Bandon Dunes Golf Course Review and Appreciation
Bandon Dunes Golf Course
Teacher’s Comments: The course that started it all. A not-to-be missed golf experience. #7 On Golf Digest’s Top 100 Public Courses list.
There is an argument to be made that Bandon Dunes is the most important golf course built in the last twenty years. Sited on remote Oregon coast, it answered a critical question: How far will golfers go for a pure golf experience?
The answer: If the golf is great, a long way indeed. Since then, out-of-the-way golf only resorts (often funded by Mike Keiser) have grown in number.
Bandon Dunes was a huge risk for founder Mike Keiser. Building a Scottish links style course on an isolated stretch of Oregon Coast with the services of an unknown architect does not at first seem like a winning formula. But David McLay Kidd was revealed as a world class golf architect. Bandon Dunes opened as a world class golf course. Today, with three more courses (Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes and Old MacDonald), Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is a world class golf destination. And Bandon Dunes sparked a golf revolution of out-of-the-way golf destinations.
Kidd’s vision was of a pure golf experience:
“No real estate, no golf carts, no clubhouse on the beach. I imagined the routing having the structure of a symphony — a strong start, a sense of anticipation, small crescendos and an incredible finishing sequence along the Pacific.”
I have not had the good fortune to play in Scotland, but I imagine that David McLay Kidd created a golf experience as near to that of his homeland as is possible on the Oregon coast. The course is routed through the coastal dunes. Fairways are hard — seriously hard — and fast. Fairways are wide and offer multiple strategies for reaching the green. Greens are immense, requiring accuracy on approach. Shots must be played along the ground — a requirement which most US golfers have not experienced. And then there is the wind. Always the wind.
Kidd writes of holes finishing along the Pacific, and indeed, seven of holes at Bandon Dunes start, play or finish along cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Pacific Dunes’ vistas are absolutely spectacular. I have never seen anything like them. Just off the seventeenth tee is a bench overlooking the linksland, beach and Pacific Ocean. I could have happily spend hours there, just watching the sea.
As it was, I only had a few minutes. This shot was taken by John Duvall, my good friend from IntoTheGrain.Com. There is just something about the sounding sea and the breezes in the grasses that puts the mind back in the right place after a stressful series of holes.
Bandon Dunes’s remaining twelve holes are routed through the rugged barrens behind the dunes and cliffs that overlook the sea. The course’s fairways and putting surfaces are like green oases amid a wild and sandy wilderness.
Bandon Dunes is a tough course for players (such as myself) who are not used to the hard-and-fast, windswept conditions. It requires quite the adjustment. Wind and ground conditions require a rethinking of all the usual club-distance calculations. Unless you’re the type of player who can just overpower a course, Bandon Dunes asks for flexibility and imagination. You must imagine what you want the ball to do and then choose a club for the job, whether it makes sense or not. I spent much of the week at Bandon Dunes putting with a hybrid from fifty yards out.
From the back tees, Bandon Dunes measures 7, 212 yards and plays to a 76.8/150. From the green tees, it comes in at 6, 221 and plays to a 71.4/133.
My favorite hole was the sixteenth. It also is likely Bandon Dunes’ signature hole. Measuring 363 yards, the par four has a split fairway. The upper fairway offers a shorter and straighter approach, but is further from the tee. The lower tier requires a shot over some intervening dunes and waste.
With a strong wind at our back, two of my three playing partners very nearly drove the green. One fell just short from the back tees. The other, a tee up, flew over the green. His ball never was found.
For my part, I played well to the left, then used two shots (I chunked the first) to work my way up to the green.
Another hole I really loved was the Par 4 fourth. Playing from a slightly elevated tee, the fairway bends left and turns downward to the green. Bunkers left provide a target, and a ridge of dunes defines the outer edge of the hole. The green (below) is guarded left by a bunker and sits on the precipice of a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Don’t go long.
My only regret from Bandon Dunes is that I didn’t have time to play it twice. I desperately want to go back to Bandon Dunes golf resort to replay Bandon Dunes (and incidentally, all of the other courses).
Bandon Dunes — the eponymous course at Bandon Dunes golf resort — is must play golf.
A photo tour of Bandon Dunes follows: