Golf Course Review: Bandon Trails (OR)

Bandon Trails Course Rankings:

Golf Digest: #14 US public, #74 US top 100, #4 Oregon
GolfWeek: #21 US modern, #9 US resort, #4 Oregon
Golf.com: #13 US public, #49 US top 100, #4 Oregon

Designer: Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw (2005)

Bandon Trails, a consensus top 25 course in the country, is the perfect inland complement to the mecca of oceanfront golf courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.

While it consistently is ranked slightly lower than the other three championship courses on the property (even though top 25 is certainly in an esteemed air!), it tends to rank very highly on property when discussed with golf enthusiasts who visit the resort.

“It’s like, ‘How many holes can you possibly walk along the Pacific Ocean?'” one golf writer told me. “It’s so nice to get out of the wind for a change,” another one said.

Certainly, as any staff member at Bandon Dunes will tell you, the ideal time to play the course at Bandon Trails is during the afternoon, when the winds are at their highest and the rich forests provide some shelter that is nowhere to be found on Pacific Dunes, Bandon Dunes or Old Macdonald.

“Bandon Trails was my favorite course at Bandon Dunes,” another writer told me, “Because it does what it does so extremely well. It is as good of a woodlands course as there is in the entire country!”

The world’s best golf course design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw knocked Bandon Trails out of the park. The canvas they were provided for this project featured massive rolling dunes, vast oceans of fescue-covered meadows and deep, dense forests.

Coore/Crenshaw designed Bandon Trails with exceptional hole variety, too, and managed to create a playing experience that is equal parts Streamsong, Pinehurst No. 2 and Sand Hills golf. The result of their creativity and expertise is simply stunning.

Bandon Trails leads off with an intimidating tee shot that is as exposed as any other hole on the course to the extreme winds that blow over the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. A slight leftward leaning par four with fescue everywhere, the first hole takes place on one of the highest points on the property, just outside the Bandon Trails clubhouse.

Hole 1: Par 4 (392/356/288/212/212)

Hole 1: Par 4 (392/356/288/212/212)

The natural swales of the first hole fairway at Bandon Trails:

Hole 1: Par 4 (392/356/288/212/212)

Hole 1: Par 4 (392/356/288/212/212)

A look back from beyond the pin on one:

Hole 1: Par 4 (392/356/288/212/212)

Hole 1: Par 4 (392/356/288/212/212)

The second hole provides the first “Wow” moment at Bandon Trails, with a highly elevated tee box that plays to a slightly hidden green downhill. The left side of the green is invisible from the tees, and expands a bit farther than expected in that direction.

Hole 2: Par 3 (214/166/142/84/84)

Hole 2: Par 3 (214/166/142/84/84)

Hole 2: Par 3 (214/166/142/84/84)

Hole 2: Par 3 (214/166/142/84/84)

The view back uphill from the second hole green:

Hole 2: Par 3 (214/166/142/84/84)

Hole 2: Par 3 (214/166/142/84/84)

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw did a fantastic job building a world-class inland course at a facility that is best known for its coastal golf, and the third hole is a terrific example of their handiwork.

Clearing the first traps is job one off the tee on three, and the best line is toward the right side of the fairway.

Hole 3: Par 5 (549/532/513/346/455)

Hole 3: Par 5 (549/532/513/346/455)

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Golf Course Review: Pumpkin Ridge, Ghost Creek (OR)

Located less than 30 minutes northwest of Portland’s city center, Pumpkin Ridge is a beautiful golf venue that has played host to many big-time championship golf moments throughout the years, including David Duval’s win in the 1993 Nike Tour Championship, Tiger Woods’ final amateur championship and others including the Safeway Classic, Women’s Open Championship, US Girls’ Junior Championship, the US Junior Amateur, US Women’s Amateur and others.

Most notably of the club’s major golf moments is perhaps Tiger Woods’ climactic victory in a 36-hole match play before turning pro in the 1996 US Amateur. It was Tiger’s third consecutive US Amateur title, and his PGA career that would follow changed the world of golf forever.

An interesting side note: Do you know what Tiger’s first PGA event was? The answer is the Greater Milwaukee Open at Brown Deer Park, in my home area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The big golf publications took notice of Pumpkin Ridge’s fantastic golf early and often, and even with the Bandon property also located in the same state, their courses continue to be highly ranked, including:

Golf Digest:

  • Ghost Creek: 67th best public course (US)
  • Ghost Creek: 13th best course (OR)
  • Ghost Creek: Best new public course (US, 1992)
  • Witch Hollow: 2nd best new private course (US, 1992)

GolfWeek:

  • Ghost Creek: 7th best public course (OR)
  • Witch Hollow: 151st best course (US)

Golf.com:

  • Ghost Creek: 56th best public course (US)
  • Ghost Creek: 6th best public course (OR)

One of the things that really shocked me about Pumpkin Ridge is how small the greens are. The course is not overly long at 6,839 yards from the tips, but the fairways are rather tight and the greens remind me of ones that would have been designed in the 1920’s and 1930’s at great private clubs.

Ghost Creek is not a private golf club, though, while Witch Hollow is. Tight fairways with small greens means shots off the tee are not easy, but more importantly approach shots are unbelievably challenging.

The one thing I had on this day, though, was solid approach shots.

Ghost Creek leads off with a straight-forward par four to help golfers get warmed up. At 392 yards with a slight lilt to the right, this is an easy driving hole with a fairly benign green complex – softly risen with sand front-left, but otherwise level and hittable.

Hole 1: Par 4 (447/392/372/328)

Hole 1: Par 4 (447/392/372/328)

Hole 1: Par 4 (447/392/372/328)

Hole 1: Par 4 (447/392/372/328)

Don’t get too used to wide open driving areas with adjacent fairways to bail out poor drives, because the second hole tightens the fly zone considerably. Playing a yard shorter than the first hole from the blue tees, the second is 391 yards with a slim corridor through trees to one of the toughest greens to hit on the course.

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Hole 2: Par 4 (414/391/364/325)

Hole 2: Par 4 (414/391/364/325)

The first of the par threes on the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge, the third hole is an absolutely beautiful one-shotter downhill to a wide green that is miniscule from front-to-back:

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Golf Course Review: Pacific Dunes (OR)

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.

View from the Pacific Grille at Pacific Dunes Golf Course over the Punch Bowl and out over the Pacific Ocean

View from the Pacific Grille at Pacific Dunes Golf Course over the Punch Bowl and out over the Pacific 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?

Hole 1: Par 4 (370/304/287/200/253)

Hole 1: Par 4 (370/304/287/200/253)

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.

Hole 1: Par 4 (370/304/287/200/253)

Hole 1: Par 4 (370/304/287/200/253)

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.

Hole 2: Par 4 (368/335/335/180/275)

Hole 2: Par 4 (368/335/335/180/275)

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