Just like every other golfer, I've heard and read so much about Bandon Dunes.
I thought it was a no brainer to finally put the south coast of Oregon atop my
LinksNation to do list.
Could such a place possibly live up to all the hype?Very few places do, and very few
have ever received the accolades that Bandon has.The good news is Bandon Resort is
open to the public, so issues over access don't exist, but there are a few elements
about Bandon that make it more challenging to access than most.First off getting to
Bandon is not an easy chore, but has recently been made easier by flights in and out
of North Bend Airport (which is only 30 miles away).Of course flights to North Bend
are less frequent and more pricey than those going to Portland, Seattle and Eugene . . .
but it is only 30 minutes away.
Since I had determined that I would also go up and review Chambers Bay just
outside of Tacoma, Washington -I traveled the lengthiest route or so it seemed.
When you're traveling from Palm Beach to Atlanta, and Atlanta to Seattle, then driving
from Seattle to South Oregon . . . you probably need to be in therapy (I think many
people who know me might agree with that statement).Arriving in Seattle at midnight
on a Sunday, there was over 400 miles between me and Bandon Resort.By the time I
retreived my sticks and luggage and caught the shuttle to the rental car agency, it was
1am west coast time . . . and the peanuts and Coca Cola that Delta distributed on the
flight just wasn't enough fuel to make the night go much further.I opted for the Denny's
within sight, and after a mediocre french toast slam, I was gonna try to knock off some
miles and get to Portland.I almost made it to Portland when my eyes said "No Mas" . . .
so I pulled into a motel 6 at 3:30 a.m west coast time and crashed for 2 1/2 hours, knowing
that atleast 5 hours of driving remained.
A few weeks before the journey it was recommended to me to check out this place
just outside of Portland called McMenamins Pub Course.Usually when somebody takes
the time to go out of their way to tell me about a place, I make every effort to see
it for myself.There wasn't going to be much time, but I had to see what Frank from
Lake Worth, Florida was talking about.
From the moment I arrived at McMenamins (it was cold and wet - about 38 degrees),
it felt as if I'd just arrived in Ireland.There is a pub, beautiful gardens, and the structures
have an old European style.I had no more than an hour at the most to explore the place
. . . that meant playing the course was out, but I was o.k with that since I was jet lagged
and exhausted (and had a 1:50 tee time at Bandon Resort - Pacific Dunes later that day).
I've done a few features where I haven't actually played the course and there is something
about that experience that I really enjoy.First of all, the expectation of shooting a score can
be a distraction from seeing all of the details and observing the land and how it was shaped
to create the layout.Also the act of executing golf shots and working a camera can be chaos
. . . I'm certainly not complaining about the gig, but there are times when one is not conducive
to the other.Luckily the grounds crew was out there performing aeration on the greens, so the
obsessive golfer in me had no choice but grab the camera bag and hit the trail to the first hole.
McMenamins 13th at day break
As I walked up and down the the dirt/gravel pathway leading to each hole, I realized
what a unique little course it is.No hole is over 100 yds and the variety is masterful.I
walked away thinking "is there another par 3 course in America that has 20 holes and
all are under 100 yards.The photos can't possibly convey the absolute charm that is
McMenamins 19th hole (not a typo, the Pub Course has 20 holes)
As previously mentioned . . . . Hole 20
Next it was off to Bandon Resort 250 miles away.The scenery on the drive to Bandon
is beautiful, but is also very treacherous.The roadways twist and curve along mountains,
lakes, cliffs and they are often wet.There are many small towns along the path to Bandon,
one of which is a small logger town called Drain, Oregon.I was working up an appetite from
all of the driving, so I stopped in a local mini mart type grocery store . . . as I walked in the
store I realized that everyone in the store was staring at me as if I had just stepped out of
an alien spaceship.I guess slacks and a sweater were foreign garb to the wrangler wearin
flannel plaid nation.I purchased an old school bottled Coke, a few chicken tenders and booked
outta there before the locals decided what they wanted to do with the city boy in the fancy
clothes, it felt like a Twin Peaks episode.
