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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Golf Course Review: Streamsong, Red Course (FL)

Streamsong Resort, Red Course Rankings:

Golf Digest: #18 US public, #100 US greatest overall, #4 Florida
GolfWeek: #30 US modern, #2 Florida public, #12 US resort
Golf.com: #52 US top 100, #12 US public, #2 Florida public

Designer: Bill Coore, Ben Crensaw (2012)

From the moment you turn on to the several mile long driveway of the extensively rural Streamsong Resort near Bowling Green, Florida, there is evidence everywhere that this is a different and amazing golf destination.

The entrance sign, a large stone slab with the “S” logo on it, stands out front and assures visitors that, yes, they have managed to find the correct driveway. Put the windows down and look all over – all you see is unspoiled land and nature. And the golf courses have the same feel: Unspoiled, natural, in harmony with the land.

Zen-like, if you will. It is not all peacefulness, though, as the rugged landscape of the Red course unfolds over and alongside alligator-infested swamps, deep, craggy bunkers, dramatic mounding in the fairways and a wonderful ebb and flow to the fairway levels.

Golfers get lost in nature over the first six holes – the most scenic and wild stretch on the property – before coming back toward the clubhouse and some fantastic inland layouts that challenge and amaze. The overall feel to the sequence on the Red course is one of intimidation in the midst of an abundance of glory.

Considerably more difficult off the tee than its sister Blue course (WiscoGolfAddict review of Streamsong, Blue course), the Coore/Crenshaw Red layout eases up on the throttle around the greens – while less wildly undulating than Doak’s putting surfaces, they can still never be described as “Easy.” Fast and true, downhill putts travel seemingly forever, and subtle yet strong breaks leave very few easy clean-up putts.

Slightly higher rated by all national and state-wide publications than the Blue course, the Red course has some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen on a golf course. Coore and Crenshaw crafted this magnificent topography expertly in their creation of the nation’s 18th best public course (Golf Digest, 2015/2016) and 30th best overall modern golf course in the country (GolfWeek, 2015).

As a quick disclaimer, I was having a lot of issues with my cameras during this trip, so I apologize for the photos where there is a smudge in the top-left. It started when I got to the course and found that my backup camera (my girlfriend’s Digital Elph) had a crack in the viewing area from shipping, so I took my original Digital Elph to the first tee of the Blue course and it was giving me an error that the memory card was locked. I tinkered with that for a while, unsuccessfully, before going to my really old Digital Elph that appears to have some marks on the lens that will not come off. Thankfully, though, I did not have to go to my last resort of the iPhone!

The first hole tee box is situated just beyond Streamsong’s practice green, and features elevated tees that look over a large pond teeming with some of the largest gators I saw the entire trip.

I saw three during our trek across the bridge to the first fairway, including one that looked massive. I am told there have been occasions when a twelve-footer will come out around the bridge area, suspending play for short periods of time.

While this was not the case during our round, they are everywhere and I can imagine running in to one of these behemoths just before the fairway could get your heart pumping early.

The tee shot on one is one of the most forgiving on the Red course, with a wide fairway and straightaway layout. Slightly uphill from the fairway, the green is situated between large dunes with deep fairway bunkers short, short-left and right of the putting surface.

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Streamsong Red Hole 1: Par 4 (474/464/447/358)

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Streamsong Red Hole 1: Par 4 (474/464/447/358)

The second hole tees up over massive ponds with a fairway that runs hard left to right. “Don’t try to cut off any distance to the right,” I was told, and took aim at the middle-left portion of the fairway. A dramatic slice had it going toward the right side, and I could have sworn I saw it bounce. Gone – the fairway on the right runs hard in to the pond, and anything hit there will bound toward the water.

The first par five on the course, this hole is all about the tee shot. Play it safe and stay away from the right side and this is an excellent opportunity for an early birdie.

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Streamsong Red Hole 2: Par 5 (555/508/461/371)

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Streamsong Red Hole 2: Par 5 (555/508/461/371)

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Streamsong Red Hole 2: Par 5 (555/508/461/371)

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