I’d like to ask Jerry Pate someday why he routed Kiva Dunes the way it is. I’m sure there’s a good reason all the holes run east-west, I’d just like to know what it is.
Lack of acreage could have something to do with it. The site is on a narrow isthmus at the coastal edge of Alabama running between Bon Secour Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. And I’m sure the logistics of permitting around the lagoons and strands of wetlands littering the site edged the design team toward toward group seppuku.
But you wonder if this was the only solution. It’s hard to imagine Donald Ross, a master of maximizing small spaces, settling for such an arrangement. Seminole, for instance, is on a smaller piece of seaside land but is a dazzling puzzle of angles and orientations (back in the day, Ross could have just filled in all the existing swamps).
Running holes back and forth doesn’t remotely begin to take advantage of a windy situation. And being as exposed to the sea as the Kiva site is, the wind does blow, mostly north and south, so it’s usually coming across your shot. Meaning you often have to hang your drives out over water hazards and other lost-ball dangers, trusting it’s going to blow back into play. Scoring can become more a matter of faith than ball control.
But if we give Pate the benefit of doubt, what you have is a fairly intoxicating procession of holes packed into some difficult corners. Playing down between the wetlands, lagoons and low scrub vegetation bordering the holes can make you believe you’re in some other part of the world, like the coasts of Australia or South Africa.
The artful bunkering flashed up into the edges of the greens amplifies that impression, and the shaping around the elevated greens and through the fairways gives Kiva a sense of movement and flow. And sometime around the short par-4 10th, or maybe the par-3 13 up to a sloping, tabletop green, it dawns on you what a lovely and sensual golf course this is, so full of seductive secrets, one of them being why all the holes run east and west. (90)
Architect: Jerry Pate