Pacific Dunes Course Rankings:
Golf Digest: #2 US public, #18 US top 100, 18 toughest, #1 Oregon
GolfWeek: #2 US modern, #1 US resort, #1 Oregon
Golf.com: #1 US public, #20 world, #12 US top 100, #1 Oregon
Designer: Tom Doak (2001)
While the course measures only 6,633 yards from the tips, extreme thought should be put in to tee selections at Pacific Dunes (the same as at Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old MacDonald!). The wind in Bandon, Oregon ranges from tolerable to extreme – extreme being over 40 miles per hour with intense gusts off the ocean.
We had a “One in a thousand day” for our first round of the trip at Pacific Dunes, with winds that were typically around ten or so miles per hour. “If there was ever a day to play the tips here, this is the one,” our caddie Charlie Kloss told us.
Choosing the tips means teeing off in front of spectators outside of the Pacific Grille, located upstairs from the pro shop at Pacific Dunes. Know what you’re doing and you’ll be fine, but if the wind is blowing hard then maybe the first tees in are a great decision!
Chances are there will be people inside your flight zone from the tips on one, as seen below. Was this intentional to make sure players who choose to play the tips know what they are getting in to?
If playing without a caddie, the first hole can be quite confusing – the fairway rises uphill and the hole actually bends slightly to the right.
Greg and I took a caddie for our first round at Pacific Dunes, and elected to carry our own bags the second time. We both hit the middle of the fairway off the tee, then stood there discussing where the hole ends up. I walked up a ways, then he did. Neither of us could tell for sure. “Do you have pictures from yesterday?” “If I remember correctly, it goes a little to the right.” “Good enough by me.”
We both ended up in greenside traps.
The green on one is one of the fastest on the entire course, and rolls hard from back to front from the right side.
I hit balls in to the fescue left during both of our rounds at Pacific Dunes, so I cannot say a whole lot about the fairway here other than that I had a lot of difficulty hitting it.
To be fair, though, the setup of the hole on two is absolutely beautiful – central fairway traps and one of the narrower fairways on the course.
The hole runs uphill to a green that is elevated and fronted on the right by a deep bunker with a huge lip.
The green on two funnels from both sides toward the center:
The first par five hole on the course, the third is a mid-range three-shotter that typically plays in to the wind. The fairway runs uphill and to the left to a glorious putting surface that provides the first up-close view of the Pacific Ocean at Pacific Dunes.
A view from the left side of the third hole green complex down the thirteenth hole fairway:
The half-way house / refreshment station at Pacific Dunes can be utilized following the third and twelfth holes:
I am showing this next picture because it’s pretty amazing. Greg hit a great drive on three, then followed it up with a massive three-wood to the front-left of the green. With however long this putt was left, over the horizontal spine in the green, Charlie gave him what he called a “Half-ass read.” Greg hit a “Half-ass putt” and got nothing but net – the first and only eagle of our trip.
Our first on-course “Wow” moment occurred between the third hole green and the fourth hole tee boxes. While the Pacific Ocean is visible upon the horizon from the clubhouse and other areas of the first few holes, the fourth tee box sets you right alongside it. Set high upon the cliffs, waves roll over the sand below and I am told on most days whales, sea lions, dolphins and even sharks can be seen from this high vantage point. We did not see any of these during our trip, but the serenity of the surroundings at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort are on full display from the fourth hole tee boxes.
“This feels like Whistling Straits,” Greg said. I couldn’t agree more, although the drama here is perhaps even more captivating than alongside Lake Michigan at Wisconsin’s number one course and site of next month’s PGA Championship.
Gather your attention long enough to make what is somewhat of a challenging tee shot. The entire right side of the fairway falls from the cliffs through the gorse and far down to the beach. “Has anyone ever played a shot from the beach?” “No,” Charlie told us, “It would be a 45-minute trip to get there – you would have to walk back to the clubhouse, drive to the beach and somehow find your ball in the sand, then hit your shot and double back.” Probably just take the penalty stroke.
The fourth is a long hole – at 463 yards from the tips, it requires a long drive and a very long approach to a putting complex that has to be approached from the left side. Just feet from the right side of the green, errant shots will fall off the cliffs.
