Bandon Dunes, Oregon

Wednesday February 21st, 2007

Seasoned travelers know that the number of amenities offered by a resort is too often in inverse proportion to the quality of the golf. A spa doesn't make up for mediocre courses. At Bandon Dunes, the opposite approach has won out. There are no frills: It's about golf the way Bali is about beaches. And with three of GOLF MAGAZINE's Top 100 Courses, it's the best one-stop shop you'll find anywhere.

Pacific Dunes
6,633 yards, par 71
No. 8, Top 100 Courses in the U.S.

Pacific Dunes opened in 2001 and is second only to Pebble Beach in GOLF MAGAZINE's ranking of the best public-access courses in the U.S. Let this stand as a vote for Pebble's ouster from the throne: Pacific Dunes is America's finest public-access course. You got that, Clint?

At 6,633 yards, Tom Doak's layout is a bantamweight by modern standards, and there are some quirks — two greens at No. 9 and consecutive par 3s at Nos. 10 and 11 — but the entire package falls together seamlessly. There are many superb holes — like No. 13, a long par 4 teetering atop the dunes, and the 208-yard 17th, where the heaving green will either funnel your ball to the hole or kick it into a chipping area off the back.

But the strength of Pacific Dunes doesn't lie in single holes; it is in the dizzying array of options you face at every turn. Navigating the route less traveled is the joy of a course like this. That's why numbers are as irrelevant here as at the Old Course in St. Andrews. It's just man against course (and weather). And golf really doesn't get much purer than that.


The Card Wrecker
Pacific Dunes:
No. 16, 338 yards,
par 4
You haven't faced this much heartbreak from one so short since your grade-school crush told you to take a hike. Architect Tom Doak tells you how to survive the secondshortest par 4 on his course.

TOM DOAK ON PLAYING IT

  • "The green is protected by a deep hollow front-right and bunkers behind. From the hollow you're playing off a bare lie to a shelf of green 20 feet above you. Leave it short and the ball may come back to you. Some players try to drive the green, figuring they'd rather be in the hollow with their first shot than with their second. For most players it's best to lay back and leave a full wedge shot. I often aim for the ramp of grass between the bunkers — that's why I built it! I've seen people make 4 from the hollow in front, but they were either really good or really lucky."
  • Bandon Trails
    6,765, par 71
    No. 47, Top 100 Courses in the U.S.

    Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore were given the least impressive property at Bandon and did a decent job with it. But Bandon Trails is just that — a decent resort course. The terrain is ho-hum, tee shots end up in divot-riddled collection areas, and the greens are so slippery and prone to sudden, unexplained shifts in direction that only a masochist or congressman could love them.

    The Trails has some fine holes — No. 14 is so perversely tricky that your caddie may advise you to intentionally miss the green — but it's just not in the same league as its siblings. Play it first.

    Bandon Dunes
    6,732 yards, par 72
    No. 40, Top 100 Courses in the U.S.

    This first course at the resort opened to raves in 1999. And rightly so: David McLay Kidd's design may labor under the everlengthening shadow cast by Pacific Dunes, but it's still one of the best tracks you'll ever play. The course picks up steam at the 428-yard 5th hole, where your drive and approach shots must thread rough-strewn mounds. The bunkering is masterful, deep sodwalled affairs that goad aggressive players into foolhardy plays while steering higher handicaps to safer terrain. No. 13 — a 553-yard par 5 — has no bunkers at all, but the rolling ground presents no shortage of quandaries.

    The only weak hole is No. 18, a nondescript par 5. But perhaps it seems weak only when measured against the strength of the seventeen holes that precede it.

    Local Knowledge:

    THE COST

  • Greens fees at all three Bandon Dunes courses are $185 for resort guests, $240 for nonguests. Same-day replays are $95. Before May greens fees are $75-$130 for guests, $100-$175 for non-guests. To make tee times, call 888-345-6008.
  • NEED TO KNOW

  • Bandon is a walking-only resort so a caddie is a smart investment.and not just as a Sherpa for your bag. His knowledge of the tracks will save you from more big numbers than a crooked accountant. Cost: $50.
  • WHERE TO STAY

  • The Lodge at Bandon Dunes is as simple as golf resorts get: good food and drink and close to the action. There are 19 single rooms and two four-bedroom suites. Rooms are $180 May to October. A suite is $1,500 in high season. Cottages start at $280. Call 800-742-0172.
  • GETTING THERE

  • Alaska Airlines flies into North Bend four times a day from Portland. The flight is one hour. The resort is 25 minutes from the airport on Highway 101. Driving time from Portland is 4.5 hours.
  • THE SHEEP RANCH

  • Known jokingly as "Area 51," the Sheep Ranch isn't a conventional course. Tom Doak laid out 13 tees and greens on the bluffs. Drop a ball, choose your target and begin a journey that takes you back to how the game was first played. Then pull the gate behind you. That's if you can persuade the resort to let you out there. No harm in asking, right?
  • WHERE TO EAT

  • The Gallery at the Lodge serves up great local seafood and steaks. The bone-in Cowboy ribeye is as daunting a challenge as the courses. 541-347-5737
  • McKee's Pub has all the warmth of a Scottish highland hostelry, and is the perfect spot for pub grub while reliving the round. 541-347-5733
  • Lord Bennett's in Bandon has great steaks.with ocean views and prices to match. 541-347-3663
  • WHAT TO DO

  • Take a sunset tour of the Cape Blanco Lighthouse with the keeper, including a climb up to the lantern room. $35; 541-332-2750, lighthousekeeper.com
  • Shore Acres State Park has a Monterey pine listed on the National Big Tree Register. It's 95 feet tall with a 74-foot crown spread. 541-888-2472, shoreacres.net
  • The hazards at West Coast Game Park Safari 7 miles south of Bandon have even more bite than the courses: lions, snow leopards and panthers. $13; 541-347-3106, gameparksafari.com
  • More From the Web

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