Descriptions of McVeigh’s Gauntlet, the fourth golf course at The Retreat & Links at Silvies Valley Ranch south of Seneca, ranged from “beautiful” and “amazing” to “intimidating,” but the golfers trying out the course on opening day most frequently described the seven-hole challenge course as “fun.”
Two goat caddies, Mike LeChevon and Bruce LeGoat, stole the show July 10, taking their maiden voyage on the course with new friends.
The happy-go-lucky Boer goats are trained to be caddies for visitors from all over the globe.
Two more caddies are also prepared for the task, and the owners said they eventually would like to have six to 10 goats ready to pack clubs and beverages on the course.
Sandy Campbell, who owns the ranch with her husband, Dr. Scott Campbell, assisted with the goats during the opening event.
“The golfers walked them, and they did well,” she said, adding the only problem was running out of the goats’ favorite treat: peanuts.
Surrounded by hills of sagebrush and juniper trees, a unique feature of the challenge course is the need to drive the ball from ridgetop to ridgetop.
Some golfers may wonder if they should have packed hiking boots, as the trails from hole to hole involve walking up and down paths that are inaccessible to golf carts.
The goat caddies may seem like an odd idea, but Campbell said, with the higher altitude, at almost 5,000 feet, the help of four-legged friends comes in handy for golfers.
Golf course architect Dan Hixson said McVeigh is designed to give golfers a difficult, but not impossible, game.
“The intent is to get someone on the tee to see something they haven’t seen before,” he said.
If golfers hit a bad shot, he said, it’s going to end up in the sage brush, but it’s still playable.
Hixson designed the other three courses at Silvies — Craddock, Hankins and Chief Egan — and he is the vice president/golf and resort general manager.
He’s also known for building the Bandon Crossings Golf Course on the coast and the Wine Valley Golf Course in Walla Walla, Washington.
The opening day was the first time Hixson had tried the course since grass was added, and he managed to make it through the course without losing his ball.
A bonus hole at the halfway point of the course gave players a brief reprieve under the shade of the famous “Beer Tree,” which had a cooler waiting for the participants.
An approximately 8-by-60-foot bumpy stretch of green on the hole gave players a unique experience.
Three teams of three enjoyed that first round.
“I think this course is a lot of fun,” said Akbar Chisti of Beaverton. “It’s basically a fantasy golf course with lots of chances to rejoice and grimace.”
Chisti, who owns Seamus Golf with his wife, Megan, designed the golf caddie packs the goats were testing.
“It’s about as cool a project as we could have done,” Akbar said.
He said he was looking forward to returning to Silvies soon and bringing his family.
PNGA member Jay Brandt and his wife, Cynthia, of Bend enjoyed the morning at McVeigh.
“It’s beautiful and a delight,” Cynthia said of the course and scenery, but added with all the nonplayable, out-of-bounds areas, “it’s not for the faint of heart.”
Choosing the right club is important.
“I used my 7 wood a lot,” she said.
Michael Williams, who is director of travel and lifestyle with golfWRX.com and host of the podcast “The 19th Hole,” was also out enjoying the game.
“You get a look at these holes as something you’re not going to see anywhere else, and that’s the fun of it,” he said. “The goats are what these guys are about, making the land better and using the resources better — that’s Silvies Valley.”
Silvies Valley Ranch includes the resort with a spa opening soon, but it is also a working ranch, raising over 1,000 goats a year as well as a herd of cattle.
Colby Marshall, vice president of livestock and guest services, said the team is excited to open their fourth course.
“Our focus is to make destination travel fun and unique,” he said. “That is what the McVeigh Gauntlet golf course was designed to be.”
The cost for a round at McVeigh is $77, and for a goat golf caddy, the price is also $77.