Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed Bandon Trails, the third of four courses at the magnificent Bandon Dunes Resort. Bandon Trails opened for play in June 2005 and if reviews and ratings of the other courses are anything to go by, then this course has a lot to live up to.
Bandon Trails starts in the dunes which offer great southwesterly views of the Pacific Ocean and Bullard’s Beach State Park. From there, the routing takes the golfer from the coast to further inland; first to meadowland, then to woodland before ending up back in the dunes.
The feel of Bandon Trails has been likened to Spyglass Hill or Formby though some think it resembles the type of terrain to be found on the sand belt to the west of London. There are three links like holes, eight “meadow” holes, and seven weaving through the trees. Each set of holes has different plant varieties and ecosystems but they all have tees, greens and fairways constructed from a mix of fescue and colonial bentgrass. Native plants include manzanitas, kinnickinnick, shore pines, huckleberry and salal.
Unlike the bunkers at Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes, with their overgrown edges, the bunkers at Bandon Trails are mown right up to their boundaries. It has been said that the octet of “meadow” holes constitute the heart and soul of the course but the artfully shaped bunkers may leave the most lasting impression.
The short (330-yard) par four 14th is a feature hole which starts at a panoramic elevated tee before plunging down more than 100 feet to a steeply right-tilting fairway. If you choose to play it safe from the tee, you must play to the left side of this fairway, as shots missed to the right will face a blind approach at the most shallow angle to the green which is the smallest on the course.
Old Macdonald had a farm, ee-i-ee-i-o… this may well be a favourite children’s song but it’s also the fourth and newest 18-hole course at Bandon Dunes, designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina. Old Mac is in fact a tribute to the “Father of American Golf Course Architecture”, Charles Blair Macdonald..
There are times I enjoy Bandon Trails the most of the Bandon courses despite it having no real views of the ocean. It obviously suffers in comparison to the other courses at the resort where there are outstanding views of the ocean/cliffs as well as some outstanding and forever memorable holes on the cliffs next to the beach/ocean. Yet for most players, Bandon Trails is usually rated either the third, fourth, or fifth best course at the resort (if one does not include Bandon Preserve). I have met a few that do not like it at all. I certainly would disagree with that.
There is tough competition here with debate most often being centered on the first two courses as to which is better, the original Bandon Dunes or Pacific Dunes. These two courses are among the finest in the world, followed by the three other courses which are recognized as good in their own right. Thank you, Mr. Keiser, and thank you to the three architects and their teams for creating the number one golf resort in the world with regards to quality. (Note: there is a chance that Tara Iti’s two public courses might make an equally impactful mark on golf as I have seen the land and it is spectacular).
There are a small number of people who place Bandon Trails as their favorite. I often challenge them as to why and even go so far as to suggest it is because they cannot make up their minds regarding the order of Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes. Yet I also understand why as it is a very beautiful inland course with a wonderful variety of holes, interesting bunkering, and very well shaped greens.
For me, I place it third ahead of Old Macdonald which has too many average holes and quirky, overly-large greens even if it has six-seven special holes including a memorable finish. As for Sheep Ranch, that is a miss for me despite the many holes beginning or ending at the cliff’s edge with those remarkable views.
One can understand why some say that if Bandon Trails was located elsewhere that people would flock to play it as it has so many very good holes, particularly the par 3’s.
Bandon Trails does suffer from having too many short holes and some holes that feel like they were forced and sit in a cramped setting. These holes feel like there they limit the number of options and decisions to play the hole. Because of this, the course sometimes feels inconsistent going from a wonderful hole to a hole where one expects more. There are many holes where if there was just a bit more length, width or if the surrounding land was better it would take the hole to a higher level on both playability and memorability. A prime example is the first hole which sits in the dunes but feels like nearly all of the tee shots are going to end up in roughly the same area. From this area the view of the green is narrow and less interesting and one feels as if there is only one way to play into the green. The eighteenth suffers from a similar fate even if the hole is very different.
Bandon Trails features several holes with very long bunkers/waste areas. At times I thought it was overkill and detracted from both the visual and playability aspects of those holes. It is repeated often on the course. Having played Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes earlier this year, I think its time the minimalists begin to think differently as there was too much reliance on the long and wide bunkers as well.
