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.
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
No. 16, 338 yards,
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
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.
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.
NEED TO KNOW
WHERE TO STAY
THE SHEEP RANCH
WHERE TO EAT
WHAT TO DO