Review: Bandon Dunes Golf Courses, OR

Should be the top spot on your golf bucket list.
I think it is a good idea to have a golf bucket list.  Everyone should have a short list of courses that they would like to play before they kick the bucket.  It also might be a good idea to have courses that are actually playable.  We all would love to play Augusta National, or Cypress Point, but for the vast majority of golfers that isn’t going to happen.  But when it comes to public courses there are still ample opportunities to play incredible golf.  I am proud to say I was able to put a check mark next to
my number 1 course(s) on my bucket list.  I also believe that many golfers should have Bandon Dunes Golf Resort at the very top of that list.  It might not be cheap or easily accessible from major metros, but the out of the way, secluded setting makes this the top golf resort in the US.  There are other resorts that have more courses, or more amenities or are easier to get to, but none can compare to the quality of all four of the courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.  

Bandon is all about golf.  There are no pools, no spas, no shopping centers, no tennis courts, nothing but golf.  The variety of lodging options still focus on golf.  They are really set up for a guy’s golf getaway.  Even though the resort is not especially set up for non-golfers my wife enjoyed the expansive unspoiled beach at Bandon, the miles of trails throughout the resort and the cozy fireplace and balcony for reading a good book.  There were multiple restaurants on site that offers a variety of cuisines.  We stayed in the Lily Pond rooms, which are large and cozy.   From what I could tell from the outside, the Lodge, Inn and Cottages were all done in a post and beam craftsman style.  They blended in nicely with their rugged surroundings.

Once you are at the resort, getting around is easy.  You can quickly get from one course to another by car, by foot or by shuttle.  Just make sure you have communicated with your playing partners, your caddies and the pro shop with exact details or you may end up waiting on the first tee for you buddies while they are waiting at the practice range for you.  Remember to bring your most comfortable golf shoes, since the courses are walking only.


While all the courses at Bandon, play true to links style golf, that doesn’t mean you can’t play your game of golf how you play, with just some minor adjustments.  The first is that you will not be backing shots up on these greens unless you are hitting into a hillside, but you can still play a high flop or shots with all kinds of spin to hold these landing spots.  You might not be able to hold a low line iron or fairway wood, but you will be able to run one up.  The most important club in the bag on links style courses for me was the putter.  With big undulations in most greens and tight areas around each green, putting was often the easiest and best choice for getting close.  It saved me many shots over my rounds at Bandon.  

It is also a great idea to spend time at the practice range, which was the biggest I had ever seen.  You can hit at multiple stations aiming multiple directions.  The putting green at the range was as big as most courses ranges (OK that might be a bit exaggerated, but it is huge).  It was open and ready to go, even in the morning darkness before sunrise.  I had the first tee-time of the day and was still able to get in some good range time, even though I couldn’t see exactly where my ball was going prior to sunrise. (I didn’t get many good pictures because it was always so early in the morning while I was there.)


We also spent some time enjoying the local scenery of Bandon and the 101 scenic highway down the Oregon coast.  If you make the trip to Bandon, OR, spend 90% of your time at the resort, but a venture into town will offer you a quite, quaint little sea town with beautiful scenery.  It has a handful of restaurants and shops, nothing major, but enough to get whatever you need that you can’t find at the resort.

While Bandon Dunes Golf Resort isn’t exactly a cheap adventure or an easy one, it is worth every penny. Get your foursome together and start planning for the golf trip to Bandon.  The 4 courses will make it a trip of a life time.  Bandon Dunes Golf Resort ought to be at the top of every serious golfers bucket list.

For more information:

Pacific Dunes

Best Public Links Course in the US.
Links style golf is where it all started.  The historical courses from Europe are mostly links style.  While this type of course is not as popular or prevalent in the US, it is making a comeback.  Tom Doak and his minimalist design style crafted a unique 18 holes at Bandon called Pacific Dunes.

The scorecard itself lets you know you are in for a treat based on the front nine having one par 3 and one par 5, while the back nine has four par 3s (two are back to back) and three par 5s.