Every time I have walked away from Bandon Trails I wonder if the routing would have been better had Mr. Keiser and Mr. Coore and Mr. Crenshaw had not started and ended the course in the dunes. While I recognize there is a very tall ridge line that one has to navigate on the back nine and I do not pretend to know whether environmental reasons also handcuffed the routing, I do think the three holes near the Bandon Trails/Preserve clubhouse are three of the weaker holes on the course. As I went around the course, I noticed the new high-end lodging accommodations about to open and thought that perhaps that was available land that could have been used to make a better course.
In sum, I think the routing might have been improved had they tried not to make more of a connection to Bandon Dunes/Pacific Dunes since the three holes do not offer a view of the sea. Why not simply make all of it an inland/somewhat parkland course?
The other criticism I have is that they should have left several of the holes as they were when first built. The first iteration of the fourteenth green was heavily criticized as a green that was too small and too crowned so players hitting onto it from anything but directly in front were likely to see their balls fall off a side which is steeply sloped and end up as much as 50 yards away or in a deep greenside bunker. I had no issue with the original green’s size, location, or shape as I thought fourteen was the most memorable hole on the course. I also liked the fifteenth and eighteenth greens having more of a false front where balls hit short could roll back as much as 50-60 yards. Both of the false fronts have essentially been taken away which has reduced the “fun and challenge” aspect of these holes.
From the Black tees the course is 6788 yards, par 71 rated 73.6/130. The Green tees drop all the way down to 6249 yards rated 71.1/138. There are three sets of lesser tees.
1. Par 4 – 392/356. From the elevated tee you see the fairway below coming to a narrow neck about 75 yards from the green. Down the left side are bunkers with the final one built into the face of the final mound. The right side is wide but with more grass than defined bunkers. Most balls hit will end up either in the first bowl about 180 yards out if hit very weakly or gather at about 100 yards. The second shot is uphill and generally semi-blind with the right half of the green hidden. There are fall-offs to all sides of the lumpy green which lies below multiple mounds. What I liked the most about the hole is the lumpiness of the fairway and how it sits among the dunes. The green is also fun although balls tend to run to the back of the green. I tend to not favor holes where most tee shots end in the same area although one could say that the next shot separates the players based on how they finish. Overall, for me because this hole and the eighteenth are so different to the rest of the course, it seems out of place.
2. Par 3 – 214/166. This downhill tee shot exits one from the dunes yet it does not feel to me like it is in the dunes because it sits far below the tee. To the right of the green is a long, wide and deep bunker making recovery difficult. The left side offers two bunkers with the back left corner bunker being more problematic. The left side of the green has a swale pushing balls towards the first bunker. Much like the first hole, I suspect that this hole is either admired or thought of as average. For me it is probably the least of the par 3’s but I would point out that on many courses it would be considered the best par 3.
3. Par 5 – 549/532. From the tee this is a beautiful hole with a long view on a flat hole. It plays flat as we stay inland until the eighteenth. You play over a forced carry through a chute of trees with the right side having a longer carry due to a long waste-like bunker. There is an early fairway bunker left opposite the sand on the right. This is followed by two additional perfectly placed bunkers on the left. I really like how the architects forced the longer hitters to choose a side of the wide fairway due to a perfectly placed center-line fairway bunker although the longest hitters can carry it. If they miss the fairway to the left they will be in a long bunker or tall scrub. If they miss it to the right they could end up in trees and scrub, although there is more width to the right. The fairway has a lovely rumpled look. For the second shot for most players they need to avoid another bunker on the left and scrub but the bigger danger is a second center-line bunker that is wide and long that begins about 80 yards from the green. This is followed by a third center-line bunker about 25 yards from the green. The green is very large with the toughest location on the back right due to a higher point of the green as well as a sharp fall-off if one goes long. While this could be an eagle opportunity for the longest hitters, for most players this is a great combination of visual appeal, and aggressive/defensive play culminating in a wonderfully shaped green.
