GOLF COURSE REVIEW - BANDON DUNES
Course Architect: David McLay Kidd (1999)
Year Opened: 1999
Location: Bandon, Oregon
Slope: 150. Rating: 76.8
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 398 Yds 10 - Par 4 380 Yds
2 - Par 3 220 Yds 11 - Par 4 452 Yds
3 - Par 5 563 Yds 12 - Par 3 238 Yds
4 - Par 4 443 Yds 13 - Par 5 553 Yds
5 - Par 4 445 Yds 14 - Par 4 390 Yds
6 - Par 3 217 Yds 15 - Par 3 206 Yds
7 - Par 4 411 Yds 16 - Par 4 363 Yds
8 - Par 4 385 Yds 17 - Par 4 405 Yds
9 - Par 5 585 Yds 18 - Par 5 558 Yds
Par 36 3,667 Yds Par 36 3,545 Yds
Key Events Held: U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship (2007).
Awards Won: #5 by Golf Digest, America's 100 Greatest Public (2011-12),
#28 by Golf Digest, America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses (2011-12),
#2 by Golf Digest, Best in State (Oregon) - (2005-12),
#6 by Golfweek, Best Resort Courses (2011),
#2 by Golfweek, Best Courses You Can Play (Oregon) - (2010),
Five Stars by Golf Digest, Best Places to Play (2006-12),
#58 by Golf Magazine, Top 100 World Courses (2009-10),
#5 by Golf Magazine, Top 100 Courses you can play (2006),
#6 by Golf Digest, 100 Greatest Public Courses (2005),
#3 by Golfweek, America's Best Modern Courses (2004),
#1 by Zagat Survey, America's Top Golf Courses (2004),
#3 by Golf Magazine, Top 100 Courses you can play (2000),
#1 by Golf Digest, Best New Upscale Public Course (1999).
HISTORY: Vision. Some people have it and others, well, they climb on the backs
of the ones who do.
Mike Keiser is one of those people who walks around with his eyes wide open.
You'll have to take a step back in time to see where Mike Kieser's journey
It began in, of all places, the greeting card business. Knocking heads with
the goliaths of the industry in 1971, then twentysomethings Keiser and Phil
Friedmann came up with an idea of using recycled paper and clever anecdotes to
create a company that would change the business, Recycled Paper Greetings Inc.
So we know where the resources came from to pull off such a daring idea as to
build golf courses on the Oregon coast, but where did Keiser's thirst for golf
As a teen, Keiser became enamored with golf, spending time as a caddie and
then while in college at Amherst, although not a very good player, he competed
on the golf team.
It wasn't until the 1980s, however, that Keiser's intrigue into golf really
took off, as he was awarded chances to play two of the greatest courses
in the world, Pine Valley and Merion Golf Club. He was hooked, and he didn't
stop there, traveling overseas to learn about golf in its infant stages.
His first foray into the golf course business was a private, nine-hole layout
in the late 1980s on Lake Michigan.
After several years of searching for that perfect piece of land, 1,200 acres
became available on the West Coast and within a week and $2.5 million later, a
deal was struck.
Next was finding an architect worthy of a such a challenge. Keiser chose the
relatively unknown David McLay Kidd.
Just one year after starting his own design firm, Kidd was given the daunting
task of designing a course perched above the mighty Pacific Ocean. At 27,
Bandon Dunes was to be his first design ... with plenty of help from Keiser.
His mandate was simple, create the first genuine Scottish-style links course
in America. It wasn't easy. On his website, Kidd mentions that he "spent eight
months on the ground with the crew at Bandon, designing the course in the
field." He added, "As is often the case, land that was largely unsuitable to
any other self-sustaining use proved perfect for golf. The greatest challenge
was not unearthing the golf holes, but clearing the fragile dunes of the
overgrown gorse and pine trees, neither of which are native, but were choking
out the indigenous plants."
When all was said and done, Kidd achieved his mandate, but gave credit, where
credit was due. "As much as the course is my design, Bandon Dunes is the
vision of one man, Mike Keiser."
In 2007, Bandon Dunes played host to the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. Trip
Kuehne defeated Dan Whitaker, 9 & 7, to capture the coveted title. In the
morning round, Kuehne made four birdies, including three in the last six
holes, to take a 6-up lead after 18 holes. Kuehne, who lost to Tiger Woods in
the 1994 U.S. Amateur Championship final, closed out the match on the 29th
hole for his first national title in 27 attempts.