Hole number one is a mid length par 4 slight dog leg right that offers a generous landing area off the tee, with a nice undulated green to give you a feel for what you are in for.  Hole number 2 while similar in length has a very different feel from tee to green.  The semi split fairway offer two different angles into a good-sized green.  Hole number 3 is the only par 5 on the front side and is easily reachable in two.  It is somewhat flat with a few fairway bunkers, but then rises slightly to a perched green with some front right bunkering that will catch more than a few shots.  Hole number 4 is a long, long par 4 that will often play into the wind.  The right side is all Pacific Ocean.  The green is kind of nasty because everything wants to kick to the right, toward the ocean off the hillside.  Hole number 5 is a good, longer par 3 with a big bunker to catch anything long and left.  Hole number 6 is a short par 4 that is an excellent design.  Off the tee it encourages you to go left, yet the ideal play is down the right side.  The knob top green leaks off the back and right, which is difficult if you are coming in from low left.   Hole number 7 is another long par 4 that plays back inland among the trees.  There is lots of room off the tee and even into the giant green there is plenty of room to bomb away.  Hole number 8 has a big blown out bunker on the right side of this left to right dogleg.  There can be advantages to going down either side of this fairway, either some yardage savings or some angles into the green.  Hole number 9 offers an interesting tee shot up hill to a semi-blind landing zone into an easier dogleg left green.

The back nine starts with some great holes, different par set up and some danger zones.   Hole number 10 is a great long down hill par 3, looking out toward the ocean.  Depending on tee box and wind direction, this can play from a short iron to a 3 wood.  Hole number 11 is kind of in a danger zone.  It is another par 3, which feels kind of odd, but also if someone pulls a shot on number 10, the people teeing off on 11 are in dangers.  Then after you are off the tee box on 11 you have to walk right behind the green of number 10 giving you another chance to get plunked.  The hole itself is a nice uphill par 3 to a huge dome like green with the ocean all out to the left.  It is on the short side too.   Hole number 12 is one of the easier par 5s.  It plays on the interesting side since it looks like a 700-yard par 5 that is straight away.  The second shot is a bit deceptive because you still might not be able to see the green, even though you can reach it.  Right in front of you is the green of another hole, while your green is down and to the left.  Yet that green or just left of that green is a great aiming point, as it tends to funnel balls toward the green.  Hole number 13 is a good length par 4 that is one of the most picturesque holes on the course.  The Pacific Ocean is all down the left side and there is a huge sand dune on the right side of the green.  This hole also needs a little work on keeping golfers safe.  The path to hole 14 takes golfers and caddies back into the line of fire around the front side of the sand dune, a good 75-yard back down the 13th fairway.  All traffic should either be directed off the back of the green or a new pathway over the dune should be created.  Hole number 14 is a nice shorter par 3 that offers a big green, so hitting the middle is your best shot.  Hole number 15 is another par 5 that plays as wide as can be off the tee, but as you near the green you find severe bunkering that is deep and nasty.  Hole number 16 is really a pretty easy hole, except if you hit it too far and reach the bunkers straight out at the left corner of this hole.  Still not too difficult coming in with a wedge.  Hole number 17 is a huge tabletop green with all kinds of room on the right side, anything left is trouble.  Hole 18 is a long finishing hole.  The driving zone is large, as long as you don’t go left.  The huge bunker will gobble up tee shots.  From there it is just playing straight up the valley-like setting to the green tucked in the left dunes and the lower right side bunkering.  You end you round just steps from the clubhouse.  

While it doesn’t play extremely long from the tips, it defends itself with a mixture of green shapes and sizes, well placed bunkers and a multitude of tee boxes.  One feature of all the courses I also appreciated was how the grounds crew moved the tee-boxes around based on the wind direction and speed for that day. While the design has a few oddities, that unique layout offers something different and uses the land as it was.  Pacific Dunes is the best public links style course in the US.  It will even rival the best private links courses in the US and abroad.  