4. Par 4 – 408/365. This is a hole that can either be a somewhat simple par or a difficult hole if one does not clear the sand ridge that cuts across the fairway on a diagonal line from left to right. Clearing the left side should not be an issue but one will not get as favorable a roll-out although they have a clearer view of the green. But hitting too far to the left could result in going into a long fairway bunker complex that begins about 175 yards from the green continuing all the way down. It can also result in a bad angle to the green if too far left. There is a central fairway bunker placed about 200 yards off the back tee which would be highly annoying to find given the width of the fairway. If one does not clear the ridge they have a blind shot with the fairway narrowing to the green. To the left of the green is tall scrub, the end of that bunker complex and trees. The right side of the green offers a single bunker but also scrub. There is a lot of short grass to the right of the green as well as a single bunker towards the back right. I think this hole represents an outstanding example of maximizing a hole both in challenge and fun by a very good usage of the defining land feature – the sizeable sand ridge which creates a risk-reward scenario.
5. Par 3 – 133/124. You play nearly level over a bush and plant filled ravine with three deep fronting bunkers, a long irregular bunker on the right and a bunker built into the higher mound on the back left. This long green has several tiers and swales within it so finding the right level is critical to avoid a three putt. The hole is visually attractive. I questioned whether the green should have been so large for a short hole but given the different sections of the green it makes sense. The most difficult bunker is the back left bunker given most of the green goes away from the recovery shot unless the pin is on the far right.
6. Par 4 – 395/359. You play a short forced carry over a scrub area with the first central bunker about 235 yards off the tee and a second central bunker nearly 300 yards. There is ample room to the left of these bunkers. A long bunker complex is off the right but ends fairly quickly and should not be in play off the tee. The land tilts a bit to the left which is good given a second sizeable waste area on the right that comes quite a ways into the fairway. This begins about 265 yards out and stretches 100 yards. Down the left side closer to the green are long waste area bunkers followed by two bunkers left and a continuous bunker at the rear. The fairway is lumpy and almost heaving in spots. There is front access to the large, somewhat flattish green but if you miss to the left you are likely to have trouble with the distance on a sand shot. The right side of the green offers a sizeable area of short grass providing multiple options. It is a nice hole but for me a bit of a breather given the more difficult seventh hole.
7. Par 4 – 440/406. This is probably the best hole on the front nine with the tee shot playing to a wide fairway yet the right side off the tee feels hemmed in due to the trees that continue for 100 yards or so. The hole plays uphill which adds to the difficulty. After the trees end on the right side a long waste area of 170 yards is to be avoided beginning at 130 yards off the tee continuing out to 300 yards. For the longer hitters they also have to worry about the long bunker with an island that begins on the left at 315 off the back tee extending 80 yards. Given the elevation of the green on higher ground, even the front of this bunker nearer the green can represent an almost semi-blind shot. The green complex which is tilted back to front has a front corner bunker and two on the back corners to catch those who have chosen too much club into the green. From these two back bunkers recovery is very difficult. This hole offers everything – challenge, strategy, visual attractiveness, defense, and fun. It is one of the better holes at Bandon.
8. Par 4 – 321/299. Some criticize Bandon Trails and point to the eighth as an example of why it is not in the same league as the first two courses. This hole plays downhill but the fairway is not quite as wide as it looks and sand is everywhere on the hole, going down both sides of the fairway. The bunkers are deep and one has to stay away from the raised edges. I got unlucky as my ball on its seemingly last rotation dropped into the bunker on the left and hit a stone which kept it too close to the edge and I could not get it out on the first attempt. That is not a criticism of the course – there really is no rhyme or reason sometimes to golf. The green is surrounded on the left, right and back by sand that sit well below the green. The ground falls away quickly off to the left back of the green. The green is very undulating. While my two playing partners had good looks at three, I walked away with a double. It is not a remarkable hole but I give Coore and Crenshaw and their team credit for making the most of a tight piece of land.
9. Par 5 – 567/522. Two holes previously I started hitting everything left, including with my putter. It lasted for six holes so I did not get good looks at the right side of the several holes including the ninth. I liked the look of the hole from the tee and it is the superior hole to the third with the exception of the green. It plays as a dogleg left and most hitters will try to avoid the center-right bunker at 300 yards from the back tee. There is a deep and large bunker on the left at 245 yards which is where I ended up, followed by hooking my bunker shot into the woods instead of going out to the expansive fairway to the right. About 150 yards from the green on the left is another deep and long bunker of 50+ yards with a tree at its front. I did not care for the tree and thought it should be removed as it is out of character to the rest of the course as well as it is followed by another tree on the left nearer the green. I am not a big fan of “double penalties.” The green complex features a flattish green that is long with room to miss to the left. The only bunker is on the front right but the green is placed relatively close to bushes down the entirety of the right side. This hole likely deserves a more interesting green complex but the route to the green has plenty of drama.
