Updated: May 21, 2015
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort:Bandon Dunes golf resort in Oregon is one of the most talked about new golfing meccas in the world. Started in 1999 with Bandon Dunes golf course, they have since added Pacific Dunes and the most recent, Bandon Trails. There is a 4th course in the works that will be introduced sometime in 2010. The golf at Bandon Dunes is unlike any you have probably ever played and will surely give you memories to last a lifetime. The one question I hear from people are the time is "Where is Bandon Dunes?". Bandon Dunes is located along the southern coast of Oregon about 5 minutes north of the town of Bandon and 4 1/2 hours south of Portland (see map HERE). You can catch a flight into North Bend which is only 25 minutes from Bandon Dunes but it's certainly not a major airport at this point and flights are limited. No matter how you get to Bandon Dunes, it will be a golf trip to remember with rugged coastlines, majestic fairways, massive waste bunkers that will make you think you are on another planet, and wicked fast greens that will test your putting skills on every hole.
I have played the courses in the dead of winter (December) and in spring (April) with excellent weather so don't be afraid to venture to Bandon Dunes beyond the summer season. The resort itself is very quiet with accommodations spread out over the property and a beautiful practice facility open to everyone. There are just a few restaurants and bars to choose from, but with crowds rare, you will feel like you have the resort to yourself at times. The resort also offers lounges, golf shops, a hot tub, sauna, exercise room, and locker rooms. The true links golf courses are something that you rarely find in the United States with most of these style courses offered in England, Scotland and Ireland. The one thing that I have come to realize about all the courses at Bandon Dunes is that a variety of golf shots are required in order to succeed. If you can hit low, punch shots that cut below the wind you will have success. The experience can best be described as both "torturous and breathtaking" all at the same time. I recently came off of a round on Pacific Dunes where the wind was howling at 50+ MPH and the rain was coming down in all directions. All my buddies said "that was one of the most crazy, insane, and fun rounds of my life". The courses bring out all emotions in everyone and although the golf can be tough, you will still want to come back for more.
Golf Courses:Bandon Dunes is my personal favorite course and the original of the 3. It winds through native dunes and bluffs high above the Pacific Ocean. On a clear day, you can see for miles and the rugged Oregon coastline is magnificent. The course starts off with a newly renovated par 4 that goes either right or dogleg left (during some months) and is an excellent start to a beautiful golf course. The 2nd hole, an uphill par 3, will surely test your mental focus as anything short will fall into a wasteland of high weeds and sand. The 3rd hole is a par 5 that is only 490 yards long and not too difficult, but the harder holes are yet to come. The 4th is the one that really opens your eyes to the ocean and is a twisting par 4 that requires a great 2nd shot or else the cliffs and ocean will eat your ball. With the prevailing winds along the coast, you may find yourself hitting 4 irons into holes that would otherwise require an 8 iron. That's the fun behind the course since club selection is so important to giving yourself a chance. The signature hole is the 16th that takes you back out to the ocean bluffs for an incredible view (look for kite surfers in good weather). The tee shot requires a significant carry over rocks and cliffs to a two-tiered fairway. Once you make it past the 16th, you can breath a little easier and enjoy 17 and 18 into the clubhouse. I had the enjoyment of playing Bandon Dunes a few years ago during April the the gorse bush was in full bloom with yellow flowers all around. The landscape was gorgeous.
Pacific Dunes is the hardest course at Bandon Dunes in my eyes. The greens are small and severely sloped in all directions with giant bunkers just waiting to snatch up wayward shots. The fairways on Pacific Dunes golf course are not flat, exactly the opposite with huge undulations and blind shots at every corner. You will truly need to "trust" your golf swing on this course as the narrow greens require precision iron play and perfect putting. Pacific Dunes opened in 2001 and is a great compliment to the Bandon Dunes golf course. One of the signature holes is the 11th, an unassuming par 3 (148 yards) that has the ocean along your left side as you play south to north. The difficulty of this hole is the wind, and I do mean difficult. A few years back I played this hole during 40 MPH winds that required a shot that started out over the water and would fade back to the hole (using a 4-iron) almost 25 yards. Needless to say I ended up with a triple bogey, but it was an experience and the type of shot you only get to try at Bandon Dunes golf resort.
Bandon Trails is the newest course that openen in 2005 and is certainly different from the other 2 courses in that it starts in the sand dunes but quickly takes you inland through meadows and forest. Bandon Trails is a workout both mentally and physically as the constant up and down on the terrain can get you winded. The fairways are ample, yet the green complexes are downright nasty on some of the holes. With severe slopes and subtle drop-offs that feed into greenside bunkers, you will need to stay focused throughout the round. The par 4 14th hole is one that draws comments from all golfers as you now take a cart up from the 13th hole to the elevated tee box of the 14th which must sit 7 stories above the fairway below. You can see the ocean on a good day and the tee shot is a carry that you better hit well to get to the fairway. That's just the start of the fun. With one of the smallest greens on the course, this short par 4 is demanding from tee to green and requires an accurate 2nd shot to get you into birdie range. I have seen double digit scores on this hole and birdies, which tells you it's fair, but can reach out and grab you. The scenery is what golf is all about on Bandon Trails and you feel like you have taken a hike at the end of the round. Good thing there is a bar and restaurant just off the 18th green for you to regain your energy and get a pint of beer to celebrate your survival.
Old MacDonald - I've always felt that Bandon Dunes had 3 great courses and that was plenty for me. Most average golfers would have their hands full with the 3 courses listed above on any single trip. Now that Old MacDonald has opened up, the resort offers 4 courses (with more on the way we hear). Old MacDonald was much anticipated and when it finally opened in June 2010 I had the chance to play it. Unfortunately for me, I went the last week of November and ended up playing much of the round during a wind and rain storm. The 1st hole is very easy and straightforward - a par 4 with minimal bunkers and a great chance for a par. The real eye opener is the 3rd hole which is a par 4 with a blind tee shot over a huge sand dune with a tree in the middle of the tee shot. Once over the hill, the ball will run forever, so get it up and avoid a big #. Number 5 is a beautiful par 3 where we saw a birdie and an 8 on the cards. The 6th hole is longest hole on the course at 555 yards, but I was able to reach the green (actually went over it) in 2 since the prevailing winds were with us in November. The 7th takes you out towards the ocean and requires an accurate iron from the fairway to the elevated green. Great once you get to the green and look back. The 11th is supposedly to resemble the 17th at St. Andrews (the famous road hole). The pot bunker does come into play if you are short and left, but otherwise the hole was not too bad on my score. I found the 14th, an uphill Par 4 to be the hardest on the course when the winds were blowing the rain was coming in sideways. I was lucky to escape from a buried lie in the bunker short left of the green, but others in my group had a heck of a time with it. The 16th was fun, but for first timers it can be difficult. A tee shot to the left leaves you with a blind shot to a hidden green. Going right off the tee may give you a look at the green, but it's still a hard hole. The last hole was long, but played fair enough. We were glad to be done after 2 hours of constant rain and wind. My first opinion of the course is that it's not as good as the others, but perhaps I need 1 round on Old MacDonald without all the rain and wind in order to judge it better.