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..
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
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!