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..
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
The first thing I want to say is I wouldn't be so sure Trails is the 4th ranked of the courses on the Resort. They are all so good and so different one from the other that it is just a matter of personal taste, game skills and opinions. All 4 courses are just amazing, well 5 courses actually including Preserve, you will find extremely good golf holes on all of them and super fine tunning when you talk about design.
I was lucky to stay 3 days at the Resort after a long stay in US including Scottsdale, Seattle, Bend, Eugene and finishing at Bandon.
We rushed from Eugene which was not scheduled to be able to complete the full monty as the round at Trails was not included. It was so worth the effort and the extra cash spent!!!
No time to even lunch or warm up was nothing bad at all, just a very fun game with 2 Australian Mates and my good friend Mark from USA. We lost a narrow 2&1 but who cares after experiencing a golf course where Core & Crenshaw created quality/challenge/beauty at their highest levels!!!
Course is the only one not real links and not as close to the Ocean as the other three although hole #1 has views and is close to it. A nice easy opener before the storm catches you really deep. Wind was strong and in firm fast greens this is a tough factor. I was not able to make one single birdie despite playing very decent golf, it was a brutal challenge. Par 3 2nd from the elevated tee was 220yds downwind on a 2-3 clubs factor. After par 5 3rd which had nothing special things started to get extremely tough.
Par 4 4th into the wind can be a par 5 for most golfers, then 5th not long with that beautiful Biarritz design sorrounded by sort of Pine Valley piece of land was one of my favourite. At that point the first bunch of deers appeared to walk with us 6th hole.
Short and reachable par 4 8th is one of those where once you miss the tee shot you ask yourself why not a lay up and a wedge??? But it was late! Cross bunker shot to an inmense green can be as demanding as you as for!
From 9 to 13 you get inside the forest with some special features like huge 11th green or 240yds par 3 12th. On tee 14th you get to watch the ocean again on that elevated tee to the best green complex in the course, I drove the green to 35 feet of the hole just on the left side and I was not able to get 2 shots from there. Most of the greens offer the bump and run (or actually putter) option to chip and it is a lot of fun.
From 15 to 18 into the wind it was again demanding, where 150yds par 3 17th was into a 3 clubs wind again.
It was my first round and left the course thrilled and happy, knowing it was just going to get better and better. Once having played them all, I am not sure this one is the "worst" (least excellent would be a better adjective to describe it).
Bunkering is typically C&C, which you also see at Preserve, some greens are just like polo fields. It is a course you can enjoy from any set of tees you choose and one that will leave you with the will of a replay immediately after you finish it.
Just one short note: if not to the UK and you want to play links golf, don't search for more!! Go to Seattle, 2 rounds at Chambers Bay and then directly to Bandon Dunes.
And another interesting feature: all 4 big courses are in the same property and they are so different from each other you can even feel you are in a different part of the country!
This is by far the best routed course at Bandon which expertly asks the golfer to negotiate ridges and hills in unique and challenging ways with the golf course feeling fully part of the landscape.
The par 3s are the jewels of the course with 2, 5 and 17 particularly standing out giving you a feast for the eyes and something to chew on despite the short yardages.
I was also a big fan of how C&C allowed you to experience different looks at the same pieces of land, giving the golfer a long and languid 3rd hole which runs parallel to the 4th hole which gives the golfer blind shots and giant ridges.
The green complexes provide undulations but no so much as to frustrate the golfer who has gone up and down pine laden hills to get there and the course conditioning was in top shape when played in April.
Admittedly there is a schizophrenic experience playing Trails as it feels more like Carolina than coastal Oregon and people expecting dunes and wild ocean scenes may be disappointed. Don't be! Trails will give you everything you want from a golf course and then some.
When the course opened in 2005 I played the layout not long thereafter and did not come away feeling the design had added a good deal more to the overall qualities found at the earlier layouts of Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes. Since that time I have returned to the course on two (2) different occasions my opinion has changed a good bit.
Bandon Trails does not have an ocean facing course -- although the opening and closing holes do bring the Pacific Ocean into view. The design by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore is highly imaginative using fairway contours as well as those found on the various putting surfaces. In sum -- one round may not convince people about the qualities the layout provides.