Greg’s approach on the second day hit just before the green, rolled across it and toward the cliffs. I saw it jump in the air softly, and thought that it might have stayed in play. Upon finding it, it was caught in the gorse about a foot on the opposite side of the cliff. Quite a few stories above the beach below, I told him he was welcomed to try hitting it with one hand or however he could get the club face on the ball. “No way. With my luck I would survive.”
I am told several people have actually fallen off the cliffs at Bandon Dunes throughout the years. Gorse, which is located nowhere else in America, is incredibly prickly and dense. If the fall doesn’t hurt you seriously, this stuff could absolutely shred you.
Greg took the penalty stroke, which was probably a solid call.
The fifth is an interesting inland par three. Depending on the hole location, there are several ways to play this tee shot. With a back pin location, a long shot to the middle of the green is in play. With a front or middle hole location, though, the right shot is to hit just short of the left side of the green and let it roll on from left to right.
The miss to avoid is toward the front-middle or right side of the green – anything hit here will wind up in the front-right trap (which I managed to find twice).
A short par four, the sixth is played from elevated tee boxes to an even more elevated green complex. The fairway is wide, but the best target is over the right-side sand trap in the fairway to set up a short, head-on approach uphill. Anything down the middle or left side of the fairway will need to then fly the left-side trap to a green that runs left to right.
Even at 316 yards from the tips, or 288 from the first tees in, the sixth is only a drivable par four to the longest of hitters. Greg and I are both pretty long hitters, but hitting this green in one was way out of the question for either of us.
A look at the uphill approach from the right side of the fairway on six:
While the seventh measures the same 464 yards as the fourth hole on Pacific Dunes does, it is an unbelievably different test of golf.
The fairway is wide and forgiving, so go as long as you can off the tee for any chance of hitting this green in two. As the seventh unravels, though, there are plenty of hazards to stay far away from – mostly over the approach zone.
The seventh features some of the best bunkering on the entire course, situated alongside the hill that borders the left side of the approach area:
The front-right greenside bunker on eight proved to be my nemesis for both of our rounds at Pacific Dunes. It took me three shots to get out of it on the first day, and two the second. I had great tee shots both days, and what I thought were pretty well-hit approaches.
The sand at Pacific Dunes is taken straight from the beach, so it is considerably heavier than the average bunker sand found on most golf courses.
“You have to get through the shot using your upper body in these traps,” Charlie told me. “It can’t be all arms like at most courses.” I consider myself to be a pretty strong sand player, but these traps gave me some serious issues all week.
The ninth is one of my favorite holes on the Pacific Dunes course. While a blind tee shot can create a slight sense of anxiety, the double fairway on nine allows for one of the largest driving zones I have ever seen.
Nine has two separate greens – we played to the upper green for both of our rounds, but the lower green looks like it would probably be a slightly easier shot.
A sign during the walk up to the ninth hole tee boxes tells which green to play each day. If it is the upper green, aim over the right side of the sand trap before the tee boxes. As long as the ball is hit relatively well, chances are you will have a manageable approach shot for a green in regulation.
A look back from the upper green on nine:
One of the most fun par threes on the course, the tenth is the first of back-to-back one-shotters and plays heavily downhill toward the coast. At just over 200 yards from the tips, the wind can play a huge factor in to club selection on this hole, as anything in the air is bound to find itself floating one way or the other.
To me, the eleventh is the best par three on the course at Pacific Dunes. At 148 yards from the tips, it is easy to feign toward the right side of the green here, which is actually the right play! The green runs uphill and from right to left, so choose enough club as this hole usually plays straight in to the wind and slightly uphill.
Clear skies and sunshine started giving way to what looked to be a living, moving entity as dense fog began shrouding the coastline and moving east inland over the course. It happened quickly, as you can see in the backdrop of the following pictures facing north along the eleventh hole.
The twelfth is a manageable par five that plays to 529 yards from the tips. The layout is relatively flat, which is helpful if trying to hit this green in two, but the fly zone for the approach can be a bit tricky.
Abutting a drop-off before the Pacific Ocean, the green complex is nowhere near as subtly breaking as it first appears and is hidden from the fairway by a mound short of the putting surface.
