by Stephen Goodwin
The cover of Stephen Goodwin’s “Dream Golf” should come with a warning: Do Not Read Unless You Are Prepared to Become Obsessed With Bandon Dunes.”
I have of course been aware of Bandon Dunes since its much ballyhooed opening in 1999, and knew of its rise to near the top of every golf publication’s lists of places to play. I even had a friend’s glowing report when he returned from a trip there more than a year ago. But it has not figured much in my long-term golf plans.
However, after reading this book, I think a trip to the quartet of Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald now ranks first in my golf dreams ahead of Scotland and the Old Course. And ahead of Pebble Beach and Pinehurst #2 and everything but Augusta (which I will never get to play anyway).
Blame the book.
Dream Golf is the story of the creation of the Bandon Dunes golf resort, told in compelling style by Stephen Goodwin, who was given incredible access to founder Mike Keiser, as well as the course architects, managers and others who helped to realize the dream.
At the heart of the story is Mike Keiser, founder of Recycled Paper Greetings, the company which produced those ubiquitious Sandra Boynton greeting cards throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Keiser had become very wealthy in the creation of RPG, but eventually decided to create something more permanent than a mere corporation. Companies never last he thought, but a golf course might endure for 500 years.
Keiser first attempt at course development resulted in the very well received Dunes Club, in New Buffalo, Michigan. Designed by Dick Nugent, it’s an exclusive private nine hole course, with echoes of Pine Valley. Nine holes didn’t satisfy Keiser, though, and he began to look for an undeveloped property on which he could develop a full blown golf resort. After several false starts, Keiser found a huge tract of land on the Pacific Ocean, near Bandon, Oregon.
A more unlikely place for a golf resort probably could not be found. Bandon is five hours drive from Portland, and not serviced by an airport. There are no five star hotels, no outlet malls, and little which would make you think of a vacation area. But for Keiser, that was perfect, for he wanted the emphasis to be on golf.
Eventually, four courses would be built on the land, each of which strove to be an expression of golf at its purest. The courses are walking only with caddies, the hotels basic, and the extra amenities still apparently non existent. But those courses constitute a golf mecca.
Over the course of 340 pages, Goodwin follows Keiser from concept to completion. The book covers the zoning battles, the development of a business model, the selection of architects, the finding of the holes, the building, and so on. Of particular interest to golf fanatics (though perhaps not to the casual fan or general reader) will be the short course on golf architecture and the anatomy of the holes.
Dream Golf is a good read, and an inspiring one. I’m already trying to figure out how I’m going to convince Mrs. Golfblogger that we need to go to an isolated town on the Oregon Coast.