Old Macdonald is the newest course to open at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon. There had been a ten hole loop in play for the 2009 season and the full eighteen holes opened for play in 2010 with the official grand opening being on June 1, 2010.
Prior to the grand opening the new course had been getting tons of press in the golf publications and the buzz around the course was pretty significant. For this course Mike Keiser had gone back to Tom Doak to do the layout and design of the course and Doak included his right hand man Jim Urbina in the process so credit for the course design is shared between the two men. In addition to Doak and Urbina I understand that there were a number of consultants used on the project as well.
The purpose of the consultants, as I understand it, is because the course was to be built in the style and tradition of the classic golf courses built by Charles Blair Macdonald. C.B. Macdonald is widely considered the father of American golf and has several highly regarded courses to his credit, namely Chicago Golf Club and National Golf Links of America. Much like National Golf Links of America, Old Macdonald was to be largely influenced by the great holes of the British Isles. Amongst the classic hole templates and traditional features such as the Principal’s Nose and Strath bunkers Doak and Urbina also worked in some hole designs of their own that dovetailed perfectly with the UK template holes.
The day that we played Old Macdonald for the first time was our second day at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Our first day had consisted of 50 mph winds and sideways rain that we braved while playing Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails. Thankfully when we woke up the morning of our second day at the resort the rain had stopped and it was even quite nice. Jackpot! We grabbed some breakfast at the Lodge and jumped in the shuttle to head over to the course.
There is just one driving range practice facility at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and we never went there once our entire trip so upon arrival at the course we checked in and then spent the next 40 minutes on the practice green rolling putts while we waited for our tee time.
When it was our turn to go off our caddies herded us to the first tee where we decided to play from the 6,320 yard tees. The next option back was 6,944 yards and after the death march we’d had the previous day we decided to go easy on ourselves and play the shorter tees.
We played Old Macdonald twice during our trip and it was the only course where it didn’t rain on us the entire time. That means it’s the only course of the four that I have photos from. I didn’t get every hole, but I will go through the ones that I did get below.
In the Scottish tradition all the holes at Old Macdonald are named. If the hole is a template hole from the UK it will share the moniker of its original counterpart across the pond. The 1st hole is Double Plateau which is a friendly and short par 4. From our tees it only played 304 yards. A simple little 200 yard shot up the middle leaves a wedge into the green. The photo below is of the green complex which is protected by a Principal’s Nose style bunker. This bunker is an excellent reason to not attempt driving this green.
Below is the first look at the greens at Old Macdonald. These things are HUGE. The photo below doesn’t even really do it justice. One great advantage of the greens being as large as they are is that it affords a great number of set ups which results in numerous options for changing the way the holes play.
The 2nd hole, Eden, we played as a 162 yard par 3. Not a overly difficult shot, but hitting the putting surface is crucial here.
Jason’s ball ended up here in the Strath bunker and if I recall correctly it required 3 or 4 swats at it before the ball was eventually extracted. I’d love to know the number of strokes this bunker sees in an average year of play.
Below is another view of the Eden green from the 3rd tee box. The Hill bunker that runs along the left side of the green is not particularly pleasant either.
The 3rd hole, Sahara, is a par 4 that played 345 yards from our tees. This is a blind tee shot and Gerard, my trusty caddie, instructed me to hit a nice little 3 wood fade just to the left of the dead tree. With a cut the ball would curl back around to the fairway and catch a nice roll down the hill on the other side.
Below is a photo taken from the top of the hill.
And here is a little closer look also from the top of the hill.
The 5th hole, Short, is a nice little par 3 that we played at 134 yards. According to Gerard there had been a number of aces recorded at this hole already. Its a short little shot to the green, but the putting surface is huge and undulating (like all of them at Old Mac), so if the player is not accurate with their tee shot its not hard to make a bogey here.
Following the 5th hole, Short, we have the 6th hole with the polar opposite name – Long. This one is a par 5 that we played from 520 yards. This hole contains a replica of St. Andrews’ Hell bunker which is one of the main features of this hole. In most instances the the second shot into the green will be a relatively blind one obscured by the Hell bunker. Below is a photo of the intimidating bunker.
Below is a view of the green from just to the left of the Hell bunker.
The green at the 6th hole is enormous and can be difficult to hold if approaching with a long iron or fairway wood. I hit a 3 wood to the position in the photo below and rather than a nice eagle putt there was still much work to be done. Sadly this great position resulted in a 3 putt par for me.
The 7th hole, Ocean, is one of the Doak/Urbina original holes and it is also one of my favorites. It is a par 4 that we played from 345 yards. Again I hit a 3 wood off the tee here which left a relatively short iron to reach the severely elevated green. In the photo below you can see the red flag in the right half of the photo.
Once on the green the golfers at Old Macdonald are rewarded with one of the truly great views at the resort which is illustrated in the photo below.
The 11th hole, Road, is modeled after the infamous Road hole at St. Andrews’ Old Course. There is no road and there is no hotel, but there is the very nasty pot bunker that protects the green just like at the original version of the hole. At Old Macdonald the Road hole plays 399 yards and to a par of 4.
Here is another view of the Road hole bunker.
The 16th hole, Alps, is another template hole. It is a par 4 that we played from 433 yards. The ideal drive is down the right side of the fairway. If approaching from the left side of the fairway the shot will have to go over the “Alps” which is the huge mound that is fronted by the bunker in the photo below.
Here is an angle of the ideal approach into 16th green.
The 17th hole, Littlestone, is a par 5 that we played from 515 yards. With the right wind it is reachable in two, but as shown in the photo below there are hazards to be avoided up around the green.
The 18th hole, Punchbowl, we played as a 426 yard par 4. It ends in a wonderful punchbowl green that runs from light left to low right which provides for a wide variety of fun shots that can be played here. The photo below shows the green site for this hole.
I loved Old Macdonald. I mean I LOVED it. It may have been my favorite of the four courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. That said, I may be slightly biased because its the only course that we did not play in severe wind and rain. I’m not so sure that I really got the feel of the other courses when I played in them in near monsoon conditions. I must say that having never been to the U.K. to play golf I get the feeling that it is pretty darn similar to what its like to play at Old Macdonald.
I loved seeing Doak and Urbina’s take on the famous holes from overseas and I also loved the wide fairways and huge greens. The layout of the course really gives a great opportunity to hit a wide range of interesting recovery shots when a player goes astray. It’s also pretty tough to lose a ball out there which is pretty nice. Old Mac definitely made the short list of my favorite modern courses and is a fantastic addition to the Bandon Dunes collection for sure. Add another ace to the scorecard for Mike Keiser who is beginning to look an awful lot like a 21st century version of Charles Blair Macdonald.