Golf Course Review: Bandon Dunes (OR)

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.

Hole 1: Par 4 (386/352/332/223/293)

Hole 1: Par 4 (386/352/332/223/293)

Hole 1: Par 4 (386/352/332/223/293)

Hole 1: Par 4 (386/352/332/223/293)

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.

Hole 2: Par 3 (189/155/136/76/130)

Hole 2: Par 3 (189/155/136/76/130)

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:

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

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.

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

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.

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Hole 3: Par 5 (543/489/467/318/370)

Leading up to the world-famous fourth hole at Bandon Dunes is this thing of beauty:

“Hole Number 4
Bandon Dunes
Par 4, 415 Yards

Selected by GOLF Magazine as one of the Best 500 Holes in the World
January 1, 2000″

Hole 4: Par 4 (410/362/340/228/308)

Hole 4: Par 4 (410/362/340/228/308)

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