Bandon Dunes

Bandon DunesGame 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.

Bandon Trails

Before the opening of Bandon, the home for core golfers on the west coast was the Monterey Peninsula and the famed courses occupying that grand location in California. Over the course of time the grind of six hour golf at Pebble Beach and the sticker shock fees caused many players to seek elsewhere to play. Keiser's ascension has just as much to do with the timing as the circumstances that merged all at once.

On June 1st 2005, the third course opened - Bandon Trails. Unlike the first two courses, Bandon Trails works away from the Pacific Ocean and is almost entirely inland. Former PGA Tour star Ben Crenshaw and his highly talented partner Bill Coore provided a scintillating counterpoint with their engaging design. The duo made their mark 11 years earlier with their surreal creation of Sand Hills in western Nebraska. The Trails provides a wondrous array of holes - the most noted being the short par-4 14th with its devilish greens beckoning players to attempt a Herculean play from the tee when prudence is the better option.

Interestingly, while the pace of golf course construction was nearing exhaustion in America, Bandon pushed the pedal even further down in opening its fourth course in June 2010 - Olde Macdonald. Doak returned again, joined by one his associates Jim Urbina, and receiving contributions with architectural pundits Brad Klein, George Bahto, Karl Olsen and even Keiser all lending their talents. The course is a homage to the enduring impact of Charles Blair Macdonald, the father of American golf during its embryonic stage and the man who brought to bear the likes of The National Golf Links of America and the Chicago Golf Club. The course is devoid of trees and the windswept canvas demands total control of one's ball. The greens often resemble a stormy day on the Pacific Ocean as they heave and ho in various movements. Stand on the green of the standout par-4 7th and gaze in wonder - the Pacific Ocean to one side and the remainder of the course beckoning you onward.

Bandon Dunes

In May 2012 the tandem of Crenshaw and Coore returned creating a fascinating short course on 22 acres. 18 holes could not fit on the land provided, so a 13-hole layout was born. The holes provide an alternative to those who want to play more than 18-holes but not the full rigours in doing 36-holes.

Two years later another inventive golf option was brought forward. A 100,000 square foot putting course was created by Doak and Urbina. Located near the 1st tee at Pacific Dunes, the 18-hole course provides a range of putts, both long and short and keeping players off balance with vexing twists and turns. One must also mention the humongous practice facility. You can hit balls to every wind pattern and the short game area is one no visitor should miss.

What is important to always remember is that all of the 18-hole layouts are rated among the best 100 courses in America. That is unprecedented. Interestingly, when coming to Bandon you can play a repeat round for half the original green fee. Should you wish to go for a third round in a single day the price is zero. Just as any Muslim must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one's lifetime - the same holds true for those desiring to call themselves golfers. A visit to Bandon is indeed a rebirth - a renewal on what golf is truly about.

Bandon provides a tough love equation as the vagaries of Oregon coastal weather can be especially taxing. Blowing winds and sideways rain can happen at times - sometimes to maximum impact. However, when the sun shines and the breeze abates the bounty you receive is without peer. The word "great" is bandied about to the point in having little meaning but at Bandon its application is embedded with resolute certainty.

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