Bandon Dunes

If you build it, they will come.
The first course at the resort is still one of the best courses in the country.  The setting is so rustic and impressive on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean.  David McLay Kidd designed a classic course that will be loved by golfers for years and years to come.  Bandon Dunes Golf Course has 6 holes that play along the water and the rest weave back and forth throughout the dunes and gorse just north of the city of Bandon.  Considering this course is still relatively young, it feels amazingly old.  It was designed and implemented in a way that uses the classic features of links golf.  This happened to be my second round at the resort, so thankfully I already had a little understanding of links style golf.  I also had a good vibe going with my caddie Paul.

Hole number 1 starts with a left to right dogleg that plays from in front of the clubhouse and along McKee’s pub.  It would typically play down wind, which is always a nice feature on the first hole.  Hole number 2 is a great, slightly intimidating par 3 that plays up hill.  Hole number 3 is an awesome par 5 that isn’t too long even from the tips.  It plays toward the ocean and down hill.  It is really wide off the tee.  Hole number 4 is a tight dogleg right that finishes by the ocean.  Hole 5 is one of the holes that play along the ocean.  Unfortunately I wasn’t a big fan of this hole because of the massive bunker on the right side of this narrow approach and green.  Hole number 6 is a moderate par 3 with a waste area between the tee and the green and a left side that drops off to the ocean.  Hole number 7 looks tight and rustic off the tee, but not nearly as difficult after that.  Hole number 8 is not too intimidating off the tee, since the bunkers should be easy to clear for most golfers, but the green had sufficient undulation and less room for error around it.  Hole number 9 is a nice finishing par 5 to the front side.  You play right back to the club house/lodge.  It has some bunkers to aim at in the middle of the fairway that can catch some tee-shots.  This is the only course of the 4 to make the turn at the clubhouse, which is always nice for food and restrooms. 

Hole number 10 is a great way to start the backside.  Playing back out toward the ocean this massive fairway has just a couple of pot bunkers to avoid.  Hole number 11 played straight away into a long and narrow green.  Thankfully a tree up near the green had been removed making a much easier approach from the left side of the fairway.  12 is an outstanding par 3 that plays out to the ocean.  Going long over the pin is not a good idea, nor is the deep bunker set on the front left corner.  Hole number 13 is a big bumpy par 5, that depending on the winds, is reachable in two since there isn’t any real danger around the green.  Hole number 14 is a shorter par 4 that plays with a slight dogleg right.  There are some fairway bunkers that need to be avoided and the left side is better since the green is longer and narrower from that angle. Hole number 15 is another great mid length par 3 taking you back out to the ocean.  Hole number 16 is the best hole on the course, possibly at the resort.  Playing south, often into the wind, this rugged par 4 has a stone cliff intersecting the fairway.  While it is an easy carry, the split fairway offers multiple options.  Hitting onto the upper fairway is a bit of a gamble because of the hiding bunkers, but the green might be reachable if you choose the right angle.  Hole number 17 is a dangerous par 4 with nasty gorse and drop off all down the right side.  Hitting 3-wood off the tee on this hole will probably be the best option for most.  Hole number 18 is a strong finishing hole playing as a moderate par 5, once again with danger on the right side.  Thankfully the prevailing winds most days will help keep the ball out of danger.  Finishing on the large final green right out in front of the clubhouse is an awesome feeling.

Weather is always going to play a major factor in your score at Bandon Dunes Golf Course.  Thankfully I was blessed with sunny skies, warm temperatures and light winds.  The prevailing ocean winds will often dictate play too.  I was able to score about the same as I typically would.  What really made this course so much fun was the variety of option to get the ball in the hole.  You could hit all different clubs all different ways.  Creativity is rewarded at Bandon Dunes. 

The “Field of Dreams” motto worked for Bandon so much that they went from one course, to soon to be completed 4 courses. 

