Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is a bit special and in many ways it’s a rather romantic place too. The little seaside town of Bandon is located on the remote southwest Oregon coastline at the mouth of the Coquille River. It’s a charming small town where the warm and friendly people live and breathe golf, just as they do at many seaside golfing towns up and down the Irish and British coastlines.
“From the moment I stepped out on these wild, wind-shaped sand dunes, I knew this would be the opportunity of a lifetime,” said David McLay Kidd a young Scottish architect. Bandon Dunes is his first notable design assignment and he made a pretty good job of it. With one third of the course set alongside the Pacific shoreline, it’s quite rightly a BIG hit.
OK, for those of you who have yet make the trip to Oregon, let’s put the Bandon Dunes Resort into perspective: 121 golf holes, idyllic accommodation, several restaurants and a Scottish-style pub. It’s quite an amazing place. Furthermore, the inaugural course at Bandon Dunes is possibly routed across the finest linksland outside Europe. Thank goodness it’s a walking only course where the absence of buggy paths allows its pure beauty to shine through.
Bandon Dunes opened for play in 1999 and it has never looked back. It’s a rugged layout with huge slick greens and immaculate all-round conditioning. Despite its windswept location, the holes are routed in all compass points and this helps Bandon Dunes to remain playable in most wind conditions. The 4th hole is one of our favorites, a 410-yard par four, which takes you out to a gorgeous green, sited on the edge of the Pacific. The tee shot at the short par four 16th is similar to the fantastic 17th at Castletown on the Isle of Man. An intimidating tee shot over a deep ravine, which is easier than it looks.
With four differing and beguiling 18-hole golf courses, Bandon Dunes quite rightly sits high up on many “must-play” lists and we thoroughly agree. Schedule a visit to the glorious remote venue immediately, you won’t be disappointed.
Over the winter of 2018/19 David McLay-Kidd returned to Bandon Dunes to renovate every bunker on every hole, some changes were cosmetic and others dramatic. The course hosted the final matches of the U.S. Amateur in August 2020 when 22-year-old Tyler Strafaci hoisted the Havemeyer Trophy eighty-five years after his granddad won the U.S. Amateur Public Links title.
Second "card" of the poker I was going to fill playing all 4 courses. After a night at the Lodge and dinner there viewing a deer eat flowers in fron of us, the following morning we were ready to tee it off at Bandon Dunes, usually the second ranked course of the Resort and again I am not sure if this rankings are fair. The first conclusion is I loved the course as much as Trails, cannot say that more and for sure not less. After some weeks of having played them the like for all is almost the same. It is just 4 different settings in similar pieces of land by 3 different great arquitects. And you can see clearly their trademark.
The previous moments before the round were easier and more calm than the rush we had to play Trails the afternoon before. This is good to be told because chatting with the starter and caddies before the round gives you a better movie of what you are going to experience in this sunny and windy morning.
Mr McKlay Kidd was the first one to put his hands of this property before Doak, Core&Crenshaw and soon Gil Hanse with Bandon Links to be started soon. His challenge was big but the result is awesome. Not one weak hole, not one boring shot, playing in every direction, not always needing power bombs but cleverness to use the terrain and slopes to get the better angles to attack some of the tough pins we had.
Same as the other 3 courses, opening hole is an easy 4 despite this one played longer due to wind and a not great driver. Par 5 3rd gives you the first great shot from an elevated tee facing the ocean, reachable in 2. Then 4th has a signal that show it as one of the best 1000 holes in the world and cannot deny it at all.
5th plays as stroke index 1 and into the wind it was more than that, only lost ball on the round to a double bogey. The second shot plays so demanding you need to focus more on a good miss than rather hitting the green.
6th is one of the most scenic on the course, with a left cliff to the beach and ocean and with amazing views of Pacific Dunes. The next special is 12th which can play a long iron into the wind or a short one downwind. One of the great views on the course. 13th is a crazy par 5, with a downhill second shot where I though my balls was home and when arrived had the toughest approach shot being 20yds from the hole. All my playing partners sewed the green to score 7s. Greens roll very fast to be played in that wind and this adds to the fun and challenge. 14th is a short fun 4 which into the wind played like a 420yds hole!
15th is the final par 3 and again facin the ocean, shorter than 12th but tougher, with a deep bunker on the right side (which I caught) where up and down is like Bethpage Black (only for highly skilled golfers).
16th is the best hole in the course, a forced carry over the cliff which I achieved downwind to almost hit the green and make the lone birdie of the round. It is one of the spots with stronger winds and when finishing the hole you face the entire beauty of the Bandon Preserve par 3 course.