10. Par 4 – 418/393. The hole plays out to a wide fairway to the right but which will leave a longer approach shot that will have to avoid an 85 yard long and wide bunker that abuts the green. The brave and shorter line to the tee is center or even the left side of the fairway with a 150 yard long bunker down the left. This is one of the more heavily treed holes on the course and also the flattest. The hole does not seem to fit with the up and down nature of the holes other than the third but this is the land that the designers had available. I think the hole would be improved by thinning out the trees as this hole feels a bit claustrophobic despite its width. The green is fairly large and has more subtle movement. One can miss the green to the left and have options for recovery.
11. Par 4 – 445/429. I liked the beauty and serenity of this hole due to the slight uphill and then downhill to the green but mainly due to the two ponds. I was disappointed years ago when I was told the ponds are man-made. Still, they are pretty. Off the tee is a 150 yard long waste area down the right from 150-300 yards. Short of the green on higher ground about 100 yards from the green is a long bunker of 50 yards. I landed my second near the top and choose to putt out of it, watching my ball fall down the slope and onto the green to 3 feet. The green has several smaller swales and tilts less than it one might expect towards the water.
12. Par 3 – 242/235. The longest par 3 at Bandon Dunes resort comes next. There is a bunker off to the right about 60 yards short of the green. My caddie told me that balls hit to the right of the green will funnel onto the green but that is only if they are within 10 yards to the right, otherwise they might even go more to the right. There is a large bunker left side and at the rear. The rear bunker annoyed me. I would have rather seen them clear out the brush behind the green and make it short grass rather than add a defensive measure. My opinion on this hole is that the bunker is there because they did not want or perhaps could not due to environmental reasons create more room behind the green. If someone can get a ball onto the green placed this far away, I do not see the reason for a bunker there to penalize them. I did like the undulating nature of the green but overall this hole is a letdown for me as it also has little visual appeal.
13. Par 4 – 401/374. This is likely the weakest hole on the back nine playing slightly down from the tee but then up to an elevated green. The hole bends left then right with two bunkers on the left, the first one more left at 250 yards and the next more dangerous bunker at 275 yards continuing for 30 yards. There is ample room to miss to the left of the green particularly since the right side has bushes and trees hard against it separated only by a long, thin bunker. There is a final bunker on the back left that seemed unnecessary. The green is good with several tiers.
14. Par 3 – 325/306. One can either walk a long, steep trail or take the cart ride up to the tee where you will find a nearby plaque where Mr. Keiser first came to have a look at the land and see its promise as a golf destination. It is an incredible view. This hole plays from a very elevated tee. When I played Bandon Trails for the first time, I loved the hole because it had a short, thin, crowned green that bedeviled anyone that did not have a good wedge game. The complaints were endless. The green has since been altered in both additional length and width. It now seemed less crowned to me. While it is the smallest green on Bandon Trails, it is not as good as it once was. The bold line is to favor the left side avoiding the bunker at 265 yards and a second greenside bunker both on the left. The right side of the fairway drops off significantly and one will likely have a blind shot over three bunkers. There is another bunker on the back right. Miss short of these bunkers on the right and one might tumble all the way down the steep decline to three other bunkers leaving another blind shot uphill over those same bunkers. The first time I played the hole I went right and had a blind shot and made birdie. I birdied the hole this time. The other time I played it I made a long putt for a bogey. I still like the hole but miss what it once was.
15. Par 4 – 406/367. For me this is the second most beautiful hole on the course. The hole plays uphill with the chief defining feature being a large, raised cross bunker at 295 yards out, about 250 from the blue tees. I could not reach it due to the wind in our faces. The fairway narrows and feels like it is sitting in a bowl with higher ground to the right and a line of scrub and bushes off to the left. There are various bunkers that add more to the visual delight of the hole. The green is nestled in this “bowl” with 5 bunkers surrounding it yet spaced apart from each other. The back half of the green is on a higher tier and is narrower. This green lays naturally on the land.
