Mission: Bandon Dunes – Great Reading – And Even Better Playing
The assignment: What makes Bandon Dunes “special” in 700 words. Already burned 13.
To start: Ain’t nothin’ but a G thang – G for Golf, the G being capitalized. There’s no pool, no tennis courts, no volleyball, no children’s playground. The only playgrounds here are the four championship golf courses, all masterfully slotted into a slice of topographic gold between US 101 and the vast Pacific Ocean; the Punch Bowl, a gnarly putting green where putts will absolutely not do what you think they will; and Bandon Preserve, the par 3 course designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, who also designed Bandon Trails, one of the property’s four big-boy courses.
The third of the championship quartet to open (2005), Trails is the “parkland” course, stretching to 6,788 yards (back tees), ducking in and out of the coastal forest. The architects used all their tricks, incorporating wide fairways, occasional blind tee shots, par 3s of every length and large greens with multiple hole positions. If you like trees and dislike wind, Trails will be your course. If you like old country style layouts, buffeted by ocean breezes, pocked by gorse and cut courageously close to the Pacific, you’ll love the Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, and Old Macdonald courses.
The course that started it all in 1999, Dunes is still the favorite of many, and many of its beloved characteristics are a function of being the first course. The first tee is just beyond the breezeway between The Lodge and the pro shop/caddy shack, and the 18th green is just behind the first tee, visible to diners in all the Lodge’s dining/drinking choices.
Designed by David McLay Kidd and measuring 6,732 yards (back tee), Dunes is just that – it follows the land out amongst the native dunes, along the ocean cliffs, and back again, comprising a pleasant links loop and, debatably, the resort’s “fairest” challenge – the resort will host the 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, but its likely Dunes will host the match play phase. The main reason? There are fewer potential “others” on Dunes when compared to Trails, Pacific and Old Mac.
Pacific opened in 2001, and is still described as the resort’s “sexy supermodel.” It’s a big, bold, beautiful and tough Tom Doak design; from the 148-yard, par-3 No. 11, which renders golf balls helpless against the wind (and players helpless against the view), to the 591-yard par 5 finishing hole with its yawning, threatening bunkers, Pacific is 6,633 yards (back tee) of golf satisfaction – the kind of course players travel thousands of miles to play.
The resort’s latest championship entry, Old Macdonald, is Doak and partner Jim Urbina’s tribute to the great Scottish courses/designers. Opened in 2010 and measuring 6,944 yards (back tees), Old Macdonald employs Scottish design staples, such as a Biarritz swale on the 181-yard par 3 No. 8, and a Redan par 3 for the 237-yard No. 12. The theme runs right through to the 469-yard par 4 18th with it’s double-wide green in a punch bowl.
Also, you should know: IT’S WALKING ONLY. There are push/pull carts and readily-available caddies.
Furthermore, don’t publish your “Best Par 3 Courses” list before playing the aforementioned Bandon Preserve, with holes measuring from 63 to 150 yards. If you don’t play the PunchBowl, an ever-changing putting course that’s a 100,000-square foot uneven lie courtesy of Doak/Urbina, you’ve not maximized your visit. And the fully-outfitted Practice Center is situated next to Shorty’s, the “other” par 3 course, designed by McLay Kidd. Its honor box stands ready to take donations to the resort’s Junior Golf/Evans Scholarship programs.
If That Weren’t Enough: There are five sets of comfortable, relaxing accommodations (The Inn, The Lodge, Chrome Lake, Cedar Loop and The Grove Cottages), six dining options (including McKee’s Pub) and a highly-necessary Massage Center. Shuttle vans run constantly to transport guests to and from all locations. Hint: there’s gonna be a lot of dudes; just sayin’.
Conclusion: There is significant evidence to argue that Bandon Dunes is the finest golf resort in the United States.