Five things you should know before playing ... Pacific Dunes

The 13th at Pacific Dunes.
Wood Sabold

1. Bring a buddy
There's something about Bandon Dunes Resort and it's all-star trio of courses that make it one of the unique golf destinations in the world. Its remote location mandates a two-night stay (nobody shows up just for the day), and while the lodging is both luxurious and homey, you won't find any discos or waterslides. It's pure golf, and only golf, so you'd better bring someone to match your enthusiasm. When you start the morning with a round on the Bandon course, you want to make sure your partner is up for the afternoon round at Pacific. The place is too good to waste on ambivalent companionship.

\n2. Grab a looper
Caddies aren't mandatory at Pacific Dunes, but they're highly suggested. This isn't the type of course where you can simply point your driver in the direction of the tee box and swing away. Placing the ball in the right position off the tee is the critical component to posting a good score at Pacific Dunes, and you'll need an experienced eye to make sure you hit all the right spots. Plus, the greens are world class and favor the pull of the Pacific; a putt that has to go right often goes left. The Pacific Dunes caddies know this; you might not.

\n3. Warm up all 14 clubs
Pacific Dunes taps every club in your bag. The prevailing winds and sheer inventiveness of each hole means you'll hit your 3-iron as many times as your pitching wedge. Most players admit to using seven different clubs off the tee (when's the last time that happened?) Before your round, give each one of your irons, woods and wedges a test run on the expansive practice range. Also, groove a 160- to 180-yard lay-up shot: Depending on the wind, you'll have little chance of reaching the longer par 4s and the par 5s in two.

4. Shake off the first hole
Once you step on the first tee you'll realize that Pacific Dunes is not your run-of-the-mill seaside track. The opening par 4 is a rollicking combination of sloping fairway, windswept trees and wild, natural dunes (imagine a golf course in a Salvador Dali painting). It's a shock, but what you'll discover is that this fairway (and most others) is wide and forgiving. Trust your caddie and swing free-there's room out there (even if it doesn't look that way). Make sure that when you decide on your line, pick out a very specific object to aim at. Instead of a tree, in the distance, make it a branch on the tree. The more you fine-tune your aim, the more likely you'll get the ball to land in that spot.

\n5. Perfect your knockdown
This links-style design beats other modern attempts in that it comes freshly wrapped with a links-golf necessity: wind. It's always blowing here, sometimes hard, and any shot that carries too high will land jaw-dropping short of your normal distance. Spend some time on the practice tee keeping your irons below the wind: Play the ball back in your stance, choke down a hair on the grip, make a three-quarter backswing on focus on keeping your hands low after impact. Don't go after it hard-just make a nice, smooth motion. A punch 6-iron that travels the same distance as your 8-iron will come in handy more times than you can count if the wind starts to pick up.

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