16. Par 5 – 530/494. The final par 5 is dramatic due to the wide change in terrain as it climbs to higher ground. I think this hole likely has the most land movement of any hole at the Bandon Dunes resort although I was told the elevation drop from the tee on fourteen at Trails is over 200 feet. After playing the Sheep Ranch the day before it reminded me of the eleventh due to the uphill green location although the Sheep Ranch has a much better green complex. There is an early bunker left off the tee not really in play and then the land goes up and down and back up again. The fairway tilts substantially to the left so the tee shot and second shot should be played to the right. A small bunker is on the left but I would not think it is often in play off the tee or for the second shot. The bigger issue is a series of disconnected bunkers down the right side beginning at 100 yards from the green going to the front right. There is a single rear bunker behind this large, multi-level green with two bunkers on the left side. The right side of the green has an area of short grass as well as a smaller short grass area on the back left of the green. It is not a great hole, but one that I imagine the designers picked out almost immediately for the routing due to the location of the green.
17. Par 3 – 182/159. This is easily the best par 3 on the course. It is a visual feast from an elevated tee playing across sand and scrub to a green that is somewhat small given the substantial false front with an additional run-off in the rear. The hole is framed by a very deep and large bunker on the right side. The green runs away from you coming out of this bunker. There are two bunkers on the left side but not quite as deep. The green has various sections to it. Bandon Dunes resort is known for its outstanding par 3’s along the coast, but of the inland par 3’s, this is likely the best.
18. Par 4 – 420/363. The tee shot is blind and uphill over a hill with the hole turning to the right. Bunkers seem to be everywhere on this hole alternating sides with three on the right followed by four on the left at the inner turn, then a single one right nearer the green and finally three on the left/back of the green. The green features another false front and rises to the back. You are back in the dunes for the finale. For me it is an okay hole but a letdown from holes fourteen-seventeen.
I really admire the Bandon Trails course and can see why some place it as their favorite as well as those who might place it last. But imagine Mr. Keiser who had the land and the services of three of the finest architectural groups of our generation, to build five very good courses at the same location. I do agree with those that say that if Trails were somewhere else, people would flock to it. I do think they should have not made changes to fourteen, fifteen and eighteen. I also think there is perhaps an over-reliance on long/waste area bunkers. For me, the three holes in the dunes as well as the climb to the fourteenth hole result in the course lacking consistency where it would have been likely been even better as a course sitting among the tall trees less than half a mile from the coast. But anyone going to Bandon Dunes resort should play it, and hopefully play it at least twice.
Refreshingly different from the other 4 courses at Bandon, since only inland course. Less windy due to heavy trees & softer greens (hold better) than counterparts along the ocean. Vehicle shuttle needed to get to spectacular cliff tee shot. Enjoyable layout which is challenging yet playable.
One of the many distinguishing qualities of Bandon Dunes is that after experiencing the great courses there, golfers have a hard time choosing their favorite. This was easily apparent after a recent trip to Mike Keiser’s masterpiece resort. With so much already written about Bandon Trails below, our group noted the following highlights:
• The ways the holes lie on the ground is exceptional. Coore and Crenshaw incorporate many compelling knobs and rough bunkers that distort the player’s depth perception. These can be seen on the tee shot at the long par five 9th, as well as fascinating dunes that protrude across fairways at the 4th, 6th, and 15th.
• Even though the course is lined by dense forest, utilizing the proper playing angles is still at a premium. Any player out of position will quickly find themselves trying to stop a wedge to a shortsighted corner. Our caddie, who has been at the resort since 1999, warned that the plummeting 14th hole was one such example. Although this par four is short on the card, he cited it as the most deceptive and difficult for most amateurs at Bandon Dunes. Too many golfers immediately grab driver, not realizing that if a ball slides too far down the slope to the right, they may be in for a rough series of chips back and forth over the green.
• Bandon Trails diverse set of par threes were exceptional. Each required a different club and shot type, and none followed the same wind pattern. We only wish we could have been eased into the long, penalizing 2nd a little further into the round!
Bandon Trails has a serious fan base. In fact, prior to my arrival, I had seen more reviews citing Trails as a favorite course than any other at Bandon. While it is far more enthralling than your run-of-the-mill parkland layout, I suspect that many first time visitors love Trails for its traditional, familiar set of challenges. The course is less affected by wind (allowing for more aerial shots); it is wide but still penal outside of the playing corridors (producing some of the most difficult holes at the resort); and, perhaps because it is set farther from the sea, it also had the lushest conditions we saw all week.
