It's golf's biggest fantasy: A course of one's owns

by Ron Whitten

Short of completing the career Grand Slam by age 24, this may be every golfer's dream: Hop out of bed, slip on a robe and slippers and step out the back door onto the first tee of your very own golf course. No crowds, no wait and, except for those you forgot to replace, no divots.

A dream course is more than just a private golf course. It's a personal one, built around your game, for your amusement.

It's a dream for most of us, because it takes deep pockets to possess such a playground, plenty deep for a few holes shoehorned into a backyard, deeper still for a full-blown hideaway 18.

While a personal course is one signal that you've finally arrived, in truth an exclusive, one-owner golf course with no dues-paying members is actually a bit of inconspicuous consumption. Personal courses are rarely on display, or even publicized.

So for many of us, the dream is simply to receive an invitation to tee it up on one of these private preserves. We can offer no help in arranging that. The best we can provide is a peek at some of the more intriguing courses behind those privet hedges.

Hit The DEC: Owned by investment analyst Terry Dean and Carol Dean, the year-old Dean Estate Course (The DEC) in Huber Heights, Ohio, is a $1 million crisscross design by David Savic of Old Course Design. With four greens, nine tees, two lakes and 13 bunkers on 611/42 acres, The DEC plays as short as 1,545 yards, par 29, and as long as 2,216 yards, par 32. Overlooking the home green (previous page) is the Deans' 4,200-square-foot clubhouse and family recreation center.

Where Frank Sinatra meets Bob Hope: At that intersection in Rancho Mirage, Calif., is Sunnylands, retreat of former ambassador Walter H. Annenberg. The nine-hole, 200-acre 1962 Dick Wilson design has entertained four U.S. presidents and countless celebrities. During a round, its long double green is encountered four times.

Kiss and tell: Want to know the secret of Mistletoe Links, the one-green, nine-tee backyard course of Paul and Debbie Miller in Raleigh, N.C.? Its tees and green are made of artificial turf.

Canadian club: Mining magnate Dennis Washington had Robert Trent Jones Jr. blast his 15-acre Arran Point Golf Course from solid granite. Using nine greens, all the holes play multiple ways. Located on Stuart Island, British Columbia, in the Strait of Georgia, most visitors (from Norman Schwarzkopf to Barbra Streisand) arrive via a helipad next to the course.

Rarefied air: Sanctuary Golf Club in Sedalia, Colo., ranks 48th among America's 100 Greatest. The splashy design by Jim Engh, for owners Dave and Gail Liniger (founders of Re/Max real estate), features waterfalls near several greens, including the par-3 14th (below). Meanwhile, the front half of the eighth green (right) is a grass cascade.

No wasted motion: Before leaving the tee on the par-3 fifth at Rich Harvest Links in Sugar Grove, Ill., you hit your drive to the sixth fairway to the right. Aided by architect Greg Martin, mathematician-physicist Jerry Rich designed versatility throughout his 7,446-yard, par-72 course. Jerry and Betty Rich live nearby at Rich Harvest Farms.

Blockbuster: He no longer owns the video-rental chain, but Wayne Huizenga still owns the NFL's Miami Dolphins, the NHL's Florida Panthers and his exclusive 18-hole Floridian Golf & Yacht Club in Palm City, Fla. Built in 1996, the 6,916-yard, par-72 layout is generally considered to be the finest effort by Gary Player's design company.

A visual blitz: Opened last May, Porcupine Creek Golf Club spreads across the 240-acre estate of timber baron Tim Blixseth and Edra Blixseth in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Tim designed the 6,724-yard course himself. "I'd draw in the dirt what the hole ought to look like, and we'd go build it," he says. "I wanted many different looks to the course." He succeeded. The par-3 fifth (left) is framed by palms, but the 474-yard, par-4 16th (below) is ringed by pines. Other holes have lush tropical vegetation. Still others are dominated by Saguaro cactus.

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