If one were to think of a course as a child, then the Cliffs would be the result of the marriage between Coore & Crenshaw's Plantation course in Kapalua and their Trails course at Bandon.
Kapalua maximizes the views to an almost dramatic degree and Trails expertly uses the land to create fascinating challenges for a golfer despite a "wow" visual factor that the other courses at Bandon possess.
The Cliffs stitches these principles together and the result socks you in the face both with the sea views and fun and funky routing that makes you think. My favorite stretch has to be 2-6 which plays in and along a dunes complex in one area of the course giving you two very funky par 4s, a solid par 3 and an all-world par 3 set among the endangered grasslands of the dunes.
The back nine also contains one of the all time stretches of capital D drama combining quirk and views starting with 15 leading out of the woods and back to the cliffs for a 16-18 run of which you will never see three holes laid out that way on any other course, ever.
16, par 3 you hit over the cliffs to obtain a left to right sloping green with bunkers hidden on the sides. 17, a hit and pray over the cliffs onto a short par 4 VERY reminiscent of 6th hole at Kapalua. 18 gives you plenty of cliffs to think about as the Atlantic is the entire right side of the hole leading up to an uphill green.
Is there is a little too much quirk one wonders with most of the 16th green obscured by dunes or how 17 is completely unimaginable to the first time player with ultra severe penalties for the wrong choice or that the 18th's ravine being a bit too unfair for the second/third shot? Does holes 11-13, while sneakily good in a Trails-like way, perhaps feels a bit uninspired compared to what proceeded it? Perhaps all of these questions can be answered in the affirmative depending on your point of view, but at the end of the day I would rather C&C try for something extraordinary and fall short than go for a safer route and not give something a foursome to debate over a lobster roll at the Public House.
That is ultimately what Cliffs gives you, drama, views and quirk set to 11 when the knob only goes to 10. It is assuredly a must play in Canada and the world and as a true testament to my appreciation for the course, what I wouldn't give to have a lobster roll and Cabot Ale at the ready and play the 2nd hole all day.
Date: June 19, 2019