Golf News and Notes

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort — The Rich Getting Richer?

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore., is ranked second in the world by Golf Magazine and second in North America by Golf Digest. It’s golf courses are ranked first (Pacific Dunes), fifth (Bandon Dunes) and 10th (Bandon Trails) in GolfWeek’s listing of top American resort golf courses, and second (Pacific Dunes), seventh (Bandon Dunes) and 14th (Bandon Trails) on Golf Digest’s list of the Top 100 Public Golf Courses.

And since the resort’s opening in 1999, every golf-travel writer from Matt Ginella to Tony Dear to George Pepar, has played and eulogized Bandon’s powerful triad of traditional, seaside links. 

What more is there left to say about a golf resort like Bandon Dunes that hasn’t already been said?

The original idea was to write a story about the ultimate ‘guy’s vacation’, but the fact that two best friends were traveling to Bandon Dunes together for three days of intense golf and moderate drinking was hardly news to Bandon Dunes, or the golfing world for that matter.

The resort’s atmosphere is driven by its (mostly male) guests’ desire to play 36 holes of championship-caliber, links golf per day with their buddies in a ‘golf-only’ environment, and then finish the day with some fine food, a few cocktails and a bit of golf banter, followed by some shut-eye in a comfy bed.  Depending upon the size of one’s wallet, and free time to tee it up, this pattern could, and does continue on for days.

“We get guys out here that play 36 to 54 holes a day for six days straight,” said Bandon Dunes representative Mark Bergmann. “This brand of links golf is addictive. Guys who play well on park-land courses come out here and discover a whole new game, and fall in love with it.”

Lily PadBandon Dunes fulfills every fiber of the male, golf addict’s desires with its current round-up of seaside links. And when the sun sets it offers excellent accommodations (we stayed in the Lilly Pond), a convenient shuttle service, fine food and stiff drinks.

Each night we bellied up at McKee’s pub after walking 36-holes, and each time the chosen elixir was whiskey, with a little Coke, served alongside some amazing Halibut cheek fish and chips.

The atmosphere at McKee’s seemed to match the golf, old school and reserved, but full of hidden, sublime flavors. It has been added to the list of our favorite bars, worldwide.

Yet, none of this is really news. Like I said, Bandon Dunes is somewhat known as a guy’s paradise.

The real news is that Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, with the additon of Old Macdonald in 2010, is about to get remarkably better from a golfing standpoint. Once Old Mac is in play, Pinehurst might start looking over its shoulder from the #1 spot. 

The sublime view from the green at the 377-yard, par-4 7th hole at Old Mac.

The sublime view from the green at the 377-yard, par-4 7th hole at Old Mac.

Old Macdonald is a 7,200-yard, par-72, ultra-traditional links located just steps from Pacific Dunes. It’s unique layout is Pacific Dunes’ architect Tom Doak and Renaissance Golf Design business partner Jim Urbina’s tribute to Charles Blair Macdonald (1856-1939), a pioneer of American golf course architecture and the founder of the USGA.

Not only is it the longest in Bandon’s stable of golf links, Old Mac’s unique design presents golfers with a huge variety of shot-making opportunities. From tee to green there is no discernable answer for each particular shot, and no right way to play each hole. Shank it, punch it, knock it down, loft it, draw it in, fade it, or hit it straight – at Old Mac every shot is playable so long as it is headed for the pin.

And regardless of how solid your game is, you’ll ultimately experience something humbling at the hands of Old Mac, like taking an extra club to get over the huge false front on the 6th green in an effort to get close to the pin, only to hit it a tad hard and find yourself buried in a nearly-invisible pot bunker located just behind the green.

Like Pacific and Bandon Dunes, Old Mac traces the bluffs above Pacific Ocean, where the views (on a clear day) are almost therapeutic. Holes 7, 8, 15 and 16 will become hotspots for professional golf photographers, ala Bandon’s 6th and Pacific Dunes’ 11th holes. What makes it different from its neighbors is Old Mac’s extraordinary in-play features and its added length, which at an estimated 7,200-yards, outpaces Bandon Dunes by almost 500-yards and Pacific Dunes by almost 600-yards.