Bandon Trails is an elite American golf course, and it is not surprising that so many Bandon guests fall in love with its rugged routing. Many state that more than any other course at Bandon, it needs the most plays to be appreciated. Here’s to hoping for a lottery win so I can put that to the test.
Trails is personally my favorite course on the property, and to compare it objectively to the others you have to take the location out of play. When playing the other courses you're used to insane ocean views, so the Trails is often forgotten about, but if it were a stand alone course it would be much more appreciated.
The routing is unreal, with 1, 2, and 18 playing through the best dunes on the property, and the remaining 15 playing through forest. There's tons of interesting strategy and nuance in every hole. The fourth features a massive ridge which can easily be carried by bailing out left, but challenging it on the right allows for a great look at the green. Five is an awesome almost biarritz like green with lots of unique sections. Fourteen tee is the site at which Mike Keiser decided to buy the property. Its a driveable par 4 with a fairway banking hard left to right. 15 is an interesting par 4 with a diagonal bunker running through the fairway. 17 is an awesome par 3 which shouts Coore Crenshaw.
Coore and Crenshaw probably had the most daunting design task doe Bandon Trails. After all, it is hard to compete with Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. Overall, they did a fine job transitioning from dunes to woodlands and back.
The first two holes at Trails are welcoming a pat four in the dunes and then a short downhill par 3. The first par five transitions from dunes to meadows. Coore and Crenshaw for some strange reason put bunkers where my drive and second shots ended up. The 4th and 6th feature blind tee shots. The 5th is the shortest par three and you do not want to be short. If you chunk it, hope you got enough of it to get into the front bunkers. The 5th is also one of the more undulating greens. The 7th is a long uphill par 4 with a generous fairway that I still found a way to miss and ended up in another fairway bunker. The 8th brought out the stupid in me. Yes, it is driveable. I think the better play is laying up to your preferred flip wedge yardage. Not sure why the 9th is the number one handicap hole. Three secent shots and you are putting for birdie.
The back starts with a welcoming par four. Favor the left off the tee and be wary of the greenside bunker right. The 11th is a long par four with all kinds of room left off the tee. There is a water hazard greenside right. The 12th is a mcgilla par 3. I missed my 6 foot birdie putt that was setup by hitting driver on the tee. The 13th is a downhill par four. Favor the left off the tee and do not miss right, if you are lucky you would end up in a deep greenside bunker. Part of the Bandon experience is walking. However, from 13 green to 14 tee there is a shuttle service for this long uphill trek. The downhill 14th gets a lot of pub and you either hate it or love it. I have heard it is driveable, certainly, not by anyone in my group. The contour is left to right so favor the left. What worked for me was smothering my tee shot and the bank killed my hook spin and I was able to get wedge tight for an insta-birdie. Put me down as a lover. The 15th was a letdown after my birdie, especially, when I ended up in the cross bunker. The 16th is an uphill par 5. Big hitters can get home in two, not sure why it is the number two handicap hole. The 17th, albeit short, is a fun par three with plenty of bunkers, so choose wisely. The 18th is kind of like emerging from the forest and finding Emerald City, although in this case it is sand dunes.
A fine track with some impressive neighbors
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw began a very successful partnership with Mike Keiser when they built Bandon Trails in 2005. In the fifteen years following they have added 6 more courses to the Keiser portfolio: Bandon Preserve (par 3), Cabot Cliffs, Sand Valley, The Sandbox (par 3), Sheep Ranch, and now Cabot St Lucia
Bandon Trails was the third course at the Bandon Dunes Resort and arguably the land was not as spectacular as that of the Kidd & Doak courses.
Whilst the first two courses occupied some spectacular coastal territory, The Bandon Trails course transitions from sand dunes to low lying meadows framed by native vegetation, to woodlands of towering fir and spruce trees, and back to to finish in the dunes.
Bandon Trails offers a nice contrast to the coastal courses and some respite when conditions are wild on the coast. I regard Bandon Trails as second only to Pacific Dunes in the pecking order at Bandon.
But in my view there's not much between Bandon Dunes, Old Mac, Sheep Ranch & Trails- they are all world class courses
The trademark Coore & Crenshaw bunkering is a real feature on Trails, and I particularly liked some of the fairway bunkering. It’s strategic, but also has a natural flair that makes it memorable
The transitions between changing terrains adds interest but it is the dunes holes that really standout in my opinion..