How good was Kuehne in the final? He played the 29 holes in 5-under par
without a bogey. Better yet, how good was the course? The field consisted of
264 golfers and only five broke 70.
REVIEW: After a quick hot chocolate, it's time to walk out to the first tee at
Bandon Dunes. A perfect starting hole, not to long and not to difficult. This
dogleg right of just 398 yards from the tips, features a roller-coaster
fairway that leads to an elevated green. Cut the corner if you dare, but
you'll be at the bottom of a gully, with barely a view of the flagstick. Three
metal off the tee down the left is the play, setting up a short iron to a very
long putting surface that slopes hard from back to front. Miss short and you
might end up back in the fairway, long and you'll be struggling to make par.
Number two is the first of four 200-plus par three's. Playing uphill from the
tee box, take an extra stick to reach the putting surface. Any shot short will
cascade down into a collection area. Two deep pot bunkers, one left and one
short, should be avoided at all cost. The green runs away to the right and
towards the front, so if you can, stay below the hole.
The third hole begins a stretch of three of the hardest holes on the front
nine. The first par five, No. 3 reaches 563 yards as it plays toward the
ocean. From the elevated tee box, the view is wonderful. Back to business,
you'll need to crack your tee shot to reach the generous fairway. The landing
area tightens as you get closer to the green, so be careful with your layup.
From there it's pretty simple, wedge on and make your putt for birdie. Long,
left or right is a lot better than being bunkered short.
A sharp dogleg to the right, No. 4 is a wonderful par four. The power-fade is
the play off the tee, however, be aware that the fairway tightens drastically
as you reach the apex of the bend. With the ocean in full view and playing
slightly downhill, pick the right stick to approach the green. Left and you'll
end up in either of the two deep bunkers, right or long, well, let's just say
you'll enjoy the view.
The No. 1 handicap hole on the course, the fifth, has gorse and a lateral
hazard that runs along the entire left side of this robust par four. You'll
need to know this if you yank your tee ball. Aim out to the right off the tee
and towards the tall dunes and work your ball to the left for the best
This will set up a medium to long iron to a very long and narrow putting
surface. The wind will no doubt be right into you, so take an extra stick just
Although just 217 from the back tees, the sixth can play as long as 240 yards,
against the prevailing wind and let's not forget it runs along the Pacific.
Other than that, piece of cake. The long and narrow putting surface runs 49
feet in length and features a sharp drop off on the left towards the beach.
Just for fun, a deep bunker adds to the excitement on the left side. Thick
gorse will snare any long shot, so your miss should be to the right.
Playing away from the ocean, the seventh can be had, but you'll need a few
things in your favor. With no fairway bunkers, your tee shot can be cracked
with reckless abandon, as the landing area is quite generous. This is where
the fun begins, as you should have just a short iron to an elevated green. The
putting surface is broken into three segments. The bottom tier can be
attacked, however, any shot short left will run back down the fairway. When
the pin is left or right, the best play is not to go flag hunting. Center cut
and try to snake a putt. The roller coast fairway might dictate your approach,
so hopefully you'll have an uphill lie.
One of the shorter par four's on the course, number eight is just 385 from the
tips and possess a huge landing area. That is of course, if you can clear the
series of bunkers standing in your way. A medium to short iron should remain
to another large putting surface guarded on the left by sand. A hump near the
center of the green can move your approach, so try to land your shot in the
front portion of the green for the best result.
The closing hole on the front side is also the longest on the course at a
whopping 585 yards. Not only is this the lengthiest hole, but it also produces
the longest walk from the eighth green to the ninth tee. Pace yourself. OK,
back to business. The key on the ninth in my estimation is the tee ball. A
series of four pot bunkers lay directly in the center of the landing area, in
full range of your tee shot (snared me). The best line off the tee is down the
right side, cutting the corner of the right dogleg. Not only will this open up
the hole, but it will most certainly give you a shot at getting home in two,
especially with the wind at your back. A 200-yard layup with your second will
leave a flip wedge to the smallest green on the front nine at just 34 paces in
length. With no sand in play around the putting surface, you might as well go
for the green and let the chips fall where they may.