The hardest hole on the entire course, the thirteenth plays dead in to the teeth of the wind. During our round on Sunday, this was not very substantial, but boy did that change come Monday!
The driving area is actually quite spacious, and neither of us had any issues either day hitting the fairway. Something about this green, though, is especially challenging to hit, and the green slants heavily with all misses seemingly ending up in the deep, gnarly sand trap right of the green along the hillside.
The beautiful backdrop on the par four thirteenth at Pacific Dunes:
The shortest par three on the course, the fourteenth is far from a pushover hole. At just 145 yards and downwind, the only safe place on this one-shotter is the very center of the green. Anything slightly left will bound left in to the sand, and anything right will fall off the putting surface, as well. I hit the trap left both days.
The fifteenth is a terrific par five, which is hard to tell with the substantial fog that by this time crept over the property:
The entire front-right of the green complex is a massive false front.
It was a lot easier to see Doak’s fantastic fairway bunkering on fifteen during Monday’s round (sans the intense fog):
One of the shortest par fours on the course, the sixteenth at Pacific Dunes is a 338-yard dogleg right that is best played to the left side of the fairway. A short approach is not guaranteed to mean a green-in-regulation, though, as this proved to be a really tough green to hold.
On seventeen is where playing in the fog really became a little silly. We knew it was 208 from the tips to the green, and that it was slightly downhill. We could see that there was a second tee box in front of ours’. That was about it.
The caddies for the group in front of us were outlined by their white outfits, like ghosts in the mist. Beyond that, Charlie told Greg and us that there were a few sand traps that we would want to fly – we could barely make out any part of them from the tee, though, and had to walk up a ways to have any idea where this took place.
A look at the seventeenth during our first round at Pacific Dunes on Sunday:
The green complex was much more visible on Monday, even though the wind was far more challenging. The seventeenth requires a full shot to this green, as the tee shot needs to carry the traps and land on what is probably the largest green on the entire course.
The eighteenth is an outstanding par five and finishing hole. At 575 yards from the tips, the landing zone off the tee is quite gracious. Anything right of the fescue and gorse straight in front of the tees will get a nice roll-out and be a fairway hit.
The hole gets pretty long from there, though! A great second shot is required to miss the spattering of deep fairway bunkers located on the outskirts of the hole, especially the one half-way down the fairway on the right!
“Aim over this spot right here,” Charlie was telling us throughout the grayed out conditions on the eighteenth hole. We literally could not see more than twenty feet in front of us by then. Hit and pray was the plan.
“This is like bowling,” Greg said. “Start it over that plank.” Charlie is a tremendous caddie, though, and had certainly earned our trust by this point.
The semi-bowl shaped green on eighteen:
I expected a ton out of Pacific Dunes prior to our playing it. As the number two modern course in the country behind Sand Hills Golf Club, and the number two public course in the country behind Pebble Beach Golf Links, it had a lot to live up to.
I can honestly say there was not one aspect of the course that did not beat my lofty expectations. Pacific Dunes is an awe-striking golf course with tremendous views and an outstanding layout; it requires every club in the bag, precise approaches and great putting while sticking to Doak’s characteristic wide fairways and carefree driving game.
Not just because of the fog that kept us from truly experiencing the final few holes on Sunday, but because it is my favorite course on the property, I for one was happy we chose Pacific Dunes to be the course we played twice during our Bandon Dunes golf trip.
If you are enjoying a late afternoon round at Pacific Dunes, make sure to linger a while to enjoy a captivating sunset from the Pacific Grille, which features a great menu of seafood and steaks. Also, spend time on the Punch Bowl, a 36-hole extreme putting course complete with waitresses who will take orders and deliver drinks while on the course.
Location: Bandon, OR
Yardage: Black-6633, Green-6142, Gold-5775, Royal Blue-3920, Orange-5088
Slope/Yardage: Black-142/73.0, Green-133/70.7, Gold-129/68.6, Royal Blue-109/60.4, Orange-122/65.6
Weekend Rates: $100 (Nov 22-January) to $310 (June-September)
I would love to hear from you about Pacific Dunes, and about the four courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, in general. How do you rank the four? What are your opinions?