The second round of the Bandon Dunes golf trip for our group was on Old Macdonald. My last trip to Bandon Dunes was the week Old Macdonald opened back in June of 2010 and at that time the course was too new to be rated in Golf Digest’s Top 100. When the new list came out in early 2013 Old Mac debuted at number 49 which was really not much of a surprise to anyone.
As I mentioned in my Old Macdonald write up from 2010 the course is a nod to Charles Blair Macdonald who is widely considered the father of American golf. Tom Doak and Jim Urbina pulled a page from Macdonald’s playbook in that they laid out the course using their interpretations of many of the classic golf holes from Scotland. In the instances where Doak & Urbina did not use template holes they worked in their own original creations which, in my opinion, meld perfectly with the classic hole designs.
Not only does Old Macdonald present golfers with classic design sensibilities it also presents that other all too classic golf element . . . wind. We played two rounds on this course both of which were in the afternoon when the wind is at its most ferocious. As with all the courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort the direction and strength of the wind dramatically changes the way the course plays. What is a reachable par 5 one day could very easily be a driver, 3 wood, 3 wood the next day.
Really, the big thing at Old Mac is the greens . . . and when I say big I mean that quite literally. At more than 250,000 square feet of putting surface Old Macdonald is purported to have the largest greens in America. I know that I can safely say that they are the largest I have ever personally seen. With greens this big and as undulating as they are it’s a good idea to get a feel for them as early in the round as possible or else it could be a long day with a lot of three putts.
Hole 1 – Double Plateau – 304 Yards – Par 4
We start out with a short par 4. Under the right conditions the green is reachable from the tee, but the conservative play is to hit a hybrid.
The short chip to the green. Note the principal’s nose bunker at the front.
Hole 2 – Eden – 162 Yards – Par 3
This one shot hole is not very long but the green is enormous and missing in the wrong spot can leave a dangerous putt. Balls finding either bunker will have a difficult time making par.
Here is a look at the “Strath” bunker.
Hole 3 – Sahara – 345 Yards – Par 4
I think this dead tree is one of the iconic images of Bandon Dunes. Tee shots can be played left or right of the tree. Longer shots (driver or 3 wood) should be played to the left and with a little cut . . . they might find the green on this route.
The view of the green from the top of the hill.
Here is a look at the green from the far right side of the hole. The bunker in the foreground can be in play from the tee.
Hole 4 – Hog’s Back – 472 Yards – Par 4
A long par 4 that played directly down wind both days. There were some HUGE drives hit here.
A look into the green. The bunker in the middle of the fairway is a terrible place to be.
Hole 5 – Short – 134 Yards – Par 3
This has to be the biggest green I’ve ever seen for the shortest hole. Our group had some of the craziest putts I’ve ever seen on this green.
Hole 6 – Long – 520 Yards – Par 5
This par 5 is reachable in two under the right conditions, but can also play as a stout three shot hole. The “Hell” bunker is in the distance and needs to be avoided by players who are laying up on their second shot.
Here is a look at the 6th green which is very heavily undulating.
Hole 7 – Ocean – 345 Yards – Par 4
This is my favorite hole at Bandon Dunes. The bunkers at the bottom of the hill in the distance can be in play from the tee.
The approach shot plays straight up the hill.
Here is a look at the green from the far left side. Note the ocean on the left side of the photo. This is the only ocean view on Old Mac and it’s one of my favorites.
Hole 8 – Biarritz – 170 Yards – Par 3
Making a par here almost requires having the tee shot get through the swale and onto the back pad of the green.
This photo doesn’t do it justice, but here is a look at the swale in the middle of the green.
Hole 9 – Cape – 352 Yards – Par 4
We had wind with us on this hole both days which made us all take aggressive lines which didn’t pay off for any of us. It’s probably smarter to hit a hybrid out to the left rather than taking dead aim at the green.
Hole 10 – Bottle – 440 Yards – Par 4
This long par 4 also punishes or rewards based on wind direction. Into the wind it is easily a three shotter for most players.
A view of the approach shot into the green.
Hole 11 – Road – 399 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a template of the Road Hole at St. Andrews with its diabolical greenside bunker. Taking dead aim at the green or just to the left of it is a good line from the tee.
A look at the green and the Road Hole bunker to the left side.
Hole 12 – Redan – 205 Yards – Par 3
This hole is a tough one shotter based on the infamous Redan hole. Missing the green here is a very tough up and down.
Hole 13 – Leven – 319 Yards – Par 4
This short little par 4 only calls for about 200 yards from the tee. If it is playing into the wind it could take every bit of a good driver swing to get the ball to 100 yards out.
A look at the approach into the green.
Hole 14 – Maiden – 297 Yards – Par 4
Here we have another short par 4, but this one plays uphill. Hitting driver should leave a relatively short shot into the green.
The hole plays straight uphill so even with a short chip to the green its not possible to see the putting surface.
Hole 15 – Westward Ho – 482 Yards – Par 5
This is a great par 5 that is reachable in two if it is not playing into the wind. The tee shot is from an elevated box and when hitting with the wind it feels like the drive flies forever.
A view of the approach into the green. The bunker on the left is deep and is definitely in play on the second shot.
Here is one of our guys in the aforementioned bunker. He got it out but not on the green. It’s a pretty tough shot.
Hole 16 – Alps – 433 Yards – Par 4
The green is blocked by the giant mound on left side of this hole, so hitting it down the right side of the fairway is the only chance to not have a blind approach shot.
This is a look at the green from the right side of the fairway.
Its a little hard to see because of the glare but shots that clear the mound will find closely mown grass and if they have enough steam on them will be able to bound down the steep hill onto the green.
Hole 17 – Littlestone – 515 Yards – Par 5
This par 5 can be reachable in two for players who take an aggressive line off the tee and challenge the bunkers. The conservative route is aiming down the left side of the bunkers and playing the hole as a three shotter.
Here is a look at the approach into the green.
And a view of the putting surface which is pretty tame as far as Old Macdonald goes.
Hole 18 – Punchbowl – 426 Yards – Par 4
The final hole is a lengthy one and there is no reason not to hit driver here.
The green is a punchbowl so shots that come in on the left will feed down towards the hole.
Now that I’ve logged four rounds on Old Macdonald I think that I have a pretty good feel for the course and I’m comfortable declaring it as my favorite course at the Bandon Dunes complex. The course is very polarizing and our group of 12 had some guys that loved it and some that, to put it mildly, absolutely did not care for it at all.
Variety is one of the things that i really like in golf courses and I feel like Old Mac has this aspect nailed. Each of the holes is distinct, memorable and most importantly a lot of fun to play. With a stiff wind blowing players will need to hit a lot of different types of shots so don’t expect to tee it up here and hit stock shots all day. A little creativity can really bring out the personality of Old Macdonald so don’t be afraid to let loose and have some fun.