You'd figure that at 380 yards, the 10th hole would be a simple pushover;
however, quite the contrary. The inward nine start is quite creative,
deceiving and slightly intimidating. Bending slightly to the right and uphill
from the tee, the first obstacle is the tee shot, which should favor the right
side and be strong enough to clear the pot bunker in the center of the
fairway. With that accomplished, your approach will be with a short iron, but
be aware that the green sits 30 yards behind the fronting pot bunker. In
addition, the putting surface, which breaks hard to the front, is the smallest
on the course at just 18 paces in depth. Get your range finder out and trust
One of the more difficult holes on the course, the 11th is a tough, uphill
par four that can reach over 450 yards. The landing area off the tee is
generous; however, you must stay clear of the pot bunkers that dot the left
side of the fairway. Remember, it's uphill, so take an extra stick or two if
the wind is up in an effort to reach the green. The difficulty here lies with
the putting surface. Your uphill approach is nearly blind to the eye, and the
width of the green is as narrow as my foot. Miss to either side of the lengthy
green and you'll have one of the most difficult pitches on the course -- and
short -- the pot bunker is not the place to be (I know from experience).
Although rated the easiest hole on the course, the 12th is anything but.
Playing towards the mighty Pacific, this par-three can be lengthened to a
whopping 250 yards from the tips, and, despite playing slightly downhill,
you'll need as much strength as possible to get home in regulation. Picking
the right club is crucial, as the wind will definitely play havoc with your
shot. A back-left pin will be difficult to get at, so play towards the center
of the green and trust your putter. Any shots long might end up in the gorse
and short, another pot bunker awaits. Hardly an easy hole.
Speaking of easy, number 13 is certainly a birdie hole, maybe even an eagle
opportunity. A quite generous fairway awaits, so lock and load. A pond down
the left side rarely comes into play, so this is the area to place your tee
shot, as the right features a rolling and uneven lies. Let it rip for your
second, as the 13th is devoid of sand. The green is ripe for the taking, so
even if you don't get home in two, you should have a relatively easy third in
an effort to get it close. The putting surface does fall of hard to the right
and down into a collection area, but all in all, it's go time.
The dogleg right 14th is another birdie hole, especially if you negotiate the
fairway bunkers. Playing slightly uphill, you might need an extra club to
reach the putting surface. Although fairly wide, the putting surface is only
13 paces in depth, so the correct club could net you a "3" on the card. Tall
dunes behind the green negate the wind somewhat.
My favorite stretch of holes at Bandon Dunes starts with the par-three 15th.
Playing back towards the ocean, this one-shotter is just over 200 yards and
generally plays back into the breeze. Picture flushing a 6-iron from 140 yards
and coming up short into the deepest bunker on the course that fronts the
putting surface. So deep, in fact, that you can't see the top of the flagstick
from the belly of the beast. The green is elevated, so all shots off line with
carom down into a collection area, sand or gorse. The green is long, but not
wide, so you'll need to be pinpoint with your control. I wish I could say I
got up and down from the bunker.
The phrase signature hole is bandied about all the time, but the par-four 16th
certainly fits the bill. It's the shortest par four on the course at just 363
yards in length, but it runs alongside the Pacific Ocean. For starters, a
ravine rips through the fairway in front of the ladies tee markers; no problem
here. The area of difficulty is where to place your tee shot, as the landing
area is split in two quadrants, an upper and lower fairway. In addition, the
upper fairway is dissected into two segments. Missing left will result in a
blind approach towards the green, so try and favor the right side. The putting
surface is minuscule and must be handled with care, as any shot right and long
will end up in gorse, which sits precariously close to the edge of the green.
Although moving away from the ocean, the 17th is a great hole. Take a moment
to sit down on the bench facing the Pacific and take in the amazing scenery.
It's worth its weight in gold. Ok, back to business. Three-metal or fairway
hybrid is the likely choice off the tee, as the fairway, which plays downhill,
tightens drastically. Left side of the landing area leaves the best angle of
approach, while the right side will play very close to a gorse-filled ravine.
A medium to short iron should remain to the longest green on the course. Pin
position will be critical to your approach, not to mention the slightly
helping wind. There is no room for error on the right, so bail left if need
be. It's better making five at this stage of the round than ruining your
scorecard. While walking off the green, take a look back at the lone Cypress,
it certainly puts your time at Bandon Dunes in perspective.
