared green.  To see Hafe's shot of that tractor looking like it's sliding off the edge (it wasn't), please refer to his Instagram @hafe_life, and link here.

Of all my observations, whether meeting Mr. Craig with the tractor or the truck, on both occasions he struck me as one of the most humble individuals I'd meet.  He'd spent his career working with Mr. Bill Coore, an individual I've not had the chance to spend a great deal of time with, but known within the golf scene to also be the kindest and humble individual - apart from being incredibly talented.  I've had the great pleasure of experiencing their work in a few destinations and have left each experience blown away, to say the least.

Before too long, we'd split up and Jimmy said "Hey Akbar, come hop in with me." There were a few other folks and I was stoked to be riding shotgun with the individual that had been out there a few days bird dogging holes in the dunes for a routing he found to be appropriate.  As we drove onto the property, Jimmy began to illustrate how the land was rising.  "You see, Akbar, you notice how the land is getting a little higher?  This is how you know you're getting closer to the dunes land".

I looked out the window and promptly took the following photo.  Up until then, everything was flat as a pancake, and I didn't believe it could be possible that we'd be encroaching anything that appeared to be a canvas for golf.

The drive included passing by a series of active barns, equestrian areas, and cattle related periphery.  We'd begin to see some humps and bumps that I began to rationalize as though they must be it, but in reality it wouldn't be until further into the drive wherein we'd get out to see what the property had to offer.

On this summer day, we'd proceed to through the brush and not only see the landscape, but walk it.  Between the start and finish of the day, my phone's step counter would suggest we traversed some 33,000 steps, roughly 36-45 holes of walking depending on how straight you peg it.

Jim had a topographic map with lines suggesting possible holes that we'd walk along, get a sense of the land.  Michael would ask that we take the topo and begin making our notes for our thoughts on each hole.

Of my favorite moments from this trip, it was for certain being a bystander when Michael and Jim would walk off into the distance and immerse in deep golf conversation.  It was inevitable that whatever they were discussing was way over my pay grade. 

(Michael Keiser Jr. and Jimmy Craig talking golf, above).

Fast forward to today, there are two course routings being constructed on just a portion of the 2,000 acres of the property.  One is to be constructed by Jimmy, and the other by Mr. Bill Coore and Mr. Ben Crenshaw.  We, along with the rest of the excited golf community, will patiently wait for the courses to open and we can get back out to see the finished product.  In the meantime, please enjoy a few more photos taken on my preliminary visit to Rodeo Dunes noted below, and follow along Rodeo Dunes on their Instagram (HERE) and website (HERE).  Also, check out Dream Golf.

 

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