I‘ve just returned from a 3 day trip to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and I must admit that I am smitten. If you have found your way to this website than it’s quite likely that you are at the very least familiar with Bandon Dunes and may have even been there. For those who are unfamiliar let me give a VERY brief history.
Mike Keiser, a Chicago business man, had a dream to build a golf course. Mr. Keiser purchased a large plot of land in the town of Bandon located on the southern coast of Oregon and after a great deal of permits, paperwork and other legal acrobatics his dream golf course opened in 1999. The course, Bandon Dunes, was designed by David McLay Kidd and was a smashing success. In 2001 the next course, Pacific Dunes designed by Tom Doak, opened to even more acclaim. The Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design, Bandon Trails, followed in 2005 and was the first inland course at the complex. In 2010 Old MacDonald, a collaboration between Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, opened with a buzz that permeated the entire golf industry. Over the 12 years since Bandon Dunes opened a well oiled resort infrastructure to support the courses has been honed to perfection with accommodations, restaurants, pro shops, a world class caddie program and guest services second to none. In short it is the ultimate golf retreat.
All four of the golf courses were created using the minimalist design principle. Keiser and the architects that he used took great care to get the full value of the native land contours and move as little dirt as possible. The courses were also designed to not require labor intensive maintenance practices that are so common throughout the United States. The perfectly manicured look that we Americans love so much are simply not a part of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. You can expect to find bare spots, brown spots and even a stray weed or two growing in the fairways of these courses. Another dramatic difference from most American courses is that the Bandon Dunes courses are mostly planted with the same type of grass tee to green which means that the delineation between fairways and greens is virtually nonexistent. You wont find any collars or “froghair” around the greens here. Also, these courses play firm and fast. You will see lots of bounce and roll on the fairways as well as greens with accessible approaches to encourage the ground game. From 60 yards out its not incomprehensible to use your putter. I’ve never been overseas to golf, but from what I understand the courses at Bandon Dunes are about as close as it comes to the genuine article links courses in the United Kingdom.
In keeping with the minimalist theme the resort accommodations are what I would call elegantly modest. We stayed in a Chrome Lake room which was great, and not the over the top type of high end luxury you find at some other golf hotel/resorts. The whole Bandon complex has a bit of a rustic lodge type of feel to it which makes the nickname “Golf Camp” quite apropos. The reality is that you will not be in your room for very long so they provide exactly what you need – something clean and nice. I played 36 holes each day (as a great many people do) and I estimate that I spent less than 1 1/2 hours awake in my room each day.
Maybe the very best thing about Bandon Dunes Golf Resort outside of the golf courses themselves is the incredible caddie program. All four of the courses are walking only (carts available under special circumstances in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act) and depending on the season the resort has between 240-350 caddies available. I’ve been to a lot of public golf resorts with caddie programs and I have seen my share of both good and bad loopers. Knowing I would have the same caddie for 3 days, I wanted to ensure that I had a good one. I contacted a friend who used to loop at Bandon and asked him for a recommendation. He gave me a name and when I called the resort they gladly assigned Gerard (pronounced Jerad) Percy to my bag for the 3 days. What a stoke of luck this turned out to be. Not only was Gerard a fantastic caddie but he was a fun and entertaining guy as well. By the middle of our 2nd round together he had a firm grasp on my golf game’s strengths and weaknesses (as well as my sense of humor) and was able to guide me around the courses effortlessly. Being a scratch player himself he was also able to help diagnosis some of my poorly executed shots and keep me on track to play my best golf and have the most fun at the resort that I could. I enjoyed spending 3 days with him and hopefully he didn’t mind having to be with me. He looks a little shell shocked in the photo below taken after our 5th round so you can tell that he earned his keep! If you are going to Bandon Dunes put in a request for Gerard Percy and I guarantee that you will not be sorry. Make sure you tell him you heard about him from The Itinerant Golfer!
When you go to Bandon Dunes I would advise that you make sure you are prepared for less than perfect weather. The weather there is fickle and it can get cool, windy and rainy at any time of year. I thought that I had researched the weather extensively and picked the best time of the year for my trip and I still ended up playing in rain a little more than half of my rounds. Fortunately I had the appropriate foul weather gear so it wasn’t a big deal at all. I actually had a blast playing one round in the hurricane force rain and 50 mph winds. A VERY good rain jacket, rain pants and rain gloves are an absolute MUST for your trip. When I say very good I mean something far more advanced than the windbreaker that you wear in the light drizzle you may play in at home. The wind can be so strong here that it will blow the water right through anything that is less than extreme weather gear. Do make sure that whatever you have is something that is playable and you can still make a good turn to swing your golf clubs. If you get caught off guard with unexpected foul weather they have some pretty great gear with the Bandon Dunes logo on it in the pro shops as well. Two guys in my group bought rain jackets while we were there and I watched at least 8 guys in the pro shop by the Lodge buying them on Friday morning.
I should also note that the week I was there, the owner, Mike Keiser was also there. He was hanging around the Lodge and pro shops just like one of the guys and I was pleased to see him grinding it out in the rain with the rest of us. At some point each day I saw him dressed in full rain suit either getting ready to go out or coming back in. Clearly he still loves golf as much as ever.
The bottom line about Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is that the place is fantastic. Everything runs smoothly from the shuttle service to the pace of play. I recommend getting there as soon as possible, but be prepared for something completely different from anything that you have ever seen before. This is not your typical American golf resort by a long stretch.