Number 18 is a solid, dogleg right par five. Bunkers down the right side will
hamper your efforts, but the fairway is generous and easily hit. Although the
fairway tightens for your layup, it's without sand and should pose little
problem. Your approach to the green should be one of attack, as you'll be
left with under 100 yards. The putting surface is undulating with a pair of
pot bunkers, short and right. If the pin is front left, go for it. Back right,
well, play cautiously.
FINAL WORD: I've heard them all. "Before I die, Bucket List, Buddy Trip, Wish
List, If I had just one round to play." I'm sure there's more where that came
from, but you get the gist. It's Bandon Dunes.
Let's get a couple of things out of the way:
Getting there. For anyone east of the Mississippi, it's going to be a
difficult trek. Flying from Philadelphia, New York or Miami to San Francisco
and then connecting to Eugene, Ore., is probably the easy part, although it
will take 10 hours. Then there is the 2 1/2-hour drive to Bandon, which was
not the easiest task, especially in the dark. You certainly can take a puddle
jumper into North Bend from Portland or San Francisco, which will cut down on
the drive time, but it will impact your bottom line.
Speaking of which, the cost. If you decide to make this journey in the winter
time, you'll make out OK in this department (certainly not in the weather
category), with $100 per night for lodging and $75 green fees. Replay rounds
on any of the courses is just $40, if you dare walk 36 in one day. However, if
you decide to venture out west during the prime time of May through October,
your wallet will take a huge hit. It starts at $200 per night and reaches $450
per person for a foursome. The golf during this period is also at a peak at
$225 per round with $110 for a replay.
The bottom line, play all four courses during your winter stay and it will
ring up to the tune of $700, which, of course, does not include air fare,
rental car and food. During the summer, you'll get spiked for $1,700 for golf
and lodging. And by the way, this does not include your caddie fee ($80-100
per bag), if you decide to experience golf as it was meant to be.
Finally, the golf.
If you're looking for lush, manicured conditioning, this is not the place for
Flying the ball to the hole, putting spin on your approach, not a chance.
Greens running 9 inches on the stimpmeter and benign in slope ... are you
Tree-lined fairways, rich vegetation and perfect weather ... that's funny.
If you're seeking golf carts to escort you around the course, forget about it.
I'll say it again: "Golf as it was meant to be."
Bandon Dunes is an acquired taste. Inspired by the links style of golf played
in Scotland and Ireland, the resort's courses are similar in design and
playability to those across the pond.
For you first-timers, a caddie to start you off is the way to go. They
certainly know the lay of the land, from yardages to reading the greens, so
they are worth the fee. If you decide to stroll, take a pull cart instead of
toting your bag and buy a yardage book. Trust me, it's a schlep.
The elements will certainly come into play, but this is links golf, so proceed
accordingly. Keep the ball low into the wind and take advantage when the
breeze is at your back.
When attacking the flag, if that's actually possible, take one fewer club, as
the firmness of the course will allow you to bounce the ball up to the hole.
Your putter or fairway metal from around the greens will be your go-to club.
Trying to check a chip shot will not work.
The putting surfaces are slick and undulating, so listen to your caddie, who
knows the line. A word of caution: it doesn't always break towards the ocean.
If you're willing and able, and a trip to Scotland is not in the cards, then
Bandon Dunes is the way to go.
Playability? You bet. Five different sets of tee markers, ranging from as
little as 5,000 yards and reaching 7,200, so pick the right color. A word to
the wise: Don't be embarrassed by playing shorter tees, it's not a crime. If
you think you can handle over 7,000 yards when the wind is blowing 30-35 miles
per hour and gusting to 50, go for it. You'll hate yourself by the end of the
Course conditioning is similar to playing in the UK: down and dirty, and I
don't mean that in a negative way. Generous fairways that play firm and fast.
Bunkers that penalize your round and a course that's as open to the elements
as moths to a flame.
One third of the course runs alongside the Pacific, while the remainder of the
holes provide plenty of wonderful vistas of the briny deep.
The course was very enjoyable and quite a challenge, but several holes like
number 18 in particular were very pedestrian. This can be said for the ninth,
13th and 14th holes as well.
When all is said and done, it's worth the trip if your bank account can handle
it. The quartet of courses at the resort are top notch, enjoyable, challenging
and eye popping. The accommodations are not overstated, just the right style
to handle the boys on a golfing excursion. Good golf, food, friends and fun.
At this point in life, do you really think you're going to break the course
record and play on the PGA Tour? Enjoy life!
All I know is, my bucket list just got shorter.