The playing features that immediately stand out include:

–the massive ‘hogsback’ in the landing area on the par-4, 522-yard 4th hole, which kicks anything hit a bit wayward to the right towards the lower fairway, leaving a blind, uphill second shot.
#4 humpback #4 green

–the ‘hell bunker’ on the 570-yard, par-5 6th hole, a massive stretch of sand that separates the fairway, 150-yards from the green.
 'hell bunker' #6 hell bunker

–the huge ‘chasm’ splitting the green on the 185-yard, par-3 8th. hole, which resembles the Valley of Sin at St. Andrews’ Old Course.
#8 Green -- the 'chasm' #8 from tee

The list of unique features at Old Mac is long and somewhat ironic, considering that those features resemble hazards from old courses in the United States and United Kingdom. There’s even a replica of the Road Hole (the 11th) from the 17th hole at St. Andrews’ Old Course!

Based on our review of the 10 holes currently available for play, it seemed obvious to us that Old Mac possesses more than enough sauce to take the resort’s top spot from the mighty Pacific Dunes. Considering Pacific Dunes’ current rankings, that seems a bold statement, but Old Mac backs it up with its killer views and a kicked-up version of links golf that makes the swales and burns at Pacific and Bandon Dunes seem pedestrian by comparison.

If a USGA championship ever comes to Bandon Dunes, it will be because of Old Mac.

The Construction: we snuck a few photos of the holes being built in the valley on the west side of the course.
under contruction massive dune, lone tree under construction 2

Golf Course Rankings: Based on our visit to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, this is how we ranked the resort’s golf courses.

1. Old Macdonald (est. 7,200-yards, Par 72) — reviewed above.

2. Pacific Dunes (6,633-yards, Par-71)
Ranked #2 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses, Pacific Dunes is often mentioned in the same breath as venerable Pebble Beach. Pacific Dunes is a delicious golf experience, one of those ‘play-it-before-you-die’ kind of deals, like Pebble, only the experience actually lives up to the hype. Every hole at Pacific Dunes is a signature. The one’s located on the ocean are a bonus, a five star feature on a four-star rating scale.For a full review and more photos, click here.

3. Bandon Dunes (6,732-yards, Par 72): Bandon Dunes was built by Scotsman David McLay Kidd in 1999, and was the resort’s sole golf course until Pacific Dunes came on the scene in 2001, stealing a bit of Bandon Dunes’ thunder. Kidd’s design has taken a back seat to Doak’s in the most recent rankings, but not by much, and it remains close as to which golf course is ‘better.’ For a full review and more photos, click here.

4. Bandon Trails (6,765-yards, Par 71): In all the discussions around which golf course is #1, Bandon Trails often gets left out. It quietly exists in the dunes and the pine trees, just south of the resort’s famous golf courses, and rarely gets played. It’s a shame too. This Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore design, which opened in 2005, incorporates elements of links golf that mirror the playing conditions at Bandon and Pacific Dunes, and extends those hard and fast conditions into a forested environment. For a full review and more photos, click here.

The massive putting green5. Shorty’s (1,104-yards/par-27):Designed by David McLay Kidd, Shorty’s is Bandon Dunes’ version of the short-course, a 9-hole par-3 course that serves as a great primer for those arriving in the late afternoon, looking to get in some practice before the next morning’s round. The entire practice are at Bandon Dunes is a dream, and covers a huge amount of acerage. When Shorty’s is open, grab an 8, or 9-iron, a sand wedge and a putter, and play a nassau for a beer!


Getting to Bandon Dunes:
Truth be told, the drive to Bandon Dunes, from just about any direction, is tedious and long. We drove (from Seattle) as fast as was possible, with one short stop for breakfast, and it still took us six and a half hours to get to Bandon. Once there, however, the drive erased from our memory instantly, minus our suddenly fond memories of the steel bridges in Portland and the giant sand dunes around Coos Bay. All that mattered upon our arrival was the golf, and of course some lunch, which was convened in the Pacific Dunes grill over a couple tasty burger dogs.

The best option is to fly to Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend. SkyWest is the exclusive operator in and out of that airport, which is just a 25 mile drive from the resort and offers convenient car rental service. The resort will also pick up passengers arriving at the airport. SkyWest flies to North Bend from both the north (Portland International) and south (San Francisco International), making it accessible from virtually anywhere in the U.S. or beyond. For more details check the “Getting Here” section of the resort’s Web site.