Back in our September issue, we had the chance to share this story about an easy highlight of our summer. To hear one of the nicest country clubs in Southern California was going to let dirt bikes rip around on it was almost too good to be true. It wasn’t, and the result was the Caddyshack National – a bucket list event for all involved. Read on for the piece penned by Donn Maeda, with photos by Mike Emery.
Dreams Do Come True
TransWorld Motocross, Troy Lee Designs, And Mesa Verde Country Club Team Up For A Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity
If you ride a dirt bike, there's no denying that the thought has crossed your mind at least once: With their rolling hills, undulating fairways, and oh-so-inviting sand traps, golf courses are every motocrosser's dream—a blank canvas just waiting for the first brush stroke (or in this case, tire mark!).
Every June, the Mesa Verde Country Club—a private, highly regarded facility that sprawls over 135 acres in Orange County, California—holds the Bell Cup, a three-day tournament that kicks off on Thursday night. Ah, Thursday night—otherwise known as Stag Night when it comes to the Bell Cup—a kickoff to a weekend filled with food, drinks, and fun. "In the past we've had MMA exhibitions, boxing matches, even female models as our dinner entertainment," says Mesa Verde's general manager, Jeremy Samson. "Every year I try to one up myself, and a few weeks ago as I sat racking my brain, I looked across the street and saw my neighbor, Troy Lee."
Troy Lee, it turns out, was just headed out for a day of riding with his son, Max, and as he loaded up his KTMs, Samson approached and proposed what he originally thought was a crazy idea. "He asked me if we wanted to ride our dirt bikes on a country club golf course," Troy says. "I said, 'Are you kidding? That's every rider's dream!' I may have had a few more expletives in there, but that was pretty much it, and from that moment on we were in!"
Promoting The Dream
With a mere 10 days to put everything together for the Bell Cup, Troy reached out to TransWorld Motocross to partner up with him and make the "dream ride" come to life. A visit to the greens of Mesa Verde literally had our mouths watering with the possibilities, and with the help of Max, we laid out a rough course for the riders to rip around on during a 15-minute surprise exhibition.
With the club members eating at the country club dining area, Samson had the idea of constructing a launch ramp that would send the riders flying through the air and over the driving range area during their grand entrance. Concurrently, we realized that although there were some nice elevation changes on the section of the course we would be allowed to terrorize, nothing was steep enough to send the riders skyward for any length of time.
Samson recruited his friend Tim Bina from Nest Environments to build a 25-foot launch ramp that would be located in between the parking lot and the driving range pads, and the way it led down to the golf course below made us think of the ramp Evel Knievel used to try and launch his rocket over Snake River Canyon. The riders would have no practice runs off the ramp and would simply have to—in the immortal words of Mike Metzger—"go big" when the gate dropped on the exhibition.
To provide more airtime on the course itself, we borrowed a pair of Freshpark Ricky Johnson Jump Ramps from our senior test rider Rich Taylor, who owns them for various gigs he does for the Hollywood stunt and film industry. Small enough to be relatively portable yet large enough to catapult a dirt bike 20 feet through the air, they were just the ticket for a couple extra oohs and aahs from the golf crowd per lap.
Collateral for the event was designed by the artists at Troy Lee Designs, and track markers, straw bale covers, and track banners were produced by the TWMX crew, all with the intention of transforming the Mesa Verde fairways, greens, and sand traps into a legitimate-looking moto course for the day.
The riders were the final ingredients in the formula for the surprise show. Naturally, racers from Troy's TLD/GoPro/Red Bull/KTM race team were first on the invite list, and Jessy Nelson and Mitchell Oldenburg were the first to confirm. GEICO Honda's mini racer Carson Mumford, Suzuki's Richard Taylor Jr., Pit Pro's Robbie Wageman, and TLD support rider Dylan Merriam rounded out the fortunate field of racers to ride in the invitational exhibition.
The Caddyshack National
After the esteemed country club members and their guests had enjoyed an afternoon full of fun (a driving range contest with large panes of glass as targets—sign us up!), the dull rumble of motorcycles could be heard in the distance at the far end of the parking lot. With the event MC directing attention to the driving range, Nelson and his number-13 KTM 250 SX-F led the charge onto the course entering the attendees' field of vision with a 30-foot flight over the driving range tee boxes and down onto the fairway. Although some savvy members figured out what was going on beforehand after seeing the ramps and Troy Lee Designs and TransWorld Motocross banners, most were astonished at the spectacle that was unfolding in front of their eyes.
Truth be told, the knobby tires wreaked far less havoc than we expected on the lush, green grass, but the roost thrown from the sand traps by the four-stroke motocross bikes was enough to leave the Mesa Verde greens keepers shaking their heads.
"I've always daydreamed about ripping up a golf course on my motorcycle, so when I got the invite I jumped at the chance!" Taylor Jr. says. "The grass had less traction than I expected, though, and it wasn't as quick to rut up as I thought it would be."
Just cleared to ride after a badly broken leg, Merriam elected to skip the metal ramps after the first lap, but he simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to race around the golf course in spite of the pain he was in. "I actually forgot my boots and was just going to watch, but once I saw the course I raced home to get them," Merriam says. "The whole time I was out there it was just so hard to believe."
Up the grass humps and over the greens, the six riders raced around Mesa Verde Country Club for 15 minutes to the delight of the members, as well as some of the homeowners in the surrounding areas. Entire families emerged from their homes to see what all of the ruckus was about, and remarkably, the authorities were never summoned. Perhaps it was just too hard to believe to be true.
"I had a total blast," says Nelson, the holder of the quickest lap times at the one and only Caddyshack National. "It was super fun and something I'll always remember. Maybe next time—if there is a next time—they'll give us full access to all 18 holes!"
So was the event a success? Absolutely, according to Samson. "In my mind, I pictured what it would all look like, and when the bikes rolled out there it was even better than I had imagined," he says. "I look out at the course every day and I'm used to seeing it covered with golfers, balls, and carts. To see motocross bikes flying through the air and blasting our sand traps was completely surreal. The look of shock and awe on the members' faces made it all worthwhile."
Lee, meanwhile, was a little more straightforward with his summary of the event. "It was a dream come true," he says.