Game changer. Those two words sum up the impact Bandon Dunes created since the first course opened on May 19th 1999. Amazingly, when the idea of having a no name architect - at the time - design a golf course located in a very remote coastal location of southwest Oregon, the number of incredulous stares was only exceeded by the number of people who found the entire proposition laughable. Fast forward nearly 20 years later - no one is laughing any longer.
Bandon's success starts with its visionary owner - Mike Keiser.
During the rapid build out of courses throughout America in the 1990's the vast number of course designs was geared towards providing overly watered and generally cookie-cutter designs. Such courses were devoid of stimulation - a paint-by-the-numbers formulaic approach took hold. Think of fast food and you have a comparability with such vapid creations.
Keiser eschewed this and went completely in another direction - a return to architecture favouring classical enduring themes. Wide fairways allowing for preferred angled approaches into greens with complex movements. The mandate? Nothing less than thorough execution. The philosophy was to move completely away from torture chamber courses that simply frustrated players and inevitably brought the pace of the game to a near standstill. Keiser also saw the need to get walking back into the game. Come to Bandon and you won't see power carts flooding the landscape - save for those with a legitimate medical reason. Keiser also engaged the services of the local population - many of them serving as caddies and other resort positions. While much of America embraces the role of power carts, it is at Bandon Dunes where the game is played by golfers on foot. During the season the total number of available caddies can exceed 350.
Bandon changed the conversation of golf course design, bringing back to life classical architecture in America which came to the forefront in the 1920's and 1930's through the likes of such men as A.W. Tillinghast, George Thomas, Donald Ross, William Flynn and Alister Mackenzie, to name just a few.
While the first course Bandon Dunes received favourable attention through the talents of architect David McLay Kidd - it was the sequel two years later, Pacific Dunes, that stamped southwest Oregon as a "must visit" destination. Tom Doak's brilliant design underscored a fun dimension where the intersection of air and ground games are elements entwined together. To paraphrase a Scottish saying, "The game only really starts when the ball hits the ground." The tightly woven fescue surfaces allow for an array of shotmaking options - often it is the Texas wedge that is the preferred option, even if from 40-50 yards in front of any green.