I recently got back from a buddies golf trip Bandon Dunes, and wow did it surpass already sky-high expectations. For the casual golfer you may not know of Bandon Dunes, hopefully by the end of this post you’ll have this resort in your golf bucket list. To really get in the mood for this trip I read Stephen Goodwin’s book, Dream Golf, which explains the history of Bandon Dunes. This is a quick easy read, and I’d suggest reading this book before you make the pilgrimage.
The Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is easily the best golf destination in the US, and is probably the best destination in the world, albeit a bit of a trek from the east coast, one might say it’s just as easy to get to Edinburgh as it is to get to Bandon from NYC. There are four 18-hole courses, all of which are rated as top 15 by Golf Digest public courses you can play (#2, 7, 12, and 14). Those courses are Pacific Dunes, Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, and Old Macdonald. They are also building a 5th 18 hole course, called Sheep Ranch that is set to open in June 2020.
In addition there is also a 13 hole par 3 course called the Preserve, and then another 9 hole par 3 course called Shorty’s (which is free to play). They also have a massive putting green called the Punchbowl which is located next to Pacific Dunes where you can settle your bets at the end of a round, or perhaps get the juices flowing before you tee off.
The courses are geared more towards the golf purist, but are playable for all levels of player. I’m a 10 handicap, and our group consisted of guys ranging from 2 – 25). The Bandon properties (except for trails) are the closest thing you’ll get to true links golf outside of the British Isles.
The one variable we couldn’t control was the weather, and overall I think we did pretty well. On average we probably had temps ~50-60 degrees with varying degrees of sunlight/clouds/rain. So this also helped to add to the British Open style rounds I was dreaming of. The rounds along the ocean certainly got a lot windier and rainier, but we packed accordingly and were well prepped for the elements.
I started the trip in motion somewhere in the middle of the summer of 2018, planning for a March 2019 trip, hoping that we’d be able to fill out two foursomes over the span of 5 days/4 nights. I tried to set up our rounds in far as advance as possible, as they are known to fill up quite quickly for prime weekend spots for those looking to fit 36 holes in a day.
I chose the end of March because of the cost of the rounds combined with the amount of light available (~12.5 hours with sunrise ~7AM and sunset ~7:45pm). For the month of March the first round is $150, replay round is $75, 3rd round is free, and the 4th round they’ll pay you $100. This is often accomplished on the summer solstice round, which our caddy said he always calls out sick for, for obvious reasons. To our delight it was also when the Gorse started to bloom and made the grounds even that more beautiful.
The one thing that might keep you from playing Bandon as a casual golfer is the fact that the course is walking only. To be honest, I loved this aspect of the course. We each got caddy for the first rounds of the day, and that caddy stuck around with us for the length of our stay. They suggest tipping your caddy ~$100, but that’s up to you. If you really don’t gel with your caddy you can request another one, but that’s a rare occurrence from what I understand. I generally liked all of the caddies we were paired up with, although some were clearly better than others. On our 2nd replay rounds of the day we rented these moon rover style push-carts that could be pushed over the greens to keep the pace of play moving along.
Day 1 we got to the resort and checked in and got some swings in at the practice area, and then played a quick 9 at Shorty’s. Unfortunately for us the Preserve was closed for some re-seeding.
Day 2 was our first day of 36, we tackled Pacific Dunes and then scrambled a round at Bandon Dunes until it got dark.
Day 3 we played Bandon Trails and then Pacific Dunes. Given all of this golf I booked a massage appointment for after our Pacific Dunes round, and while it wasn’t the best massage I’ve ever had, it certainly was probably one of the most useful massages I’ve had.
Day 4 we played Bandon Dunes and then played Old Macdonald.
Pacific Dunes was probably my favorite, but I could easily see how Bandon Dunes could take ranking that on the right day. Both had incredible shot values and amazing views. Trails was probably my 3rd favorite just because Old Mac rubbed me the wrong way and Trails was something completely different from the other courses we had seen over the course of those 4 days. I should have played Old Mac with a caddy, and that’s probably why I liked it the least. The green complexes at Old Mac are the largest in the US, and a 4 or 5 putt isn’t out of the question. Getting an initial lay of the land from the mouth of a caddy would’ve gone a lonnnng way.
Pacific Dunes #1
Bandon Dunes #2
Bandon Trails #3
Old Macdonald #4
We stayed in the Chrome Lake Double. We got 2 rooms, and each room had 2 bathrooms and 2 king beds, which was great for a dudes golf trip. Although I’m sure we would have wished we had our own beds, the king beds were big enough and super comfortable.
Food and Beverage
We had two meals at Mckees, one at Pacific Grill, and two at Trails End. Overall the food and pricing was pretty good, and it doesn’t give you any reason to leave the property. I had to send my dish back at Pacific Grill because the fish was undercooked, but everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals, and the hospitality/service at the resort was top notch. We spent one night at the Bunker Bar, but given the amount of golf we were playing we rarely had any energy at the end of the night to do much, and generally retired to our beds pretty early.
While you’re playing Bandon Dunes make sure you ask your caddy to take you by the treasure chest to see what kind of treats have been left behind by past golfers/caddies. I believe it’s right of the 10th tee box.
Getting to Bandon
Coming from NYC, we flew into Portland the night before and spent the night in Portland. The drive from Portland to Bandon is ~4 hours, and we split up the trip with a stop in Eugene, about half way. One of the other guys in the group flew into North Bend, which is ~45 min from Bandon, but is also more expensive, and I believe also a seasonal route.
What are you waiting for?
Bandon is a special place that is made for a buddies golf trip. I am hoping it’s something I can make happen once every two years or so, and I’m really looking forward to playing Sheep Ranch and the Preserve. The Sheep Ranch supposedly doesn’t have a bunker on the course, and has something absurd like 15 holes on the ocean. If it’s anything like the Pacific or Bandon Dunes properties we’re in for a real treat from Mike Keiser and the Coore and Crenshaw team.
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