Finally I arrived at Bandon Dunes Resort, my tee time at Pacific Dunes was in 15
minutes, so there was enough time to meet the head pro Michael, change into some
all weather gear in case the weather changed, and head to the first tee.I knew the
round would not yield my best golf considering all of the travel and lack of sleep,
but I was excited to tee it up on the #1 public golf course in the U.S, Pacific Dunes.
Behind the 11th at Pacific Dunes
I was paired with three great guys from Colorado, Colt pictured wearing white, Don (in blue)
and Colt's Dad Jay (in the red).They had played Pacific Dunes earlier in the week, so they
guided me around.I had absolutely no game on the front nine other than a few smoke &
mirrors up and downs early on, certainly not a stellar ball striking display, but the golf course
is truly a masterpiece and in the most beautiful setting imaginable.On the back nine I finally
shook off the fatigue and played a version closer to normal my game.The boys from mile high
country were a blast to play with, so much so that we all had dinner together after the round.
If you're fortunate enough to play Pacific Dunes and have dinner at Pacific Grill, do yourself
a favor and order the double cut pork chop (with the smoked onion honey glaze) you won't be
sorry.We finished the meal by watching Kentucky finish off Kansas in the NCAA Basketball Finals.
Soon after, I headed back to my retreat at the resort and thought of all of the great public
access courses I've been fortunate enough to experience, and tried to figure out where Pacific
lined up on my own personal list.As I cranked up the fireplace, and started the bath water
I began to make a mental list of the great public layouts in the U.S where I'd been:Bethpage,
Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, TPC Sawgrass, Pinehurst, World Woods, Whistling Straits, Kiawah
Island Ocean, and Erin Hills.Did Pacific measure up to those tracks? I thought about why each of
those courses are so revered . . . by the time I layed down to sleep, my thoughts had reversed -
do those courses measure up to Pacific?It was at that moment that I realized how special Keiser
& Doaks creation is.After a full day, I was overdone and crashed.Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails
lie in wait, I would have my work cut out for me on day two.
Day two was another full slate, but thankfully no travel was involved.I had a 7:50 a.m tee
time at Bandon Dunes and a 1:50 time at Bandon Trails.As I checked the weather forecast
I realized that there might not be much golf played on this day, it was 38 degrees and
raining hard.In Bandon that is not unusual weather, and I knew that beforehand so I
geared up and headed to the course for my starting time.There was no point in trying to
warm up on the range, this would be an exercise in surviving the conditions, not making a
score or even reviewing the course.There was me and two other lunatics waiting to go off
the first tee, that's it.I then realized that my wool cap wouldn't repel water, so I headed
inside the pro shop for a Gortex Bucket hat to keep the keppe warm and dry.We teed off
and walked down the fairway, I had no idea who these guys were but I knew none of us
would finish this round.I hit a surprisingly decent drive down the right center, an adequate 5
iron just left of the green and a perfect bump & run chip into the bank that should have left
a tap in par, but the greens were under water, even taking your putter out was useless.By
this time the ice cold water was running down my legs and into my shoes.When we reached
the 3rd tee it was clear to me that this round was just not gonna happen . . . then it became
clear to the two other nameless linksters next to me, they looked at me & the three of us
sloshed our way back in.
Lakeside - Chrome Lake Resort accommodations
I retreated back to Chrome Lake suite #442 and really thought it would be a day of R&R
and watching Masters media coverage.The radar looked ominous, but there looked to be
a possible break in the weather around 1p.m, so with guarded optimism I left the door
open to try Bandon Dunes again later, but the 36 hole plan had no shot.By 12:30 the
weather broke, and I bolted to the same tee box I had started on 5 hours previous.The sun
was shining, it was nearly 50 degrees and the true linksland had drained better then liquid
plumber on a faulty sink.Only a lob wedge approach into the 1st (5 iron needed in the a.m
during the frozen quagmire).I walked Bandon Dunes and finished at 4pm (barely over 3
hours), a score was there for the taking, I limped in with a 75 . . . a front side 35 had me
hoping for better.
