Review for Bandon Dunes (Bandon Dunes)

Reviewer Score:


Bandon Dunes, as you have been told seven-million times, is a marvelous success because it’s built upon the sandy linksland soil of southern Oregon. You are perhaps less likely to have heard that Bandon Dunes (the resort itself, versus just the course) is built on wealth Mike Keiser accumulated by selling greeting cards and, for a short while, children’s books. The game-changer for Bandon Dunes may have been the hiring of the unheralded David McLay-Kidd, but the game-changer for Recycled Paper Greetings was the hiring of unheralded artist Sandra Boynton, whose plump, hapless characters caught the eyes and hearts of Americans, blowing the companies earnings through its then relatively-low Chicago roof.

The Boynton book best-suited, in your correspondent’s opinion, for describing the original course at Bandon is ‘Blue Hat, Green Hat (The Oops Books).’ Seemingly simple concepts, such as shirts and pants, prove tricky for an adorable turkey. For myself, the seemingly simple short-game shenanigans that I had been practicing for weeks in good ol’ parkland-turf Ohio were suddenly baffling. I had become the turkey.

“Oops” (or crasser verbiage) will be repeated throughout the round, because the misses are smaller and more frequent.

The term “true links” gets thrown around quite a bit and, as with any adjective used when describing golf courses, the question is eventually begged: Which course is “more true”? Which of course hinges on how you envision the links “experience,” versus simply the requirements of being links? I myself appreciate Tom Watson’s reported enthusiasm at finding a strange lie, and the problem solving required to get out of it. In this regard, Bandon Dunes provides, again in your correspondent’s opinion, the links experience he has always envisioned.

“Oops” is a mistake but, as the reading demographic of Boynton’s books should be taught, we all “oops” and salvation is always a possibility, especially in a links arena.

Consider the fairway at the par five No. 13, the fairway a veritable hippopotamus graveyard (Boynton’s signature animal). It’s not enough to hit the ball from tee to target, or from landing area to the next target…it’s the understanding that the similar shot will create a different result based on minute variance, the results of which are exaggerated by the scope of the sandy terrain. Every shot could be an “oops,” but you won’t know until you get there.

In another example, a playing partner suggested I may have a tap-in for birdie at No. 6, a par three. I did not. At some point, the trajectory of the shot caught the wrong groove and poured down the hill on the right into a waste area. It would be my worst hole of the day, relative to par (I share neither Watson’s optimism nor his short game, although I recognize the value in both).

It’s poor practice to follow up acknowledgements of weakness in one’s own game with critiques that seem to be suited to one’s own game, but here goes: Many holes at the original course feature significant drop-offs around the putting surfaces that make it — of the four courses at the resort I’ve played thus far — the trickiest for mid to high handicappers. To be fair, those who would rather play from deep shortgrass than bunkers of any depth will find Pacific to be more penal than its older sister. However it’s also my opinion that Pacific offers an easier bogey for those who choose to pursue it.

I only offer the Pacific comparison because eventually someone will notice that it’s the only course I’ve given a six-ball, and (spoiler alert) I’ve only given the original course a 5.5. Perhaps the biggest reason is that variety in design is pronounced more so across Pacific than Bandon, particularly in the placement and distances of the short holes.

Where McLay-Kidd deserves credit over Doak (don’t think it’s a competition between the pair? If Doak wanted to keep things strictly professional, he wouldn’t have given McLay-Kidd the only “zero” in Confidential Guide history) is the outright boldness, bordering on Strantz, across several of the holes here. Nos. 10, 16 and 17 are the showcases for this trait, which are both eye-catching and effective. It speaks to fans of Cruden Bay-style links more so than Muirfield-style (that Old Tom gets some credit for both is relevant).

Interestingly, I don’t know that anyone has ever professed to me that Bandon Dunes is their favorite of the five courses at the resort. It’s a bit of a ‘But Not The Hippopotamus’ situation, in keeping with the Boynton theme. This is somewhat surprising, as I truly believe that each of the five courses carries something that speaks to different tastes among different golfers, and if rough-and-tumble linksland of old speaks to you, then the original course and all its gorse (couldn’t help but inserting a rhyme after all this children’s book talk) may be the links for you.

Just remember that “oops” is inevitable…your challenge in recovering is finding the shot that rhymes with your opening line. Watson was better at it than most.

Date: April 28, 2022

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