- 57744 Round Lake Road, Bandon, Oregon, 97411, USA
- 1 888 345 6008; 1 541 347 4380
The story of how arguably the world’s top golf resort came to be, is a good one. Mike Keiser, an entrepreneur who made his money printing gift cards on recycled paper, fell in love with golf and, in particular, links golf. Instead of just playing top courses at private clubs around the world he felt the need to create his own brilliant layouts – but a key motivating factor was to keep the courses open to the public. It’s an everyman sentiment that’s sometimes at odds with the exclusive world of privileged golf in America, but one that should be encouraged. His first project was to build a nine-hole course by Lake Michigan – the Dunes Club turned out to be one of the finest layouts in America. Keiser was just getting started.
After spotting a beautiful dune landscape on the Pacific Coast of Oregon he set out transforming it into a dream destination for golfers. Keiser brought in Scottish architect David McLay Kidd to build links course Bandon Dunes in 1999 (ranked 90 in The World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses – 2016-17 by Golf Digest), and then American Tom Doak to build Pacific Dunes (ranked 39 in the world by Golf Digest), which opened in 2001. Both courses have multiple holes that work along the bluffs overlooking the coast. They were celebrated layouts from the start.
“Holes seem to emerge from the landscape rather than being superimposed onto it,” Golf Digest’s Ron Whitten wrote of Pacific Dunes. “The rolling greens and rumpled fairways are framed by rugged sand dunes and marvellously grotesque bunkers.”
Despite already getting the attention of golfers around the world, Keiser kept building courses. Acclaimed US architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were brought in to design Bandon Trails, which was completed in 2005. The layout starts in the dunes before heading through forest and finally finishing in the dunes. (Coore and Crenshaw returned to build Bandon Preserve, a 13-hole par 3 course in 2012 that ranks well in US).
The fourth course, Old MacDonald, was designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina in 2010 to try to emulate the work of legendary architect C.B. Macdonald at the National Golf Links in Southhampton, New York. Golf Digest ranked Old Macdonald No. 47 and Bandon Trails No. 70 in its list of America’s 100 Greatest Courses – 2016-2017.
How do the Bandon links courses compare? Bandon Dunes, the most mature course, is routed over the bluffs and ends back at the main lodge. Pacific Dunes is the shortest links course here with the smallest greens and natural sand-dune bunkers. Bandon Trails is a links layout cut into a forest setting and it traverses a massive dune that divides the property from east to west. Old Macdonald features some of the largest greens you’ll find anywhere.
What sets Bandon Dunes Resort apart from many is that it is a retreat with links golf as the focus – four championship courses – and the resort itself doesn’t have any residential housing or major development built onto the land. It is golf played in a beautiful and natural environment. You’ll burn some calories too – this is a walking-only golf resort.
This is nirvana for those who love links play. The wind whips off the Pacific Ocean to the west, adding to the level of difficulty so you may want to keep the ball trajectory lower, depending on the conditions, as well as employing bump and run tactics near the greens. The pro’s tips? “Learn to use your putter from everywhere around the greens and flight your full swings. The trajectory of your full shots is key with distance control.”
When to play: The courses are open year-round. The average temperature in January is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, or 12.7 degrees Celsius, according to Weather.com. The green fees at Bandon Dunes change with the season but are not overly priced.
Par: Pacific Dunes Par 71
Bandon Dunes Par 72
Bandon Trails Par 71
Old Macdonald Par 71
Bandon Dunes 74.1 / 143 / 6732 yards, 6156 meters
Pacific Dunes 73 / 142 / 6633 yards, 6065 meters
Old Macdonald 74.4 / 131 / 6944 yards, 6350 meters
Bandon Trails 73.6 / 130 / 6759 yards, 6180 meters
Bandon Dunes, Hole 16. This is a 363-yard (332-meter) par 4 that has a tee shot with the wind over the bluffs to a split fairway. Cliffs that overlook a beach and the Pacific are on your right-hand side as you hit your approach shot.
Pacific Dunes, Hole 13. A 444-yard (406-meter) par 4 made longer as you hit into the prevailing wind onto an undulating fairway. It’ll be a relief to land the ball on the elevated green in regulation.
Bandon Trails, Hole 2. Judge the wind for club selection on this 214-yard (196-meter) par three, which has bunkers on the left side of the green.
Old Macdonald, Hole 15. ‘Westward-Ho’, a 535-yard (489-yard) par five, sees you hitting to an elevated green with a bunker just short of it on the right side of the fairway.
The pro says:
“All of the courses are authentic links courses that demand every shot imaginable. Their routings are the perfect blend between long demanding holes and short strategic ones.”
Michael Chupka Jr. PGA
The resort experience:
Bandon Dunes is a retreat for keen golfers. The lodge and other buildings are in line with the minimalist approach of the courses. They fit into the environment without being overbearing – grey metals roofs, wooden shingles and plenty of wooden chairs outside to enjoy the view of the golf course, dunes and ocean in the distance. You’ll find the massage center, sauna and jacuzzi are all good spots to ease the muscles after playing a couple of courses here. The resort prides itself on the small-town friendly service it offers guests.
Dine and wine:
There are four eateries to choose from. You can enjoy fine dining, including fine wine, at The Gallery in the lodge. Trails End restaurant includes Asian dishes on their menu as well as views overlooking Bandon Trails’ Hole 18 (a good spot to watch sunset with cocktail in hand). The Pacific Grill, next to the Punchbowl course, has daily fish specials and some good drinks. Finally, McKee’s Pub has hearty fare such as Grandma’s Meatloaf, which would go well with a freshly poured Guinness and Grandma for company if you can get her to Oregon.
With five separate accommodation options, you’ll find something to fit the budget and group size. The Lily Pond rooms offer the best value. You get two queen-sized beds, a fireplace, sitting area and private deck looking out on the lily pond and forest. Those in a larger group may go with the Lodge Suite, which has four bedrooms, each with a separate bathroom and a balcony overlooking Bandon Dunes and the Pacific Ocean.
If you have time after playing all the courses, head out on the hiking trails that lead to the beach, or enter the on-site labyrinth, which replicates a maze at Chartres Cathedral in France, as well as other loops that work around the property. Fishermen, such as myself, can engage a guide to take them salmon or steelhead trout-fishing when they spawn on their way up local freshwater streams and rivers