Bandon Trail

Last, but certainly not least
Bandon Trails doesn’t have ocean holes, it doesn’t have a wide open links feel, and it might be overshadowed by its two big brothers, but it certainly is no slouch and still plays true to form as far as links golf. 
Bandon Trails is the 3rd course of Bandon designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.  Unfortunately many will see this course a lesser, but I found it to be just a much fun and the best-maintained course of the 4.

This course winds through the inland dunes that make up much of the surrounding topography in Bandon.  This just happened to be my first round at Bandon.  I met up with my caddie Paul, who by the way would be my caddie for all four rounds.  Upon introduction we set up our game plan.  He would point me in the right direction, he would give me yardages and ideal landing zones, and he would let me read the greens myself as long as I felt comfortable and putted well. 

Hole number 1 really sets the stage of what is to come for the next 17 holes.  It is rugged bold and the tips tee box is set back to the right.  Thankfully, striping the first tee balls means good things to come.  While not completely blind, the landing zone is a bit hidden, it will leave you just a short iron into the green.  Hole number 2 was a mid length par 3 that plays way down hill.  Favoring the right side is better than dropping off to the left.  Hole number 3 is a long flat par 5 with some rugged bunkers that can get in the way.  Hole number 4 is a moderate par 4 dogleg right around a clump of trees and bunkers.   It is banked on the left side so it should be an easy driving hole.   Hole number 5 is a short par 3 that plays over a little canyon.  It is all going to depend on pin placement on this giant green.  Hole number 6 is an up and down par 4 that offers a split fairway with a bunker right in the middle.  The green clearly slopes from right to left and down the hill.  Hole number 7 is a big uphill par 4 that can make pars even a bit tricky to come by.  That is why I birdied this hole.  A lucky hybrid into this green stopped 3 feet from the pin.  It is big and wide off the tee, but really takes a good poke to get up to this green.  Hole number 8 is a simple short par 4.  It is not real wide off the tee, but just about any club is a possibility.  I just hit driver up close for a short little chip on.  The only real danger is down the left side with its bunkers.  Hole number 9 is long par 5.  Trees and bunkers frame the fairway.    

Making the turn seemed less than significant, since there was nothing to indicate the round was half over. (so much so that I forgot to take a picture) Hole number 10 is basically straight, but the fairway bends around the left side bunker, which is easy to fly off the tee.  Hole number 11 was a nice slightly long down hill par 4.   It looks like a dogleg, but mostly plays straight, with one of the only water features on the course on the right side of the green.  Hole number 12 is a monster par 3, but being flat and pretty wide-open hitting driver might be a common sight on this hole.  But surprisingly it really isn’t that hard, even though it is long.   Balls tend to funnel into the center of this green.  Hole number 13 is a nice down hill, and then slightly uphill to a green.  Anything hit right is bad, even shots that look good can trickle into the right bunkers, or trees.  Because of a past death (I guess an employee die during a round on the pathway up the hill) on the walk between 13 and 14, they now had a chauffeured cart up the hill to the next tee box.  It wasn’t that bad, but maybe it was because of his fear of 14.  This was probably my least favorite hole on the entire property.  It is a super easy driving hole.  It is one of the shorter par 4s on the course.   Anywhere works, since the fairway is huge.  Problem is everything slopes to the right.  The left side is the best place to be, but according to my caddie, only a small percentage of the people he caddied for end up there.  As you can guess I did not.  The green is narrow and crowned with nasty bunkers on the right side.  It is severely elevated from the right side of the fairway.  It is almost impossible to hold the green from that angle.  But after the frustration with hole 14, moving on to hole 15 is a nice par 4.  Just avoid the big bunker in the middle.  It would take a huge driver to get there; so most of the time a mid iron to this flatter green shouldn’t be too difficult.  Hole 16 is a great shorter par 5 that if things work out just right can be reached in two, even though it plays up hill, which kind of helps slow down that long second shot into the green.  Hole 17 was an awesome par 3 that plays downhill to an angled green that wants to shoot everything to the right.   Longer and left is better as long as you don’t go too far and reach the bunker.  Hole number 18 is a strong finishing hole that plays through the dunes and right next to the restaurant and pro shop.  Keeping it in the fairway on this hole will make it much easier.

