I played at Bandon in August of 2019 with some friends from New York and Boston, in a trip arranged by my good friend David T, aka “OT”. I had never played Bandon before. I checked it out before going and it looked sensational: https://www.bandondunesgolf.com/golf/golf-courses
That turned out to be dead right. This is the single best golfing venue I have ever played. Streamsong, for example, is great, but Bandon is superb. The combination of excellent courses, beautiful views and good accommodation and dining make this a place I would recommend everyone play at least once in their golfing lives.
It’s true it’s a bear to get to, and it’s not exactly cheap when you get here, but it’s totally worth it. To get to Bandon, we flew out of JFK is Salt lake and then on to Eugene, followed up by a 2.5 hour drive. Yes, it’s a trek to get to Bandon; I believe United have flights that go in via SFO in North bend which is much faster.
The first thing you realize is just how big the property is: I think I heard Mike Kaiser bought 2,500 acres. There are shuttle buses to get you from the main lodge to the accommodations and the courses. The check in process was very easy, and our lodge was a 4 bed carbon with large central lounge. The lodges are well appointed and very comfortable. Each bedroom is en-suite. We stayed at the Grove lodges, which are set in wooded areas, with deer frequently walking around in close proximity. They seem to be quite comfortable with us humans.
We had breakfast in the main Lodge each day which was just fine. It’s a 5 minute shuttle from the Grove complex where we stayed. Then its another 5 minute shuttle to the range and another 2-10 minuets to the courses depending upon which you are going to play.
The main Clubhouse features a nice check in area, breakfast and dining and a bar plus terrace onto practice putting green. Go practice! Good pro shop and a gift store as well. Adjacent is the pub, which is a pretty cool spot for dinner.
There are 4 courses to play, and one par three course, plus a putting course as well. A fifth course is under construction as well.
Bandon Dunes: It began in 1999 with the opening of Bandon Dunes. Designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd, the course is perched on a bluff high above the Pacific Ocean. Bandon Dunes unfolds along pristine native dunes where expansive ocean views are revealed on nearly every hole. The course is completely natural and routed through an environment of indigenous vegetation.
We played Bandon Dunes first. The first tee is right at the main Lodge. A terrific golf course. I really enjoyed the course; the layout is really very attractive, with some testing tee shits and approaches, plus holes running along the cliffs down to the massive beaches below. I played well, coming back in 1 over (missing a putt on 18 for par) for an overall 78. Not bad for day one; 78 is a 5.6 index.
Verdict: a close second to Pacific Dunes. This is a great course with lots of challenges and interest throughout the 18 holes.
Pacific Dunes: Designed by Tom Doak and opened in 2001, Pacific Dunes is remarkably different in character and shot making requirements than our other courses. Pacific Dunes doesn't feel like it was built as much as it was discovered. Rippling fairways remain just as they were found and natural bunkers line the landscape as they have for centuries. The course emerges from shore pines to spectacular 60-foot sand dunes. When the wind blows, precise approach shots are a necessity.
This is quite an amazing golf course: fabulous holes along the cliffs, and several par 3’s and par 5’s on the back nine. I played horribly on the front 9: was lucky to score 45. Then, something amazing happened and i ended up shooting 34 (one under) on the back nine for a 79. Not deserved at all. We played this course twice, and with a bit more wind, its really tough. I shot an 84 and felt fortunate.
Pacific was designed by Tom Doak. He also designed Renaissance. Very different courses!
There are very wide fairways in places and tough approaches into sometimes very narrow greens. The views are just sensational.
Verdict: Best course of them all. Sensational views and challenging holes. Back nine is really terrific with three par 3’s. Each of which offer birdie and double bogey opportunities.
Bandon Trails: When Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw began working in the sand to uncover our third course, they faced the challenge of following Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes. Opened in 2005, Bandon Trails begins atop a massive sand dune, then quickly opens into a sprawling meadow. The routing then works higher into the coastal forest, before finally returning to finish in the dunes. The course is enjoyable to walk and is a constant reminder of how the game was originally created among inland rolling dunes with dramatic ocean vistas.
Bandon Trails is quite different from the rest of the courses; it starts out like its going to be links, then veers into the woods and it becomes just a gorgeous woodland course. The fairways are pretty generous, but there are some fun up and down holes, and the vistas are just spectacular. Shot a 78.
Played again on our last day with the wind blowing a bit: to give you an idea - the par 4 18th holes at the Trails is about 360 yards. I hammered a drive and was left with 145 yards. Gives you an idea of the challenge the word poses.
Verdict: Third. This is really a great golf course, totally different from the first two as it (mostly) winds its way through hilly tree lined lands, I think this is may even rate higher than Bandon Dunes on reflection.
Old MacDonald: The fourth course at Bandon Dunes pays homage to golf course architect Charles Blair Macdonald by asking one simple question: What would Macdonald have created had the Oregon Coast been his canvas? Inspired by Macdonald's iconic work, course architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina crafted a course that seeks the answer upon vast greens, among myriad angles of play, and from the depths of fierce bunkers.
This course created the widest views amongst the group. Some really liked it, I thought it was very average in comparison with the others.
Verdict: pretty good course, but a distinct fourth on the list. Very open to winds in the afternoons. There was just something about the course I did not like. It does feature a Reddan hole.
Bandon Preserve: A unique experience in every way, Bandon Preserve is a 13-hole par-3 course that delivers a level of enjoyment matched only by the spectacular views. Opened in 2012 and designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Bandon Preserve begins high atop a sand dune and rolls down toward the beach. The Pacific Ocean provides the backdrop to every hole.
We played the par three course in the afternoon having played Dunes in the morning. This is a really good idea. It’s a lot of fun and a challenge, and I think really helps your game. Lot of half shots and bump and runs.
We also had a putting competition at the Punch bowl putting area in the evening: terrific fun and a must do. I think there are thirty holes set up from 10 feet to 10 yards with all sorts of undulations and stuff going on. It’s definately a fun thing to do. Verdict: this is great fun. It’s a real challenge playing these varied short holes,
And of course, a putting course. Our newest addition to the Bandon Dunes family, The Punchbowl is a 100,000-square-foot putting course designed by Tom Doak, with Jim Urbina.
Verdict: this is really a fun thing to do. Everyone can play this putting course and have lots of laughs.
Of course, there is one guy who has been critical: "You know, everyone crows about Bandon Dunes," T@$%&p told Links magazine in 2010 as he was starting to build a links course north of Aberdeen, Scotland. "Well, I've been to Bandon Dunes. The views there are no better than what we have, and the dunes themselves are like little toys compared to our dunes."
The food is pretty good. Breakfast at the main Clubhouse is terrific. Bandon Trails was best for lunch. Dinner at the pub at the main lodge. The pub is pretty good too.
Caddies: I thought they were really quite good. At least two we had were very serious golfers and they all knew the courses very well.
So, that’s the trip to Bandon. A huge success. It’s a long trek to get here and it’s by no means cheap but its well worth it. I really enjoyed this experience.