The opening hole at the Trails is top tier. You commence from an elevated perch and you gaze upon a fairway that turns slightly left and tapers down considerably as you get nearer to the green. The putting surface is protected well and the wherewithal to get close can be a chore when the prevailing north wind blows during the summer season. The par-3 2nd provides a clear counterpoint as you move away from ocean views and head deeper into a coastal forest where the course spends nearly all of its remaining holes.
One has to salute owner and developer Mike Keiser in engaging Crenshaw & Coore with the monumental task in bringing to life a 3rd course given the tremendous fanfare the first two courses created. With just about any other design effort it would have likely meant a course that failed to continue the momentum the resort had generated with earlier efforts.
During my initial round, while I thought highly of the opening hole, I did not see the course doing much until the devilish short par-3 5th. With additional rounds I have to see the 2nd to 4th holes as being both stylish and strategically sound. The ground movements are counterbalanced by various putting green contours. Crenshaw & Coore put a premium on placement so that approach angles do matter. Given the length of the 2nd hole -- the short 5th is a delight to play. The green has a range of movements -- failure to be utterly pinpoint with the approach can mean a quick three-putt or worse. When you stand on the tee you see birdie as a distinct possibility, however, when you leave the green you shake your head and wonder how bogey is now on the scorecard.
I still view the middle portion of the course as being a bit behind the qualities one gets at the front and back end of the layout. They are good holes -- just not exceptional. That changes for the final third of the course when you arrive at the par-4 13th. The hole requires careful tee shot placement and the approach into the green is fraught with peril -- especially for those finding the deep right hand greenside bunker.
When you climb the hill to the short par-4 14th you come to the hole that has provided much of the spotlight concerning Bandon Trails. Hats off to Crenshaw and Coore because this bewitching and alluring hole can wreck a scorecard in the blink of an eye. You start from an elevated tee and those who are long hitters may take the bait and attempt to reach the green. The shot must be laser-like in quality -- hugging the left side as this is the only open area to bounce on the green. At 325 yards you feel again as one did at the 5th that birdie should be the end result. Those who opt for what they believe is safety to the right will encounter a short pitch to an elevated and angled green that is truly terrifying. The 14th is the smallest of the putting surfaces at the Trails and the limited width when playing from the right side can mean danger for those under-hitting and those who go long. I've always liked the hole because so many number are in play. Neither aggressive or safe lines of attack can assure the player of anything. Without a clear conviction in terms of one's line of play the 14th can inflict serious pain to one's golf ego.
The final four holes are beautifully routed and pose a series of challenges. The 15th and 16th both play uphill and into the prevailing wind. At the former the approach is artfully tested -- come up short and a false front is quick to enter the picture. Go too far long and a demanding two-putt becomes apparent. The par-3 17th is stunning -- again a false front is included and for those who go long the likelihood in saving par becomes remote without a skilled putting stoke to save oneself. The Trails has a quality closer -- 391 yards in length -- but when tackling the prevailing wind from the north the golfer will need to hit two quality shots to get to the final green.
To fully appreciate Bandon Trails takes more than one round. The design elements are both subtle and strong at different times. As the round progresses within the tree lines you feel a sense of quiet and relish the shots required. Bandon Trails will likely be seen by many as a support layout given the hefty stature of the other courses at the facility. In my mind, such opinions are likely arrived at through hasty assessments. The Trails is like fine wine -- it takes more than one sip to really savor what's provided.
by M. James Ward
Trails is such a wonderful variation to the links (or links like) courses at Bandon Dunes Resort. With a team like Coore & Crenshaw you nearly always end up with a wonderful routing. Combine this amazing and varied landscape and a great ridge for them to work off and you have a bit of the Friar’s Head idea only with far better land on the sea-side than the farm field of Long Island on the back side of that ridge. I’m a little disappointed that they continue to soften up the par 4, 14th hole from its original iteration but understand their reasoning. They found it a little extreme and it was holding up the heaving stream of foursomes everyday with people playing back and forth the narrow green from one side to the other. To a lesser extent the 18th hole has also been softened, again I like the original iteration better but again it caused too much back up and as a result I’m guessing that at the end of each day several rounds fail to finish due to these holes that take a bit longer. If Trails was a private club I honestly doubt these holes would have been softened at all. Nonetheless, it’s an awesome course, plays firm and fast like the links courses and runs through centuries old pines yet still has plenty of width and playability and no holes which are even remotely similar in feel. On top of all that a wonderful mix of short and long 3’s, 4’s and 5’s.