Pacific Dunes is considered by many to be the best course at the fabulous Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. But with the opening of the new (June 2010) Old Macdonald course, opinions may soon change. Pacific Dunes is located a little farther up the Pacific coast, just to the north of Bandon Dunes. Both courses have similarities but there is no doubt in our minds that Pacific Dunes is a very special case.
It opened for play in 2001 and Tom Doak who knows a thing or two about golf course architecture designed it. Frankly it’s a modern masterpiece and architects would reap rewards from carefully studying Pacific Dunes before they embark on any future seaside design. Often, when the setting is gorgeous, as it is here at Bandon, course design often finishes a poor second. The Pacific Dunes design is at least as good as the setting and if they can harden up and quicken the playing surfaces, this could be one of the world’s greatest links.
Measuring 6,673 yards from the tips, Pacific Dunes is by no means a championship layout. But with par set at 71, it’s tough enough for most of us, especially when the wind is up. We are thrilled that Doak used kindly Nature and it’s reassuring to know that the undulating fairways are mostly as he found them. Many of the holes weave in and out of the dunes and this provides the golfer with lots of variety and some respite from the terrain.
Writing in Tom Doak's Little Red Book of Golf Course Architecture, Tom commented as follows: "The 13th at Pacific Dunes is one of the most beautiful holes we've ever built. It was almost exactly like it is today when we found it; we just had to cap the fairway with sand so we could grow grass there.
It didn't take a genius to figure out that a hole with 440 yards of Pacific Ocean frontage – not to mention a 40-foot dune on the other side of the green – was going to be famous someday. Now that I think about it, there are only three other par-4's in America that have that much Pacific frontage – the 9th and 10th at Pebble Beach, and the 4th at Pacific Dunes. What a coincidence that they all turned out so well! Or maybe the setting has something to do with how much people like them."
With a plethora of great holes it seems fickle to single one out, but if we had to, we’d probably plump for the short par four 16th with its rippled fairway and plateau green which slopes from front to back. It’s a real gem.
“Every architect dreams of building among the sand dunes in the same terrain where golf was conceived in the British Isles… Pacific Dunes is that dream come true.” Tom Doak has undoubtedly fulfilled his dream and he has left the reality and the legacy of a most wonderful course that has real heart and soul. Make the trip and play Pacific Dunes immediately, you will not be disappointed.
The whole resort is fantastic. Beautiful accommodation ranges from ‘Queen’ and ‘King’ sized rooms in the Lodge or the newly built Inn to the exclusive several thousand dollar a night cottages for four. There are also several dining options from a somewhat twee Scottish pub – McKees – to fine dining in the Lodge. You can also eat dinner in the Bandon Trails or Pacific Dunes clubhouses. However not to be discounted is a trip in the evening (or lunch time) to Bandon itself. Ten minutes up the road the ‘Old Town’ is well worth a visit and the oysters and clam chowder at unimpressive looking Tony’s Crab Shack are sensational. Genuinely sensational. You must try them if you go there.
Although the resort is completely geared up for golf there are a few things for the non-golfer to do: scenic walks, horse riding and more scenic walks! Meanwhile the golfer is spoilt for choice though with 4 wonderful courses, an extensive Practice Center (forgive the American spelling!), a 4 hole par-3 course and an ‘executive’ par 3 course is being built between ‘Dunes’ (Bandon Dunes) and ‘Trails’ (Bandon Trails).
So, to the golf: Frankly all four courses are awesome but my pecking order was largely shaped by my golf and the weather! Old Mac, Pacific, Trails, Dunes. I played Pacific first and even though I was tired after a long day in the car I loved it. The first three holes take you towards the sea and the fourth makes the wait so worthwhile: just a great hole! The other notable cliff top holes are the par 3 11th and the par 4 13th. There are other great and interesting holes: the approach to the short par 4 6th will demand great touch and distance control. The par 4 9th has two greens – make sure you check which one your supposed to be playing to before you tee it up. The final three holes provide a great finish to what is a fantastic course.
Bandon Dunes is the course that will one day hold significant events – it can apparently be stretched to nearly 8000 yards! Not PGA tour events or majors…the location is too remote…but it won’t be long until the Amateur or a Walker Cup is hosted at Bandon. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other courses but is a tough course and will test all golfers. The notable holes here are the 16th, 6th and 9th. Old Mac is one of the best golf courses I have ever played. It is frankly amazing that it only opened 3 weeks before I played; I would have had no idea. Designed to reproduce golf holes that Charles B Macdonald would have designed it is a terrific challenge. It must have the largest greens anywhere in the world and so hitting the ball to the right areas is critical if you want to avoid 3 and 4 putts! I nearly didn’t play this course but if I were to be able to get back to Bandon it is the course I’d play most. In my opinion there is not a weak hole on the course and the holes I still picture in my mind’s eye are 3, 5, 6, 7, 12, 15 and 17. Simply a sensational golf course. Now the 3 aforementioned courses are all true links courses…with an American twist. The anomaly at Bandon is the Trails course. It’s like a Surrey heath-land course….only on steroids! Again I loved it but by golly some of the holes are tough especially 16 and 17, a par 5 up hill and a long par 3 (200+ yards) both into the prevailing wind. Score early on this course because the last 4 are brutal!
In summary I wholeheartedly recommend Bandon Dunes golf resort to any keen golfer. It is a golfing paradise and the resort, which has no unnecessary frills, is designed to look after your every golfing need. I haven’t played any other big name US golf resorts but this place will be extremely hard to beat.
Good shot-making is required on every course at Bandon, and this course will regularly punish even the slightest of mishits that do not find the fairway. The greens are large, but do not hold the way most North American golfers would expect. They also aren't lush, but run pretty true, and putts can be rolled in from longer distances. The greens seem to skid and slide off the putter, as they are cut low and have less grass under the ball.
The fairways are cut very similarly resulting in consistent lies. Even though the area receives a lot of moisture, the fairways and greens are quite hard with few divots or ball marks to be found. One starts picking the ball off the tight lies or using low lofted clubs or putter around these greens.
I believe this is the toughest of the courses at Bandon, even though it's the shortest. The course is a test to walk, negotiate the wind and elements, and find opportunities to score well. If one is not careful, big numbers will surely creep in the scorecard.