Bandon Dunes Golf Course Review, Background, Info and Experience
Entering on this corner of the ring the reigning golf champion Bandon "The Real Deal" Dunes with 5 knock out courses; 2 courses rated in top 10 US Public courses; 4 courses rated in top 20 US Public Courses; 4 courses rated in top US Courses; 2 courses in top 100 in World; top ranking in US Golf Resorts; 4 courses ranked in top 25 US Modern Golf Courses; and top ranking in US Top Short Golf Courses. Those are some serious accolades and its all in one killer location along the Oregon coastline with great facilities and high service levels. Its hard to challenge the champ.
The WYLD1™ group has been going to Bandon for many years and we immediately reserve the next year trip before departing the facility without second thought.
Knowing we are biased for good reason, personal experience, what makes Bandon one of golfs most sacred jewels? Duh..its unbelievable golf but it does go deeper.
Lets start off with the golf. Bandon is relatively new when looking at the long history of golf. This is an advantage as the game has evolved as well as the people who play the game and their expectations and realities of busy modern life.
Bandon opened in 1999. The vision was led by founder and owner Mike Keiser who had a very simple philosophy with 3 pillars: great, on the ocean and great architecture. Seems simple and it has proven to be a great formula but at the beginning there was uncertainty if Bandon was going to thrive.
The first course that opened was Bandon Dunes designed by David McClay Kidd. If you read our other articles you will see his name regularly appears for good reason, we like him a lot! The course received a high ranking from the get go and maintains high ratings in the US and world. Bandon Dunes is a true links golf course with holes on the coast and views of the ocean throughout. It is playable course with generous fairways and large greens with mild undulation. The course can show you grit if the wind is in play, you venture wayward or get trapped in one of its deep bunkers. Although the course is relatively young it has undergone revisions to ensure is greatness and continued standing as a Classic.
Pacific Dunes was the second course added to the mix in 2001. Mike Keiser selected Tom DoaK to lead the architecture charge. Bandon Dunes was immediate hit but Pacific Dunes garnered even higher rankings. One element that makes it unique that Doak references in his design notes is the courses unique routing, consecutive par threes, and the back nine had four part threes and two par fours. Luckily he got the blessing to proceed and the result was highly rewarded. It is a links course that also has coastline holes and terrific ocean views. The course is also very playable with plenty of holes you can unleash the driver. However, to score low strong course management is needed as there are plenty of areas where disaster can quickly strike and approach angles greatly improve likelihood of birdies and pars. The wind can also play a major role on Pacific Dunes scoring with head and cross-winds significantly changing your club selection and angles.
The next strategic move was adding Bandon Trails in 2005 with course design led by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. If you are seeking a change of scenery from oceanfront links you get it at Bandon Trails. The course quickly takes you through a adventure starting in huge sand dunes to open meadows to heavy forest and back to sand dunes with plenty of elevation change. It is a challenging track that requires additional precision to score but overall has generous landing areas. While it is usually ranks lowest of groups priorities when visiting Bandon in our opinion it is requisite to fulfill the complete Bandon experience and would likely receive a much higher course rating if situated in a different location without direct comparisons to its distinct oceanfront companions.
The KO was one step closer when they added Old McDonald in 2015 with Tom Doak and Jim Urbina taking architecture charge. The course is named and inspired by a legendary design Charles Blair Macdonald. It is a grand old course with massive greens, fairways and bunkers. The driver is a must and can be ripped throughout the round but doesn't directly relate to your scoring. While the large greens provide favorable looks they need to be smartly navigated or the dreaded three put will strike. It has holes where elevation comes into play, blind shots are also going to be faced and several bunkers are really dirty. For group competitions Old Mac is hard to beat as everyone is usually in play and scoring opportunities are always lurking.
And BAM the 5th round KO was achieved with the addition of The Sheep Ranch in 2020. The mysterious Sheep Ranch is the smallest and shortest Bandon course at 140 acres and 6,400 yards. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are the architects behind this new course building on a unique history of the land where 13 greens were previously sitting designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina. The land was purchased in 2000 by Mike Keiser and Phil Friedmann and sat sparingly used by select groups of golfers given permission to play. It has magical contours and unbelievable coastal views. The course has many unique attributes including no sand traps, 9 greens along the cliffside, distinctive routing and a tee that allows you to cut diagonally over the cliffs to reach the fairway. Wind is the primary defense and with the constant change in routing every shot requires thought on how to play for the wind. When calm scoring opportunities are plentiful with many short holes.
Now that we are clear that the golf is covered lets talk about some of the other greatness found at Bandon Dunes. First, you can completely relax when on the property. Shuttles are almost instantaneously available to whisk you around the property. The rooms are not lavish but modern and comfortable. There are six dining and drinking facilities so you can move around for a change of scenery and taste. The clubhouse also has the "bunker room" for late night libations and games; as well as a fitness facility. The practice facility is top-notch. The Preserve Par 3 is amazing. And there is a humongous putting green "Punch Bowl" to hone your putting or partake in fun competitions with "green service" drinks being delivered.
Bandon also doesn't allow carts so you are going to be walking a lot which has several significant benefits. The first is obvious actual exercise to keep the blood pumping. The second and should be viewed as equally important is the metaphysical ability to take it all in. See and think in peace; enjoy time with friends; be absorbed by majestic scenery; and establish laser focus on your golf game.
So if this wasn't enough to convince you the KO was successfully delivered. A fifth course is in the works. The Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch will open in 2020 with lead design shared between Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. It will have speculator views with one mile of coastline!
Bandon is The Real Deal!
ON THE LINKS