Notable holes include:
- hole 1, a classy par 4 opener in the dunes
- hole 2, a downhill par 3 to a green set in the dunes. Wind and elevation change make club selection vital
- hole 3, a really interesting par 5 which transitions from the dunes to meadowland. The fairway bunkering keeps you on your toes and is the key feature
- hole 5, is a unique short par 3 over a barranca to a severely undulating green. It's a daunting hole with the pin forward.
- hole 8, is a driveable par 4. Decisions need to be made on the tee
- hole 11, is a strong par 4 with water right of the green
- hole 14 is another driveable par 4. It's a scary little hole with lots of elevation change from tee to green and from one side of the fairway to the other. A poorly place tee shot can leave a blind approach to a severe green
- hole 17, is a delightful short par 3 back in the sand dunes
Bandon Dunes is the best golf resort in the world, in my opinion and Bandon Trails is a must play for any visit to Bandon Dunes Resort.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw faced a tall order in developing the Bandon Trails, the piece of property furthest from the sea at the Bandon Resort. I break no new ground when I tell you the forested route features winds less buffeting than its more coastal cousins, and of course the greens also tend to offer more wobble. But the design duo offered something at Trails special to the links tradition...a factor that generations of Americans (and don’t let me leave out international moderners) have come to ignore, and even despise.
We are control freaks. We demand rewards for doing everything the right way, and punishment for those who do it the wrong way. Simple things, like a bad bounce, are ill-received. This does not apply to the wind at links courses; the wind may impact difficulty, but it is predictable. It is blowing at a speed, and in a direction. Better players can overcome defined challenges. Better players (and lesser ones, like your correspondent), cannot overcome chance. They can only embrace the unexpected.
Blind shots, for example. The Dell concept has never really caught on over here. I doubt even Coore & Crenshaw had quite free reign at Trails — opening with a replica of Tobacco Road’s wall of sand probably would not have sat well with Mike Keiser — but the semi-blind opening draw at Trails is an opening to a message that culminates at the totally blind tee shot at tee No. 18: You will be hit balls to places you cannot see right now, and some of those balls will settle in places you didn’t imagine. Will you respond well? Will you have fun? To be fair, I have only had the opportunity to play Trails and Pacific Dunes, but while the latter was certainly more of a challenge, I could more easily see the writing on the wall as well. Bumps and blind landings turned my Callaways into tumbling dice more often at Trails.
A unique take on the concept comes during many of the bunkers, which frequently feature mounds of sand topped with grass, or even small trees. Consider the rightward fairway bunker at No. 11, which is peppered with obstacles. Rolling into the hazard while challenging the corner of the dogleg does not guarantee any particular result. Some may still see fit to lay up 125, and others may need to hit backwards because their drive drew the shortest straw. “Patently unfair!” the modern golfer quacks. Perhaps it’s a warning we shouldn’t play with dangerous things. The losers at Russian roulette never complain, after all.
There are exceptions, of course. No. 14 is typically the “controversial” hole at Trails, and I’m inclined to lean against. Although perhaps more spontaneous than any other hole at the course, there is very little room for success off of the tee (this was my only birdie hole of the day, so I’m speaking for the observed travails of my playing partners).
I had heard frequently coming into the round that Trails, among all the entries at Bandon, was the one that needed the most plays to truly appreciate. Knowing that I didn’t necessarily have the means for requisite multiple plays, I tried to pay more attention this time around. I think I see you, Coore & Crenshaw, even if I didn’t see where my final tee shot landed.
As I crossed the crest, first seeing the green in the distance and then my landing spot, I saw that my luck had been good...both on that drive and in getting to experience something like Bandon Trails on my own continent.
Love the tumbling dice phrase. Based on my own experience, Callaway could use that as a marketing slogan. After cancelling tee times here twice in 2018, happy that you provided some distraction with a thoughtful exploration of fairness in golf (although your 5.5 ball rating still smarts).