While Bandon Trails doesn’t have the ocean views, it still plays true to links form.  It’s beauty is found in the rustic nature of the dunes and forest.  While it may be my 4th favorite of the courses, it blows most other courses around the country away.

Old McDonald

When I hear the name Old Macdonald, I think about the nursery rhyme we all learned as a child.  The name is fitting in more than one way.  The course has a farm like feeling; it is very open and huge.  The other as a tribute to Charles B. Macdonald, the father of American links golf.  His formula for using the ancient style holes/templates in his architecture have been recreated by Jim Urbina and Tom Doak.  I have a feeling this might be the best course on the property.  It has only a few ocean

views so that might hamper its popularity, but the layout and hole designs are outstanding.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to play all 18, even though they were done, there was some maintenance work going on, but the 10 preview holes I did get to play were amazing.  My caddie helped me get a feeling of the layout for all 18 holes and gave me the real hole numbers as we played, but I think I just got confused so I’ll just comment on the 10 holes I played and a few on the other 8 I saw.  The current hole 1 is actually number 6.  It is huge.  If you can’t hit this fairway with your driver, it might be time to buy a new one.  It is huge and long.  Many golfers will have to deal with the railroad tie faced bunkers on their second shots.  For the big hitters, just flying over those bunkers gives you the best shot into this somewhat tame green.  Hole number 2 (7) is a shorter par 4 that is one of the better holes on the course.  It plays uphill on the second.  It has a major false front and then once you get to the green you get one of your few ocean views.  Hole number 3 is one of my favorite par threes on the whole property.  The green is the biggest I have ever seen.  It is 75 yards long and 40 wide with a huge swale in the middle.  The mound on the front left corner kick balls onto the green.  Hole number 4 (9) has some serious bunkering to carry over.  It doesn’t take a huge driver, but sometimes it can be intimidating.  Hole number 5(10) is a really big par 4 that has some bunkering that needs to be navigated.  It is important that you pick a side.  If you get into that center bunker, reaching the green is going to be really tough.  Hole number 6(11) is also on the long side, but playing in the opposite direction so one or the other will be into the wind or down wind.  This one is what they call the road hole.  There is a sod stack bunker right in the left front corner of this green.  Hole number 7 (14) is a great short par 4.  Fly the left bunkering for a short easier approach or take the easy road and hit up the right side.  As you climb this hill, the green is still big and will greatly depend on pin placement.  Hole number 8 (3) plays different in the preview than it will probably play when completed.  The tee box is down low and the tee shot is way up hill.  I’m guessing the huge dune bunker will be quite the ball catcher.  But really it will be an easy tee shot that will funnel balls over the hill and down to an easy plateau for a shot iron or wedge into the green.  Hole 9 (4) is the longest par 4 on the property.  It simply plays long on the plateau, the green again was huge offering many options and opportunities to still reach in two.  Hole 10 (5) was a mid length par 3 into a severely undulated green.  Thanks to a little mix-up on timing, I knew this green well and sunk a huge one putt.    The holes that I didn’t get to play looked really good.  Holes 1 and 2 played in a lower plateau.  The others I didn’t get to play 12, 13, 15,16, 17, and 18 looked really impressive as they cut up and down to the far north and out and back from the high ocean dunes. 

This course will be so much fun because of the plethora of options on every shot.  It will play long, but that won’t be the problem.  The real test will be on your second shot.  You will need to hit the right part of the green, which could be 2 or 3 clubs difference from the center of the green depending on pin placement.  If you are not good at lag putting this course could drive up scores.  It will greatly depend on the weakness of your game.  It’s big and bold and tons of fun singing E-I-E-I-O on Old Macdonald.