Mike Keiser grew up in upstate New York, wound
up in Chicago and, along the way, built his fortune
running a company that made greeting cards out
of recycled paper. He loves golf. He loves land.
And he is passionate that the late Charles Blair
Macdonald had golf course architecture figured
out better than anybody else.
Keiser, in his mid-60s now, plays as much golf
as his time allows. And then he plays some more.
He is not just the owner of the Bandon Dunes
Resort on the Oregon coast. He is, he says, that
property’s “land steward.” Last month Old Macdonald, an homage to Macdonald designed by Tom
Doak and Jim Urbina, opened to rave reviews in
Bandon. It’s the fourth course Keiser has commissioned on his Oregon property.
Global Golf Post Editor-In-Chief Brian Hewitt sat
with Keiser, the day after the “Old Mac” opening and engaged him in a long conversation that
ranged on subjects from the future of golf course
architecture and the lure of Old Macdonald to the
names of the books on Keiser’s nightstand.
Keiser is still lean and fit. His handicap index is 9. 5
and his lowest score at Bandon Dunes is 78. During
this interview, he was still grinding his teeth over
the double-bogey he made on the 18th at Old Macdonald the day before the official opening that cost
him a shot at 79. He lives and breathes this stuff.
If you want to see Keiser’s eyes light up, ask him
about the caddies that work at Bandon Dunes.
During the pre-interview small talk, the name
of Tiger Woods came up (doesn’t it always these
days?). It led to the first question and very quickly
moved on to areas that interested Keiser more.
GGP;What’s your for-the-record take on Tiger
and how his problems have affected the
game in the larger sense?
MK We’re not about the PGA Tour here. We’re
about amateur golf. Always was. Always
will be. He doesn’t play golf for fun, as
far as I can tell. And if he does, maybe it’s
before the British or at his place in Florida.
But we’re really all about amateur golf.
We’ve put on amateur championships. So
he (Woods) isn’t even on our radar screen.
Our focus is on internal things as it relates
to the golf experience here at Bandon.
GGP;What has surprised you about that golf
MK;It’s that 80 percent of our in-season play-
ers use caddies. And No. 2, they overpay.
We were worried that the players would
pay them frugally and we wouldn’t get
good caddies. Caddies now make $100 a
bag here. It’s a great place to be and they
pay $150 at least for very good caddies.
(The rate is $60; $40 is the usual tip). We
sort of encourage overtipping.
GGP;On opening day, the Old Macdonald tee sheet
was full from 6 a.m. to 4:30 in the afternoon.
The secret is out. Tell me something about
Old Mac that nobody knows but you.
MK;This isn’t knowing, this is my opinion: My
opinion is that C.B. Macdonald is the best
golf architect ever to build golf courses.
Obviously, there’s no proof or no correct
answer here but that’s No. 1 – that I have an
opinion that perhaps nobody else has. No.
2, I give Macdonald credit for everything his
engineer, Seth Raynor, built. Macdonald’s
body of work, his 12 courses, plus Raynor’s
70 or 80 courses, most of them are highly
thought of. It’s amazing that there’s an
architect that has that influence.
GGP;So could Tom Doak and Jim Urbina (who
co-designed Old Macdonald) be the C.B.
Macdonald and Seth Raynor of the 21st
MK;Time will tell but I would say absolutely that
GGP;What would you like golf historians to
write about you after you are gone?
MK;Ummm ... I obviously haven’t thought
about that because that seems so far off.
I’m certainly aware that one of the great
things about golf courses is that if they are
designed well, they stand the test of time.
Just look at St. Andrews. It was built 500
years ago. I would hope that the courses
I’ve built would stand the test of time and,
like Macdonald’s and Raynor’s and (Alister)
Mackenzie’s, be as popular 100 years from
now as they are right now.
GGP;If there was a world ranking for golf
architects just like there is an Official
World Golf Ranking for players...
MK;Deceased and alive?
GGP;Yes. Who would be your top five. You’ve
already given me Macdonald as No. 1.
MK;Macdonald for sure. I can’t tell you what
those really old guys like Old Tom Morris really built, so I’m going to leave them out of it.
But Mackenzie’s second. Now I need a little
help – Raynor, Ross, Tillinghast and William
Flynn. All of mine would be the old-timers.
GGP;You did that so well, you want to try it with
the guys who are alive?
MK;I’d sort of like to avoid that (laughter).
Remember Tom Doak when he was outspoken and he would always answer that
and then he went further and wrote a