Road Holes — 23 July 2013 by Jim Street
Good times at ‘Badlands’

QUILCHENA, B.C. — It’s a long way from here to there when it comes to comparing two worldly-unique putting courses.

But Dick Zokol, one of the designers for the hilly Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club in British Columbia, did his best to replicate the most famous putting course in the world — the Himalayas, home to the St. Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club since 1867 and popular sidekick to the world-famous Old Course at St. Andrews.

“It was Dick’s brainchild to honor his favorite course on the planet,” said Don Harvey, Sagebrush’s General Manager. “This is kind of a token way of doing that.”

Zokol, a Canadian-born-and-raised professional golfer, had 20 top-10 finishes in PGA Tour events during his career, including a win in 1992. His best finish in a major championship was a tie for 14th at the 1993 PGA Championship.

The 54-year-old, who suffered from various injuries during his career, has taken time off to pursue other business ventures including Director of Golf for Eaglequest Golf Centers, Inc., a North American golf center consolidator. He lives in White Rock, B.C. and also works with the Royal Canadian Golf Association, advising on elite player development.

“As one of the co-designers and co-founders of this golf course, Dick said we had to have something like this to remind him of St. Andrews,” Harvey said. “So, there it is.  And as far as I know, this is the only putting course in North America.”

The Himalayas Putting Course at St. Andrews

The Himalayas Putting Course at St. Andrews

The North American version of the Himalayas – called the Badlands — opened in June and the 1.5-acre layout overlooking Lake Nicola has received rave reviews, including two thumbs-up from members of the Northwest Golf Media Association who recently visited the facility located some 100 miles northeast of Vancouver.

There are numerous undulations that prevent just about any putt from going straight. Left, right, up and down is the name of the Badlands putting game.

“It’s not at the scale of the Himalayas,” Harvey said, “but the pretty remarkable thing about the Badlands is that it is illuminated at night, which is going to be a lot of fun.”

A little delay in shipping prevented the Badlands from showing off its splendor under the solar-powered lights when the NWGMA was here, but by the middle of summer, the lights will shine on 18 holes. Nine of those holes are in place now, while the remaining nine holes are expected to be in use this month.

“The response has been outstanding,” Harvey said. “There has been a lot of hooting and hollering. Our guests say they have never seen anything like this on a golf course. It’s all about having fun and I would not go so far as to say it will help your putting game.”

A group of eight golf media challenged the course during the visit, trying to figure out the severe breaks on the undulating putting course. There were far more putts missed than made.

“Because of the undulations, the pin placements are carefully picked,” Harvey said.

So what is par for this course?

“We’re not that formal,” he said. “The idea is to provide evening entertainment for our guests. We have long daylight hours here during the summer and with the lights, the course can stay open until midnight, as long as other guests aren’t bothered by the noise.”

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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