17th is another marvel, with a cliff on the right side where missing is death penalty. You get away from the water towards the Club House. And 18th might be not the strongest finishing hole but a creative green makes it fun and a good birdie option.
50% of the job was done and already I felt it was the best experience so far in USA, pure golf, pristine mantained courses, fast greens, great caddies and geographic beauty at the highest level. It is amazing to point how different the setting is between this one (looks like West Scotland, would say Turnberry), Pacific (Clearly Ireland) and Old Mac (East Scotland) with tribute to many of the Open Rota holes.
I could describe more, but just take a plane an experience it yourself. It is something you won't regret of doing, ideally combined with Chambers Bay.
Bandon Dunes is the course that best distills the spirit of the resort that Mike Keiser built almost 20 years ago. It offers jaw dropping scenery like the 4th, 5th and 16th holes. If offers fun holes for any golfer like the 3rd and the 10th. It offers challenging holes like the 2nd and 17th.
It is the true buffet course of Bandon, as it offers something for everyone and was my favorite course at the resort. The 4th hole is a particular favorite as you can't see the green from the tee but you soon will and what a green it is, offering an infinity-like setting framed against the Pacific as the dunes loom on your right and left.
Also, bonus points for the routing which leads you out from the lodge to the ocean then back again and then doing it all over again on the back nine, like a rubber band stretching and contracting. The inland holes are score-able yet challenging with some rollercoaster ridges and bunkers providing most of the challenges.
Certainly the 16th is the most visually intimidating yet enticing hole I have ever played. Do you try and drive the par 4 green, bail out to the left for the smart angle in, play some sort of shot up the gut or some combination thereof? Bandon Dunes is all about choices and different ways to attack a hole and the 16th gives you plenty of decisions to make while trying to avoid going too far right into the Pacific.
Bandon Dunes might have been the first course built at this ever expending resort but still remains the course that you MUST play when visiting.
David McLay Kidd is on record as saying he never put anything down on paper while building Bandon Dunes. He just built it. The man is a clear genius being able to do this. I have played a great deal of golf in Scotland and Bandon Dunes truly feels like you are playing golf in the British Isles: the tight feel of the turf is the same, as is the gorse and sand dunes. Little things, like the way the walking paths are routed are genuine, as are the unkempt but authentic and aesthetically pleasing views on the course. For those that haven’t played golf on the other side of the Atlantic, Bandon Dunes is as good an approximation of playing there as can be. One of the areas where Kidd excelled in the design of Bandon Dunes is in the framing of holes and shots. To a degree I can’t remember on other courses, he gives interesting targets and aiming points on each shot. Greens and fairways are framed by sand dunes, the ocean, pot bunkers, and gorse.
His course routing is so natural it looks like it has been there for a century and is part of the natural landscape. In Kidd’s own words, “it’s natural, unabashed, simple, honest, uncontrived, beautiful, adventurous and a thousand other things that man cannot dictate, design or affect.” The 17th hole has one of the best views in golf from the tee box. The view of the large dunes and broad beach below, set against a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean prove quite a distraction to golf. The hole itself plays away from the ocean, but has very good risk/reward options and plays to an elevated green. The finishing hole at Bandon plays back to the clubhouse and is inevitably a letdown as it doesn't have the dunes and scenery of the first seventeen holes, although it is otherwise a brilliant golf course. It is my favorite course at a resort that has all good courses.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
This is truly a place where golf has first priority, a very different approach from the current real estate driven properties that have a golf course running through it. Golf is the main focus and the history and integrity of the game is on display almost to a fault.
The area looks very intact with holes--not homes or condos-- bordering the ocean. There are no power carts, but instead caddies will help you navigate your way around. The holes are not marked very clearly, so as not to add any man-made distractions to the spectacular view. Aside from that, and perhaps the unpredictable Oregon coast weather, Bandon Dunes is definitely something that should go on your "must play" list. The course can be friendly of the tee, but the natural hazards such as the variety of bushes, tall grass and sand dunes are always lurking. The greens are large but very undulating with many waste areas collecting the slightest of errors in your approach shots. You will also be battling the elements, as the wind will play a huge factor on any given day. The fairways are cut very thin, and often I was unable to distinguish between the end of the fairway and the start of the green. This is the biggest adjustment, because you have to land the ball in certain spots, sometimes well short of the putting surface. For those of you that like to play a Texas wedge, this is a course you are going to love. I hit more putts then chips, as felt it was safer to keep the ball on the ground, even from as far out as seventy yards.
The course has a variety of breathtaking holes running along the ocean. We even spotted a golfer taking a break from his round to sit off the tee, relaxing and staring out at the waves. The course is walkable, but the slight hills and mounds will be felt in your legs the morning after.