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Sunday, July 7, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

A Passion For Golf Turns A Pasture Into Fairways

Times Staff Columnist

CLINTON - Off a mat on his back porch, in a narrow opening between a pair of benches, veterinarian and golf addict Dave Anderson used to drive golf balls into the 20-acre pasture that was his back yard.

Anderson would look out at the rolling landscape, the stately douglas firs, the hemlocks and skinny alders and imagine a golf course.

Like Jack Nicklaus, Anderson believed he had an eye for such things.

Where most people merely saw a valley, Anderson saw the beginning of an undulating green. Where most saw a tangle of berry bushes, he saw a narrow fairway that opened to a lush putting surface. Where most saw a swirl of cattails, he saw a hazard that would challenge a nervy 7-iron.

Staring off his porch and into the pasture he often wondered if he could carve a nine-hole, par-3 golf course that could have the natural feel of some of the British links courses he loved to play.

"I kept seeing golf holes out here," he said.

At different times, this pasture had been home to cattle, horses and sheep, but gradually the acreage was losing its battle with the blackberry bushes and dogs were killing the sheep.

Anderson's wife, Karen, also an avid golfer, asked him to clear the pasture of the bushes, the scrub growth and some alders that were beginning to blight the beauty of the fir trees.

A golf course was born.

It began with a triangle of three holes the family used to play on holidays, swelled to five and then eight. Could they find a ninth? Finally Karen found it deep in the back of the property - No. 4, a challenging driving hole.

Island Greens, which opened in 1989, is true to Anderson's vision. It has the feel of a links course combined with the horticultural flavor of Augusta.

It is a natural course. Hold the preservatives.

"This mentality of having to have a course look perfect and be perfect isn't real," Anderson said. "That isn't the way life and the world is."

The Andersons let the lay of the land determine where the holes went. They cut down few trees. They kept their pasture environmentally friendly, using few chemicals.

A wetlands in the middle of the course remains untouched and the course is irrigated by a pond that doubles as a water hazard.

Magically, Island Greens combines the feel of a community picnic with the challenge of the country club. It is mom-and-pop and it is a nature walk. You share the course with rabbits and ducks and deer.

Greens fees are paid on the honor system. You slip the money in an antique milk can ($5 for nine holes). The clubhouse is a clearing near the parking lot that offers tees, balls and a cooler filled with soft drinks.

There are picture-postcard settings. The rhododendrons behind No. 2 give the hole the feel of Amen Corner. The dappled sun on the green at No. 4 eases your anger when you dead-pull your 7-iron. Between the eighth and ninth holes, you walk through a stand of fir trees and past old farm equipment that look like sculptures.

The Andersons' house sits dangerously adjacent to the eighth hole. Dave estimates 15 to 20 windows have been broken since the course opened seven years ago.

As we talk on the "safe" side of the house a mortar shell of a shot misses us by less than a yard. Anderson doesn't even flinch.

"I'm kind of a guy who lives life a little on the edge and I like to play golf that way too," Anderson said. "I like to challenge golf holes. The thing I hate to do more than anything in golf is getting it down to where all that matters is scoring.

"I really love to try to hit a fantastic shot. I like hitting the shots. I just love the way John Daly and Greg Norman play golf. Those are the guys I like to watch. The creativity part of golf is what I really love."

Golf shots.

What club do you hit that will carry the wetlands and climb the hill and land on the plateau of a green at No. 5? And how straight can you hit that 5-iron through the cathedral of trees that borders the fairway that feels like a hallway at No. 9?

How good are your nerves on that tricky downhill putt at No. 2? And can you avoid the house and put a 4-wood on the green at eight?

This is no pitch-and-putt course. Island Greens understands the real feel of the game. But the beauty of the course is that it offers something for everybody, from scratch golfer to hack. You can feel equally at home in Birkenstocks, sneaks or FootJoys.

This is golf without pretense. It is challenging without being tormenting; a lovely slice of life that grew out of Dave Anderson's imagination.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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