Bandon Trails Golf Course Review And Appreciation
Bandon Trails at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Teacher’s Comments: A masterful blend of links and woodland golf.
Of the courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon Trails was for this Michigan golfer the most familiar. Unlike its seaside sister courses (Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Old MacDonald), Bandon Trails is cut through woodlands of spruce and cedar. The course also features water and marsh and significant elevation changes.
But while Bandon Trails looks like a Northern Michigan course, it plays like its sisters with its fast, hard and sandy, closely cropped fairways. Similarly, wind is a factor, although it is somewhat mitigated by the trees and hills.
In Bandon Trails, architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw created a beautiful, interesting and playable course. For me, it was a tossup as to whether Pacific Dunes or Bandon Trails was my favorite course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
The first hole cuts across the crestline of a grassy dune, which also is where the second begins. By the third hole, however, players are fully immersed in forests of cedar and spruce. Bandon Trails lives up to its name, winding through the Oregon coastal woodlands, over dunes, and past some marsh and ponds. It is a beautiful and peaceful walk through the woods. In Bandon Trails, Coore and Crenshaw created a course that looks entirely unforced and natural.
My favorite hole at Bandon Trails was the par four seventh. Playing uphill, it has a large landing area to the left, and a long bunker complex along the right side. Angle away from the right bunkers off the tee — there is plenty of room to the left. The large bunker on the left is deceiving. It looks as though it should come in play, but that is unlikely. It is 316 yards from the back tees, and 278 from the green tees. The average player doesn’t have the chops to reach it. It gets in your head, though.
The left side is also the best approach to the green. It is wider at the front, then narrowing to the back, with bunkers right and on the left rear.
For spectacular, there is the fourteenth hole. As you exit the thirteenth, a cart is waiting to drive you a short distance up a steep hill to the next tee. It’s the kind of steep downhill shot that’s a hallmark of Northern Michigan golf — although those typically are par threes. This hole is driveable, but misses close will put a player in an awkward position.
On the western edge of the fourteenth’s teeing area, lies a marker which designates the spot where Mike Keiser was first shown the property which would become Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. It is a spectacular view, and even with the golf course now showing its fairways, it is easy to imagine what inspired Keiser.
Elevation changes can be significant at Bandon Trails, as with the sharp downhill drop on the fourteenth, or the slowly climbing sixteenth. Water and/or marsh come into play on three holes.
Fairways at Bandon Trails generally are wide and inviting; the greens are large and open to a ground game. From the tips, Bandon Trails measures 6, 788 yards and plays to a 73.6/130. The green tees measure 6, 248 and played at 71.1/128. One step up, the Gold Tees come in at 5, 751 and play to a 68.7/122. Bandon Trails is not a particularly long course, and all things being equal, the hard-and-fast conditions serve to shorten it up a bit.
As with all the courses at Bandon Dunes golf resort, conditions at Bandon Trails were unique to my golf experience. I really don’t have a reference point. The ground is sandy and hard. The grass is cut impossibly short and the distinction between fairway and greens often is negligible. Balls run forever. Conditions, however, are incredibly consistent. I think that, of courses built on that sort of ground, with that sort of weather, Bandon Dunes must score an A+.
I have had the good fortune to play two other Coore and Crenshaw courses: Barton Creek’s Cliffside course in Austin (Read the Barton Creek Cliffside course review at the link.) and the par three course at Bandon Dunes, Bandon Preserve. I think all three are wonderful and look forward to playing another of the duo’s creations. Perhaps Coore and Crenshaw will be hired to build a new course here in Michigan.
Bandon Trails is justifiably ranked on both Golf Digest and Golf magazine’s lists of the top 100 golf courses.
This Bandon Trails golf course review was first published September 17, 2018 based on a round played in July 2018.
A Bandon Trails photo gallery and course tour follows: