Diamond Woods is a fantastic course sprinkled with a bit of mystery cunningly hidden from the player’s view. The terrain has an element of illusion born from painstaking design. Diamond Woods is a fair course with a bewitching challenge embedded within its complex architecture. How can a course which, on it’s face appears very good, actually be much better than that?
It starts with two brothers and baseball.
Jeff and Greg Doyle grew up in Junction City. Both were fantastic athletes and enjoyed all sports. While in their early teens their father did some work at Fiddler’s Green. As part of the payment for that work Jeff and Greg were allowed to play golf as much as they could during that entire summer. They took full advantage of the offer. At one point during that summer they played golf for thirty straight days. This experience hooked them both on golf and, unknowingly, helped chart the course their lives would eventually follow.
Both Jeff and Greg attended Oregon State University with Jeff playing baseball and Greg earning a degree in landscape architecture. After college, Jeff would go on to play Major League Baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals and in Japan. Meanwhile, Greg was still focused on golf. He was working on the grounds crew at Shadow Hills and Trysting Tree, learning the ins-and-outs of irrigation systems and course design.
In 1986, after his contract in Japan had ended, Jeff moved back to Oregon and began making plans for his post baseball career. At this point the brothers had a conversation. Jeff was in a position to front some capital, and Greg up to the challenge of designing his own course.
In 1992, after an exhaustive search for a suitable piece of land, the brothers finally found and purchased the property that would become Diamond Woods. To keep the venture solvent, and to help with the necessity of clearing the land, they sold some of the lumber on the land. After the lumber was cleared, Greg spent the next five years sculpting the land with an old tractor while living in a singlewide trailer on the land. It was a true do-it-yourself venture.
During this five-year period Greg shifted an incredible amount of earth. This very personal, very intricate, process of building a course led to a course full of nuanced precision. I’ve never seen a golf course so lovingly constructed.
While the course was under construction local curiosity was aroused. The neighboring farmers all wondered, “What are these boys doing”? Greg told the neighbors they were building a golf course. Because of their reputation and ties to the community, everyone offered to help in some way. Many brought farm equipment to mow grass or trenches or do whatever needed to be done. Their neighbors, the Strota’s, granted water rights and an easement for irrigation pipes to go through their land.
Near the end of construction the course still needed a name, but there was little agreement among the course stakeholders about what that name should be. Several ideas were floated and shot down. Eventually the name Diamond Woods was settled on. Why Diamond Woods? The name is evocative and elegant, but that’s only a small part of the story. Diamond Woods was chosen because those were the two means through which the course was financed: through the money Jeff earned while playing baseball (the diamond) and through the money they earned when they sold some of the timber on the land (the woods).
When the first nine holes opened in 1997 the results were spectacular. All of the meticulous work that Greg had done during those five years showed in the product. The course looked nice to be sure, but the golf was spectacular.
The course is long, varied, beautiful and constantly challenging your perceptions.
During my round it took me awhile to understand how complex the course was. The front nine feels very open, the course is very beautiful. The tee shot at two was a fun intellectual exercise, with bunkers and rough surrounding the landing zone for what was essentially a forced carry. The course continued on with difficult holes, forced carries and rolling terrain into greens carved out hills and carefully shaped.
Diamond Woods was intriguing. There wasn’t anything spectacular that jumped out at me. What makes Diamond Woods special is barely perceptible: but it’s there.
It’s things like the length of the long rough. It’s tall, but you have the opportunity to make a play from it. It’s like, instead of costing you one or two strokes, it cost you half a stroke. Sure, you made a mistake, and you’re going to have to pay for it. But, if you hit an amazing shot you can make it up.
Diamond Woods gives you so many opportunities to play above yourself, even, and perhaps especially, after a shot that was decidedly below your skill level. It wasn’t until about halfway through the back nine that I understood. The course wants you to play well, it wants you to score well, but it won’t just give you a score. You still have to earn it.
The back nine is fantastic. The elevation changes are drastic and frequent and the views from the top of the hill are expansive.
If you want a round of golf that you will truly enjoy you should go.
I sincerely hope you appreciate Diamond Woods as much as I did. I’m sure you will.