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Jim Haley Talks Pacific Gales

By: Tony Dear


Last week, I spoke with Troy Russell, the man appointed as project manager at Pacific Gales, an exciting new development on the south Oregon coast 30 miles from Bandon Dunes. This week, I talked to Jim Haley, the man behind the project. Haley and his partner at Elk River Property Development, Jay Kenyon, unveiled their plans for the course in late November. Since then considerable interest has been generated among golfers excited at the prospect of another great American links course.

What exactly was your role at Bandon Dunes, and will you be doing the same at Pacific Gales?

I was the lead shaper on the original course at Bandon Dunes. And I hope to spend some time on a machine at Pacific Gales because I hope it will be the last one I do. It's my exit strategy from the construction business (Haley had his own firm - Highland Golf Services - and worked in course construction for 22 years, building courses for Pete Dye, Rees Jones, and David McLay Kidd.)

Why did you choose the name Pacific Gales?

We kicked around a bunch of names. Troy Russell came up with that one first. We wanted something that was gonna describe the site. I was a "Knapp Ranch" fan, but it doesn't really describe the site very well. In the end, we wanted something that really embraced both the setting and the elements - the experience that golfers have come to expect from golf on the southern Oregon coast.

Was Elk River Property Development established specifically to develop the site at Pacific Gales, or had it existed before now and been involved in other projects?

No, we created an Oregon-based LLC strictly for this. It's a project that has been many years in the making, and although I've worked with many architects over the years on courses all over the world, this piece of land is where I've always wanted to build a course with my own team, from start to finish.

Why no lodging component at Pacific Gales?

Frankly, because that's what the land-use parameters in Oregon allow us to do. We're allowed, with a conditional-use permit, to build golf on land like what we have at Knapp Ranch. Like Troy said in an interview, "It's a cattle ranch that happens to have ocean views." Our goal is to build the best possible golf course on this incredible stretch of coastline, and we hope to partner with others in the area who offer accommodations of all shapes and sizes for golfers who want to play Pacific Gales and stay in Port Orford.

What do you think your relationship with Bandon Dunes will be like - fierce competitors or cozy neighbors?

I'm hoping we're cozy neighbors. We don't want to be Bandon Dunes, we just want to be a great course on a great piece of ground - a fun, friendly place to play golf. And we hope Mike Keiser embraces it. In fact, we believe it will help Bandon because it makes the Southern Oregon coast all that more of a destination for golfers. And hopefully Pacific Gales will be a boon to Curry County in the same way Bandon Dunes was for Coos County.

Why did you choose David Esler rather than somebody like David Kidd, who you've worked with in the past, or Bill Coore or Kyle Phillips?

I met Dave a long time ago. I like him. He's a good friend, and he "gets it" - his restoration work is very thoughtful and he doesn't impose his will on the land. Plus, he's a helluva funny, nice guy, so that's why he's our guy. Most people who know Dave's work are very interested to see what he can do with a once-in-a-lifetime site like we have.

What is your relationship with Jeff Knapp?

Jeff and I go back to Bandon Dunes. He used to work for a construction company that did the initial clearing there. He came to work for me for 10 or 12 years. We've worked on some really great projects together. He wants to stay at home, and this has been one of his dreams from way back when he first invited me down to a crab feed at the ranch 15 years ago.

What fundraising opportunities are still available?

Without going into too much detail, we've had significant funding for the project from the beginning, but with the positive response we've had since we announced the project - including strong media support from national publications - we've had quite a few inquiries, as you'd imagine for a golf project on such a picturesque site so close to one of the more popular golf resorts in the world. We're sorting through them now to find the right financial partners not only for the construction phase, but for the long term as well.

Are you confident your application will progress through the courts quickly?

It doesn't really involve the courts. It's a pretty straightforward process in Oregon. What we want to do is generally an allowable use with a conditional use permit. We've done all our homework - gone to the Native Americans; Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; Department of Transportation; all the agencies that need input. And we've gotten no negative comments back from them.

Was it fortunate or unfortunate timing that Bandon Dunes was granted its land swap deal during the same week that you announced your development?

I don't know that it was fortunate or unfortunate. It just happened when it happened. We had the Golfweek guys out to visit the site at a time that was convenient for them, and we decided to schedule our announcement to follow their story. And it turned out to be a pretty good week for golfers who are excited about the future of the Southern Oregon coast.

The above article is courtesy of Tony Dear, a longtime Cybergolf contributor. For more information and other articles by Tony, visit his website, www.BellinghamGolfer.com.

For more information about Pacific Gales, visit http://pacificgales.com.