Bandon Dunes Course Rankings:
Golf Digest: #7 US public, #37 US top 100, #33 toughest, #2 Oregon
GolfWeek: #8 US modern, #5 US resort, #2 Oregon
Golf.com: #8 US public, #63 world, #34 US top 100, #2 Oregon
Designer: David McLay Kidd (1999)
Bandon Dunes was my first experience playing a David McLay Kidd course, which I was really excited about considering he is in the process of designing the second course at the upcoming Sand Valley project in my home state of Wisconsin. McLay Kidd is one of the hottest “New” designers in the world, having recently completed internationally renowned projects at Gamble Sands in Washington, Tetherow in Oregon, the Castle Course at St. Andrews and others.
Kidd’s design style is said to be minimalistic and incredibly skillful, both of which are evident in the layout of Bandon Dunes’ charter course.
Born and raised in Scotland as the son of long-time Director of Golf & Estate Operations at Gleneagles Golf Club, Jimmy Kidd, David grew up around some of the greatest classic golf courses in Scotland, and his work at Bandon Dunes shows his European minimalistic style well, along with the heritage of his design philosophies – rooted in the inspiration of legendary designers like CB Macdonald, Seth Raynor and Old Tom Morris, as well as his contemporaries like Coore/Crenshaw and Tom Doak.
Bandon Dunes opened in 1999 to rave reviews. The resort, beginning with this course, was the brainchild of golf resort visionary Mike Keiser, whose great success at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has led him to similar remote golf destination projects at Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia and the soon-to-come Sand Valley project.
Although I have not been to Europe, I have been told over and over that Bandon Dunes is the closest thing to Scottish golf that our country has to offer, and from photos alone I have to agree. With terrific mounding, gigantic sand blowouts and harsh winds whipping over the sand-laden fescue terrain, the nearby Pacific Ocean provides the only scent in the air and dramatically varying weather from day to day makes these courses play differently for each and every round.
Bandon Dunes is Disney World for golf enthusiasts. So leave the non-golfing significant others and children at home, because the only thing on golfers’ minds during a trip to Bandon, Oregon is golf… And tons of it!
The first hole at Bandon Dunes was a stressful one for me – without any previous swings, I got to the tee box from the tips, connected and saw the ball slice hard right, straight toward the buildings out of bounds. Scared to death it would hit the pro shop or something else, it came down without sound and our caddie, Daniel, told me to shake it off and hit a breakfast ball. Overcompensating, I obviously hit the next one well left but safe. Phew!
Daniel said that the glass tower above the pro shop has been hit and shattered before – thankfully, that did not happen to me.
The hole should be played straight out parallel to the course’s lodge and pro shop, before doglegging slightly right to an elevated green with fantastic mounding and a bevy of front-side sand traps. Take enough club to fly these bunkers.
The first par three on the course, the second is a mid-range one-shotter with a tremendous false front. The miss here is long, as anything left, short or right is going to repel from the green surface to deep collection areas.
One of the best vistas on the course is from the championship tee boxes on three, looking out over the third hole and to the Pacific Ocean on the horizon:
A long par five, the third plays toward the ocean and between lines of dense gorse bushes that infringe on the left and right sides of the playing surface.
While I stayed as far away from these prickly gorse bushes as possible, this doe and fawn seem to have found residence in its crevasses.
Leading up to the world-famous fourth hole at Bandon Dunes is this thing of beauty:
“Hole Number 4
Par 4, 415 Yards
Selected by GOLF Magazine as one of the Best 500 Holes in the World
January 1, 2000″
At first glance, it was all a bit confusing. I stood on the tee box looking toward the north, and could not figure out at all where the hole was going.
“This way, Paul,” Daniel said. I was apparently looking for the fairway in the wrong direction, so I turned 180 degrees and still had no idea. “Where?” I asked.
Had we not had a caddie, chances are we both would have hit balls in the opposite direction and walked for a while looking for them before realizing we were way off base.
Daniel gave us a line I believe was toward the gorse bushes on the horizon, and we figured we had nothing better to do than trust him on it. Greg wailed on his drive, right down the middle. Mine leaked a little, but we figured it would probably be okay…
… The location of my second shot, still mostly blind to the green, downhill and fronting the ocean:
I somehow managed to hit my second shot to within a few feet of the pin here, and finally got a good look at why the fourth at Bandon Dunes was named one of the 500 best holes in the world – simply stunning:
Heading north along the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean, the fifth needs to be driven with care – the left side of the fairway area drops from the face of the earth.
This is the left-side fairway area to avoid:
The fifth hole finishes to a green that is between high sand dunes with a slight false front:
If the fourth is one of the 500 greatest golf holes in the world, I cannot imagine how the fifth and sixth [and so many more on Bandon Dunes] could have been left out!
A beautiful little par three, the sixth plays from 161 yards from the tips with everything left dead. A false front and shaved right side make club selection here essential to hold the green.
A look back at the tee boxes from beyond the hole on six:
Continuing this awesome stretch of holes is the seventh. A mid-length par four of 383 yards from the tips, the false front and elevated right side leave very awkward uphill pitches, while the mounding before the green can mess with the player’s depth perception.
A look at the false front and pre-green mounding that make this such a challenging approach shot:
A seemingly simple hole from the tee, the first task on the par four eighth is to carry the central cross-bunkers. From there, the approach is a tricky one, with a highly elevated putting surface and hazards front-left and front-right.