A chance bounce in golf is like a premier league match with the ubiquitous dodgy refereeing decisions: It will cause delight or despair - but over the course of a season luck usually evens out and the best team still wins. Crucially, what armchair fans are left with on this journey of unpredictable drama are heightened emotions & fully engaged excitement. A dash of random chance - unfairness even - helps elevate football to something truly special. The same logic may not apply to Russian Roulette - but it usually does for 18 holes of golf
Compared to my last visit, many of the holes have been “softened” to remove some punishing scenarios, green construction and surrounds. I remember the first time I was at Trails; I would watch exhausted golfers trudging off the 18th green. Thankfully that reality has changed, including a much more inviting closing hole. Coore / Crenshaw have yet again created a world class golf course that offers a magnificent (and needed!) contrast to all the other courses that use as much coastline as possible. It’s important to appreciate and review Bandon Trails for what it is, not what it isn’t. I understand that visitors prioritise playing the coastal courses – but for those of us that are committed to understanding architecture, there is an infinite amount of content to write about when contemplating the product at Bandon Trails. I’m personally delighted that it was chosen by the USGA for the upcoming US Amateur. The golf course, on its own merits, is brilliant.
The dynamic duo of architects used an inland piece of property that offers beautiful playing turf, plenty of elevation changes that aren’t found on any other course, and the opportunity to shape greens of great proportion. I’ve played this course multiple times, and just like Old Macdonald, my respect for the layout only increases with time. Similar to the other courses at the resort, it’s a truly enjoyable walk, is now much more user friendly and is littered with traditional Coore / Crenshaw features that we all love. The most important aspect of playing a Coore / Crenshaw course, as is very true at Bandon Trails, is all about your approach shots onto the large greens. The visuals into each of the greens is a thing of beauty, and congratulations to the design team for discovering what works best. The course is approaching 20 years old, and I look forward to more positive reviews for decades to come.
A great golf course. We just play last week on a brisk but sunny February morning in Bandon. There aren't any bad golf courses in Bandon. While this ranked fourth for me, they were all close. I really loved the front nine and it was weird after playing Old Mac and Bandon already, the course had a much different feel. Not a links course like the rest. The course takes you through wooded areas, but for the most part has wide landing areas, I don't recall our group losing more than one or two balls.
A great blend of holes from Coore and Crenshaw. Admittedly, I was cashed by the tail end of this round as it is by far the hardest walk at Bandon. Might be one you want to go ahead and buck up for a caddy. The 14th offered a wonderful view of the property at Bandon and a plaque where Keiser stood when he bought the property.
Don't be fooled by the easy par 4 start at Trails, I thought it was the toughest test on the property and my score reflected that. Worst round of the week. Still a must as is every course at Bandon.
Somehow Bandon Trails comes up fourth in all the rankings for the Bandon Courses, but to think that implies anything less than an outstanding course is a huge mistake. Trails is a radical departure from the other three courses since instead of using the dunes and links land that the other three courses utilized Coore and Crenshaw took off into the woods and meadows east of the ocean to design a fun frolicking golf course that is every bit the equal of the other three courses on the property.
The first hole plays between two dunes and some raging fescue and you are pretty quickly aware that you are in a different world on this course. The demanding par 3 second plays down to a fairly level green protected by the dune to the right and bunkers left. The area short of the green leaves a lay up option and the grass is mowed so tight here that you could putt from a long ways off. In fact the entire course, though definitely not links, plays hard and fast. On the downhill par 4 14th I putted my approach from 40 yards off the green. Almost every hole allowed a bump and run approach so that the apparent disconnect that people see between Bandon Trails and the other three courses is really not that pronounced.
There are so many good holes here that it is difficult to pick a favorite. The downhill par 4 11th is guarded by a cross bunker 50 yards short of the green and a water hazard hard to the right of the green. Our caddy described this as "#11 at Augusta in reverse" and it's hard to argue with that assessment. We had a back right pin placement about 15 feet from the water and I putted my approach to avoid an embarrassing miss into the water! 11 is followed by a" simple" (sarcasm icon here ) 240 yard uphill par 3 into the wind and then the par 4 13th guarded by one of the most intimidating bunkers on the property to the right of the green. 18 finishes into the wind in the dunes and is a great hole that can play between 376 and 435 yards, all slightly uphill.
I think that in the future Bandon Trails will slowly rise in the rankings as people realize the brilliance of the design and the beautiful playing characteristics of the course become more appreciated. The course was designed through the woods to lessen the effect of the wind, but we played in a howling 20 mph wind that vexed me throughout the round. This is a fantastic layout that will test golfers of any level and provide a great experience for any golfer.
Click the link to read my story – Bandon Dunes - not only for the guys
Richard Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee