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Ken Nice found the chance to grow

Ken Nice found the chance to grow

(Editor’s note: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is celebrating its 25th anniversary and Golfweek Travel Editor Jason Lusk put together a comprehensive package for the occasion, complete with Q&As of pivotal people in and around the operation. To see the entire package of stories, click here.)

BANDON, Ore. – Ken Nice grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, and he wasn’t a golfer. Basketball was his game, and it’s still one of his passions as a coach at the high school in Bandon.

Nice took up golf after college, and with his interest piqued, he has gone on to become one of the leading voices of golf agronomy in the world since starting at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort as an assistant before it opened in 1999, then overseeing the grow-in of the other courses. He is now the senior director of agronomy at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.

He spoke with Golfweek in the run-up to the resort’s 25th anniversary.

When you started at Bandon, what was the environment like? 

March of ’99. Even for me at the time, it seemed big. The previous courses I had worked at were Trysting Tree in Corvallis and then Astoria Golf and Country Club. So we had a full-time staff of about eight or nine at Astoria. I came here and all of a sudden there were like 30 guys and a brand-new maintenance facility, a brand-new golf course in Bandon Dunes with big scale compared to a lot of what I has seen up to that point. Initially I was just blown away by the place. 

What’s interesting, 10 months later we got the fire at (the yet unbuilt) Pacific Dunes that wiped out all the gorse (which is extremely flammable and is a threat along much of the coast around Bandon). Tom Doak was able to envision the routing much better because the contours were now exposed. Up to that point it was just a sea of gorse, so you had to completely rely on topo maps. So Doak comes out and really refines his routing, and then all the sudden Mr. Keiser said the Renaissance guys (the company Doak founded) and Tom, they’re not doing anything this winter so they thought they’d just build some holes. We built 11 holes by June. It was a blur. 

And I was never given the actual construction superintendent job, for a while. I just acted like I had it. At some point they were just like, “Well, he’s been doing it, so …” I actually owe Tom Doak a lot because he was probably the first person to really champion my cause and my efforts. 

You got to work with Tom Doak again at Old Mac. That must have been like a familiar…


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