Are you a golf junkie? Do you live and die to hit the little white ball around as much as possible no matter the weather, score, or time commitment?
I have the place for you.
It’s no longer a secret that Oregon’s Bandon Dunes golf resort is one of the best, if not the best, golf destinations in the world. If you are a golfer, you know about Bandon. But this past weekend I had the pleasure of going for the very first time.
I’ve been playing golf since I was in the first grade when my mom put me and my brother in Monday-morning lessons every summer, so she could go play golf. It built a foundation of love for the sport that has never left me.
I’ve never been a great golfer, but I can get around the course and have fun when I play. I get frustrated, just like everyone else, but it never deters me from seeking out a round with friends. My wife never played before she met me and now loves the game (unfortunately not as much as me), and now my kids are getting the bug as well. So, I pat myself on the back for all that.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because Bandon Dunes, I believe, is not for the casual golfer. You have to LOVE the game completely if you want to get the most out of what it has to offer. Fortunately, I love golf.
Bandon has four, super challenging courses that can be difficult to navigate even for the best of the best. But, oh boy, is it fun!
So, I got the nod to join a group of my nephew’s friends almost two years ago. I had heard of Bandon, had friends make the trip, but didn’t really understand what it was all about. Now I do.
The Boys Club
First off, the place is set up for a group outing—namely, a boys’ trip.
You know what is a unicorn down there? Women.
There were plenty of female service workers, maintenance people and such, but during my four days down there, I never saw a group of women on the courses. Not sure why, but I found that part of the outing a mystery.
The place was packed with one group of four men having the times of their lives—all on boys’ trips.
From the lodging to the restaurants to the golf itself, everything is catered around a foursome. That’s just how the game goes. Our group had 12 guys with handicaps ranging from six to 36. If you love the game, handicaps don’t matter. It’s just a thrill to be there.
Shoutout to my buddy Kurt who organized the entire trip. Calling him a golf junkie is doing him a disservice. His feelings for the game go beyond love; it’s an addiction. So, he was the perfect person to organize the outing.
We had five rounds of golf at all four courses, including the 13-hole, par-3 course, Bandon Preserve.
We arrived on Wednesday after flying from Seattle to Eugene and rented a car for the 2.5-hour drive. One of the prettier drives you’ll ever make by the way. Upon our arrival late in the afternoon, we were sent to the Preserve course for our first round.
What a great way to start your trip! The par-3 course gives you an awesome taste of what is to come. Although you never use driver, and it is basically an irons-only course, it is the perfect way to begin and honestly a very tough track.
It gives you a chance to experience the very tricky topography with the undulating holes and greens that make the entire complex so unique.
After our thrilling start at the Preserve, we took our party to the Punchbowl. It is a 100,000 square foot (2.3 acres) putting course located next to the Pacific Dunes course.
Our group rented the entire course after dusk for some glow-ball putting. Playing at night did not do the course justice as it was hard to decipher all the hills and valleys that make up the entire green. Nevertheless, it was a fun outing and a great way to end our first golfing day.
After the round, it was dinner at one of the four bars and restaurants on the grounds before we found ourselves in one of the hidden gems at Bandon: The Bunker bar.
Located deep in the bowels of the lodge, it is there that you really feel like it is truly a boys’ trip. There is table after table of guys playing cards, dice, and many other games all while smoking cigars. Old school. Not being a smoker, that was a bit hard to swallow, but it was a lot of fun joining in on a game of pool and then some cards. If you’re in a bad mood at the Bunker Bar, something’s wrong with you. We had a blast.
As always, a few guys took it a little too deep the first night (rookies) and were feeling it the next morning as we teed it up for our first true 18 holes at the Old McDonald course.
After recently playing Chambers Bay in Tacoma, Washington, this course felt very similar. I found it to be the truest form of links golf at Bandon and a great track. The third hole lifts you up and over a huge cliff where you get your first glimpse of the ocean.
It is a very forgiving course and was a great way to start our day. With its wide-open fairways and generous greens, I found it very playable. You still had to make good shots, but you weren’t in jail if you faltered. It was enjoyable.
After the morning round, some lunch, and liquid refreshments, we ventured over to the Bandon Trails course, the third course to be built on the property.
It starts on a gigantic sand dune with ocean views and then works its way through sprawling meadows and coastal forests and returns to the dunes for the finish. I really liked this course, and it featured some of my favorite holes of the weekend.
It is totally different from Old Mac as it featured much more topographical challenges with an abundance of trees and waste areas to navigate. But again, it was another playable course. Accuracy was at a premium, and if you are a straight hitter, you can go low at this course. Many in our group found this to be their favorite course played during our stay.
After a great dinner at The Gallery restaurant in the lodge, we were up early the next day to play Bandon Dunes. What a treat! It is the course that started it all. Opening in 1999, the course sits on the native dunes and winds its way through indigenous vegetation. It is an all-natural course.
“Picture a cross between Pebble Beach and Carnoustie – with a pinch of Pine Valley for good measure – and you have Bandon Dunes.” – Golfweek
The course is such a true test of the game; it is almost ridiculous. Every hole is perfectly thought out and uses every ounce of space brilliantly. The views are so spectacular you tend to forget where you are. One of my buddies, who was not having a great golfing day, remarked how you can’t pout and put your head down or you’ll miss something. It is that great.
If you are going to make the trip down and can only play one course, Bandon Dunes should be it.
We finished off trip with a final round at Pacific Dunes, which opened in 2001. It is unlike any of the other three courses. It is not particularly long; it just makes you think about every shot. You can’t relax, but if you are on your game, birdies are out there.
I liked this course because it combined things you’ve seen all over the property in one course; undulating greens, native bunkers, sand dunes, trees, ocean views, etc. It was challenging but fun.
I should also mention that our weather could not have been better. All weekend we heard horror stories of brutal winds and rain that altered many players’ games. You can definitely see how the weather on the coast could impact your round. We got lucky apparently, as October can be a crapshoot.
Experience of a Lifetime
As I wrote this article, going back and remembering all the holes, it really makes you want to go back. Like right now.
My writing didn’t do Bandon Dunes justice, as there are so many nooks and crannies all over the property worthy of discussion. I just didn’t have room.
I hope this sparked your interested if you have never been there. But if you have, I hope it reminds you of how fun it can be.
If you are a golfer, do yourself a favor; do whatever it takes to make a trip. It’s worth every penny.