Bandon Dunes is one of the most fun and memorable experiences one could have on a golf
course.The layout had great variety, magnificent seaside views, and holes that just dazzled
your senses.Hard to imagine two rounds more fulfilling than walking both Pacific & Bandon
in nice weather.
The par 3 -12th at Bandon Dunes
Was the original plan of 36 holes still possible? I wasn't sure, but I was determined to find out.
I dashed around the corner to the Crenshaw/Coore layout known as Bandon Trails and teed it up
hoping I could walk another 18 in 3 hours or so.
My body wasn't up to it, but my mind was doing a hard sell . . . so the body got dragged along
against it's will.(As I write this piece, it's a week since this journey and I'm still recovering).
It's all walking at Bandon, if you can make it through 36 - your third go around is on the house
. . . good luck with that one. I played as a single all afternoon, that was the only possible way
to cover that much ground in so little time, and luckily the early rain kept the masses away.I
had to go through one group of Bandon employees on the par 3 fifth, and did'nt see another
golfer until I reached the tee on the uphill par 5 sixteenth.Finally on the 18th tee, I caught up
with the group and had to wait as the sun was setting on the Pacific.It was at that moment
that mother nature decided to make it rain. I was thankful that the forecasted late afternoon
precipitation had held off until I was nearly done with the trek around another of the finest
layouts America has to offer.My six foot par putt poured into the jar as the sun hit bottom.
The par 4 tenth at Bandon Trails (what's the blue object in the trees?)
Bandon Trails to me was so much more than I expected, Coore/Crensahaw are masters at what
they do.If you argued that Trails was the best course on the property, I might not totally agree
. . . but I'd have no argument to counter with.Almost a hidden gem - if you will.
After the 36 hole walk in 6 hours I was wiped out and sore, so the only way to go was to order
room service and another session in the tub.Another 2 rounds were on the slate for day three,
so I crashed.Day three was another iffy forecast, and once again I dashed to the tee to try to
get out ahead of everyone.
Old MacDonald - 7th green
I was the first to tee off at 7:30 on Old MacDonald, Tom Doak's ode to famous golf course
architect C.B MacDonald.Old Mac might be the most authentic links layout of the group at
Bandon, and had many spectacular holes but was in no way the visual stunner of Pacific
or Bandon Dunes.The greens are the main event at Old Mac, very large with crazy undulations.
After another mediocre round scoring wise, but enjoyable, I headed to the Tufted Puffin
restaurant/lounge (which is the sporty bar like area of the clubhouse) for breakfast.
The meal hit the spot, and I headed back to the room to get ready for a lunch meeting with B.R
Koehnemann from Kemper Sports/Bandon Resorts.After our Lunch, B.R invited me to take on
the new Bandon Preserve, a thirteen hole par 3 course that was originally slated to be twelve
holes, but after clearing some of the property for the routing, Coore/Crenshaw found another
spot perfect for the bakers dozen.Preserve is 100% grown in, the grand opening to the public is
May 1st, 2012.In order to leave the Preserve pristine for the grand opening, we hit every tee
shot off a lie board to protect it's condition until opening day.
The stunning Bandon Preserve opens to the Public on May 1st
Bandon Preserve #12
On my last night in Bandon, I decided to head over to McKee's Pub which is right next to the pro
shop at Bandon Dunes.The theme is all Irish, and although I'm not a drinker I can appreciate a cool
watering hole . . . so I went for the Fish n Chips and an Arnold Palmer, the perfect meal to finish off
the Bandon Resort experience.
Mac Hall & McKee's Pub
The next morning I had a 400+ mile drive headed north, back towards Seattle and a 1:55
tee time at Chambers Bay (site of the 2010 U.S Amateur & 2015 U.S Open), but I knew
I'd have to come back to Bandon one day, it's uniqueness can't be overstated . . . as far
as I was concerned the hype had to keep getting louder to match the experience.
Full reviews of each Bandon course coming soon in the Course Review section.
Next in Bruno's Blog: An afternoon on the Puget Sound at Chambers Bay