Expect the best from Bandon Dunes’ new putting course

March 1, 2013

Stop the presses! Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is adding another course. OK, it’s a putting course. Sure, it’s not a big layout we’re talking about, but that doesn’t mean it’s not big-time. Everything Midas Mike Keiser builds has turned to gold, and there’s no reason his new putting course on the Oregon coast won’t yield the same richness. After all, Keiser, the owner of Bandon Dunes, already has the top-ranked public layout in the country, Pacific Dunes; the top-ranked golf resort in the Golf Magazine Premier Resort Awards rankings; and, in the 10-month-old Bandon Preserve, what could be the top-ranked par-3 course in the game.

Despite what you have may have read so far, little about the putting course is set in stone—including the name. What we know is that the course will offer golf with the flatstick on a gigantic scale, as it's expected to cover more than 100,000 square feet, roughly equal in size to the world’s most famous putting paradise, the Himalayas course in St. Andrews, Scotland. Keiser has tabbed the team of Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, the same duo who were responsible for the resort’s Old Macdonald track, to design and build the course.

This latest endeavor fits in perfectly with Keiser’s penchant for all things classical and fun on a golf course. Some of my favorite pre- or post-dinner gambling games have occurred on practice greens or on actual putting courses. I especially recall a late-evening game in the twilight at Castle Stuart in northern Scotland with the boat-shaped clubhouse on one side and the Moray Firth bathed in fading light on the other.

The popularity of the Himalayas notwithstanding, I’m not sure why stand-alone putting courses never caught on. It’s much more enjoyable to practice when there’s a little money on the line, and the variety of breaks that you encounter on a well-crafted putting course makes for an entertaining hour or so with buddies or families, no matter what their ability. Angel Park’s nine-hole natural grass layout features water, sand and rock hazards, doglegs, Las Vegas backdrops and is lit for night play. The Sawtooth layout at Idaho’s venerable Sun Valley Resort dishes out 18 holes over 52,000-square feet and comes with backdrops of its namesake mountains. Horseshoe Bay Resort’s Whitewater course proves everything is bigger in Texas, with its 1,712-yard, par-72 track that includes waterfalls, rose gardens and exotic birds.

Bandon’s equivalent will be located on a dramatic piece of ground, directly west of the Pacific Dunes clubhouse. It may be lit for night play, and it could offer three 18-hole routings with two available for play each day. Mind you, however, the design isn’t done. Once Keiser green-lighted the project, he had his crew fire up the excavators that afternoon and begin clearing gorse. Not until all the gorse bushes and other shrubs are cleared, however, will Doak and Urbina return to decide on the routing.

So while the exact number of holes cut into the green on any given day and the fee to play are still being discussed, there is one guarantee: Given the cliff-top, seaside setting and Keiser’s ability to coax pure joy out of every golf experience, the new itty bitty Bandon layout—which could open as early as autumn 2013—will amount to another bucket list item for the serious traveling golfer.