A look at the narrow entrance to the green on eight – the front-left side can be used as a good entrance point for this green complex:
Finishing off the front nine is a tough par five. A collection of small, deep fairway bunkers abound in the fairway, with risen back edges that are almost like principle’s nose bunkers. The fairway runs straight out and away from the ocean before doglegging hard and right toward the green at around 150 yards out.
The back nine returns toward the coast, and does so with a handshake on the tenth hole. A simple par four of 362 yards from the tips, the biggest trouble found on ten is the pot bunker at the front edge of the green, and the swale in the fairway that will keep anything hit short away from the putting surface. The green slopes hard to the front-left here, and the risen front edge of the putting surface can make the approach more or less blind.
The eleventh is a mid-range par four on paper, but in to the wind plays exceptionally long.
This sod-faced bunker found right of the green on eleven is one of the gnarliest on the entire course:
Twelve is a fantastic par three. At almost 200 yards from the tips, it plays straight toward the Pacific Ocean to an infinity green that looks like it meets the ocean (it does not, of course, as the course abuts the cliffs, but the effect of McLay Kidd’s design work here is excellent).
Do not let the infinity green trick you in to hitting short of this green, where most of the trouble is located.
Deer roaming the course at Bandon have absolutely no fear of humans:
This collection area short-right of the green is a popular one:
A lengthy par five, the thirteenth typically plays with the wind at the player’s back, making it a much more reachable three-shotter. It also features the only inland water hazard on the course, down the left side of the layout.
The fairway on thirteen is mounded like a crumpled carpet, leading to awkward lies from off the tee that have to be managed to attempt longer approach shots.
Fourteen is a great short par four. The big hitter will always be tempted to play driver off the tee, but course management here calls for a smarter play to set up a decent shot at this green that is narrow from front to back, but long from left to right. Sand traps were put in all of the spots you would expect them off the tee (to penalize greedy players) and near the green (some nasty ones just short!). Fourteen requires excellent shot strategy.
Golfers around the globe frequent Bandon as one of the greatest coastal golf destinations in the world. The fifteenth tee box introduces players to what is one of the best two-hole stretches of coastal golf on the entire property, starting with a fun par three with an infinity green that looks like it stretches to the Pacific Ocean.
At 163 yards from the tips, the wind is a major factor on the fifteenth hole, as is the player’s ability to concentrate on the shot given the breathtaking views.
This beautiful par three plays heavily uphill to a green that is canted from back-left to front-right and has a nasty sand trap guarding against anything short.
The view north from beyond the fifteenth green complex:
To me the greatest “Wow” moment of the entire trip was in making the walk from the fifteenth hole green (as if it could get any better?!) to the sixteenth tee. I was floored!
The perfect drivable par four, sixteen played with a strong wind at our backs, slightly uphill and 345 yards from the first tees in. High above the beach, it is instantly obvious that missing right is out of the question.
There are options galore here, as the fairway starts on the left side and meanders uphill and right to the perched green. The putting surface is not overly long from front to back, which might also influence the decision on whether or not to go for it off the tee.
We didn’t come here to lay up on a drivable par four like this, though, so Greg and I both took dead aim at the green, and were of course penalized by coming up just a little short and in a horrible waste area on the right side.
The gorgeous view of the sixteenth at Bandon Dunes from the tees:
The canyon that separates the teeing areas from the fairway:
The waste area short and right of the green that caught both of our tee shots – almost impossible to hit off of:
Maybe my favorite picture from our entire trip to Bandon, looking back north toward the tee boxes on sixteen:
Heading away from the ocean, one would almost expect a slight letdown in the visual glory of the upcoming golf holes, but seventeen is spectacular! Hit the left side of the fairway, if at all possible, because…
… A deep ravine runs parallel to the right side of the fairway, and the green complex here abuts it both on the right and behind.
The finishing hole on Bandon Dunes, eighteen is a 543-yard par five from the tips, and slightly shorter from the green tees. The fairway continues away from the Pacific Ocean and to the Bandon Dunes clubhouse, where one of the largest greens on the property awaits golfers finishing their round.
The fairway is wide open for the majority of the eighteenth hole, and the left side is mostly playable save for the gorse bushes found way left. The only area to truly avoid, other than the bunkers built in to the front of the green, is out-of-bounds right, which creeps in as the fairway leads green-ward.
It is no shock to me or anyone else who has ever played Bandon Dunes why this resort, started with this course, became such an unprecedented international sensation – and why it helped launch the still-budding professional career of its fantastic course designer, David McLay Kidd.
Mike Keiser got it all right with his first course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and the rest… Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, Old Macdonald, Bandon Preserve, the Punchbowl, the multitude of lodging options, world-class practice facility, restaurants and bars… The rest could not help but follow beautifully in its Shaquille O’Neal-sized footsteps.
Location: Bandon, OR
Yardage: Black-6732, Green-6221, Gold-5716, Royal Blue-3945, Orange-5072
Slope/Rating: Black-143/74.1, Green-133/71.4, Gold-133/69.5, Royal Blue-101/61.5, Orange-126/66.6
Weekend Rates: $100 (Nov 22-January) to $310 (June-September)
I would love to hear from you about Bandon Dunes, and about the four courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, in general. How do you rank the four? What are your opinions?