Friday, February 16, 2007

For those smoked in the traditions of the game, there may be no finer place for a long weekend in America than Bandon Dunes. Sited along the southern Oregon coast 100 miles north of the California line, this low-key retreat was designed for purists who relish the noncommercial atmosphere as well as the chance to play two stellar courses: the original Bandon Dunes layout and Pacific Dunes. Each is ranked prominently among GOLF MAGAZINE's Top 100 You Can Play. Pacific Dunes is second only to Pebble Beach; Bandon Dunes is No. 9. Both venues are walkers-only and are routed on tumbling duneland 100 feet above the Pacific. A place unto itself, Bandon Dunes offers a welcome respite from the workaday world.

Bandon DunesA stunning links that measures 7,326 yards from the tips.
John & Jeannine Henebry

Friday Fly to Portland, connecting to North Bend Airport, and drive 25 minutes south to the resort. Check in (see "The Deal"), then tee it up on Bandon Dunes , a stunning links by Scotsman David McLay Kidd that measures 7,326 yards from the tips, though six sets of tees, broad fairways, and open-entry greens make it very playable. Seven holes skirt the edge of a bluff that drops more than 100 feet to the beach. A better option might be a warm-up at the practice center, a superb 32-acre facility with a one-acre putting green and a bunker practice area.

Enjoy your beverage of choice in the Tufted Puffin Lounge overlooking the links and sea. Great sunsets. Dine in the Gallery Restaurant at the Lodge. Start with the crispy oysters or fried calamari. The most popular entree is Grandma Thayer's meatloaf. Sleep like a log.

Saturday Rise early. Breakfast (try the smoked salmon hash with eggs) in the Gallery followed by morning tee time at Pacific Dunes , a Tom Doak-designed masterpiece that debuted in 2001. The layout proceeds from shore pines to heaving dunes cloaked in gorse and broom, with many of the rolling fairways shoehorned into U-shaped valleys. Holes set along the bluffs resemble the clifftop holes at Pebble Beach, but most of the course appears airlifted from Ireland.

Pacific DunesPacific Dunes is a Tom Doak-designed masterpiece that debuted in 2001. John & Jeannine Henebry

Break for lunch in The Pub, a Scottish-style eatery opened last summer. Relax, unwind, then gear up for an afternoon round on either course. After golf, soak in the large, stainless steel hot tub downstairs in the Lodge.

Head into charming Bandon-by-the-Sea, 10 minutes south of the resort, for superb local seafood at the Wheelhouse. Upon return, play darts, shoot pool, and have a nightcap in the Lodge's Bunker Bar, which is decorated with photos of the world's most famous bunkers.

Sunday Up early again, pooped but excited at the prospect of tackling one of these two great links again. Don't expect to encounter the same course you played the day before -- the wind changes direction and speed from day to day.

If you've got a late flight, spend the afternoon touring Old Town in Bandon-by-the-Sea; poke your head in a few of the art galleries, antique stores, and gift shops. Take the Beach Loop Drive to view the sea stacks offshore. Those who can't get enough of Bandon's beautiful ecosystem can hike one of the marked trails cut through the forests and dunes. Have a final meal in the Gallery, then depart the nation's most elemental golf destination.

The Deal [As of April 2003] April brings the first taste of spring weather to Bandon. Lodging options are well varied. Lily Pond rooms are contained in cottages spaced around a natural lily pond. The weekend rate in April is $160 per night, $175 in May, $240 in June. Chrome Lake rooms, tucked away in secluded units, are comparably priced. The two four-bedroom suites in the Lodge start at $600 per night in April.

Weekend green fee in April is $100 per round, with a same day, same course replay rate of $50. There is no charge for exceeding 36 holes per day. Green fee increases to $120 on weekends in May and $160 from June through October. Caddies are $35 per round plus gratuity. Reservations: 888-345-6008; www.bandondunesgolf.com.

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