FROM THE PUBLISHER
The best resort in golf. It’s a debate that people love to have, and I’ve always struggled with it because to me a golf resort either is worth its value, or it’s not.
It’s a subjective way to look at it, but having had the pleasure to visit a number of the best destinations that our great sport has to offer I have a difficult time ranking one over another.
Each destination has their own special nuance that makes a trip there worth taking.
Even though rankings may not be my thing, I’ve got to say that Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is always among the first properties that I mention when I am asked “where do I have to visit?”
It’s a destination that every golfer needs to experience at least once, and every time I go, I learn a little something more about the property, giving me a new appreciation for this phenomenal resort along the Oregon coast.
To assist any first-timer who hasn’t been there yet, I’ve put together some information on the property that I’ve learned over several visits, simply to help you get the most out of your visit to Bandon Dunes.
This is why you are going to Bandon Dunes, and you are in for a treat. The golf at Bandon Dunes is all-world, and with five 18-hole golf courses, a 13-hole short course, a putting course, and a 9-hole par-3 practice course, there is no shortage of bucket-list golf available to you during your stay.
The thing about Bandon Dunes is that if you were to ask 10 people to rank their favorite courses during their visit, you are likely to get 10 different lists. It’s one of the best things about the property, as there really isn’t one standout star because all of the courses are fantastic. If you are going for the first time, try to put aside enough time to play them all and then you can filter it down or play multiple rounds on your favorite courses during subsequent trips.
The golf: Bandon Dunes
The original. The course that put this place on the map. The owner of Bandon Dunes was courted by all of the big names in golf course architecture to take on this project, and Keiser went with an unknown genius named David McLay Kidd to take on the design, and the rest, as they say, is history. The result of McLay’s work is an oceanside masterpiece that blends the natural rugged dunes and native vegetation of the area into a routing that is simply unforgettable. There isn’t a bad hole on this course, but the 16th hole stands out, as it is magical. It’s a short par-4 that tips out at 363 yards with the wind at your back on most days. It’s tempting to pull out the big stick and give yourself a shot at glory as it is drivable when it plays downwind. But with the gorse and a runoff to the Atlantic Ocean to your right, as well as a few strategically placed pot bunkers in the fairway and by the green, you can make birdie just as quickly as you can make double bogey.
The golf: Pacific Dunes
The second course added to the property, Pacific Dunes, tops my personal Bandon Dunes list. This Tom Doak-designed gem is captivating from opening tee shot to final putt, with the course being known as a shotmaker’s sanctuary. The course perfectly blends the natural landscape of the Oregon coast, with the course starting inland and working in and out of the coast — giving you great reveals of the Pacific Ocean throughout your round. The highlight of the day comes at the turn, reaching back-to-back par-3s at Nos. 10-11 that feature incredible ocean views, natural dunes and an incredible sense of place that epitomizes the Bandon Dunes experience.
The golf: Bandon Trails
It’s hard to call a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed golf course a “sleeper course” at a golf resort, but Bandon Trails is one of those courses that gets better and better every time you have the chance to play. You begin your round at Bandon Trails from the top of a massive sand dune, and then you work your way through the coastal forests, creating an entirely different experience than you get at the courses that play closer to the ocean. It’s one of the best walks in golf, and my favorite hole here is the short par-3 5th hole. It tips out at 133 yards and features a large, undulating green with multiple tiers. Natural grasses and tall pines define the hole, as well as the “wooden fences” that are so unique to the property that are made from real branches.
The golf: Old Macdonald
This was the fourth 18-hole course to come to the property and is the most interesting design concept at Bandon Dunes. The team of Tom Doak and Jim Urbina came together to create a golf experience that pays homage to Charles Blair Macdonald by utilizing his design concepts and integrating it into a special piece of land. The course features a unique layout with the front 9 playing to a par-34, and the back 9 playing to a par-37. This course plays huge, and guests continually talk about the famous par-4 3rd hole that features the Ghost Tree, a barren old Port Orford Cedar that sits atop the hill on a blind tee shot to a large, but difficult green that slopes severely from front to back. Old Mac doesn’t provide the same ocean views as Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes or the Sheep Ranch, but it’s incredibly unique and definitely worth fitting into your trip rotation.
The golf: Sheep Ranch
The newest addition to the Bandon Dunes family, this Coore and Crenshaw design has opened to rave reviews and is quickly becoming a guest favorite. What is news to many guests is that the Sheep Ranch has actually existed in a different form since 2000, as it wasn’t owned by the resort at that time — it was an experience you had to inquire about, otherwise you likely wouldn’t know it existed. The course was originally designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina and featured 13 greens, but there wasn’t a defined routing so golfers would often rent the course for an allotted period of time and basically make their own course for the day. Luckily for us, Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser and his former business partner Phil Friedmann came together to redesign the property and create a spectacular design that features 9 green sites that overlook the ocean, creating an epic piece of land to chase your golf ball on. Needless to say, I’m chomping at the bit to get back here so I can finally see this new Bandon Dunes marvel.
The golf: Bandon Preserve
Bandon Preserve, a 13-hole, par-3 course designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, is so much fun it’s scary. The course features some of the best ocean vistas on the property, and with holes ranging from 63 yards to 150 yards this course plays windy and tough and will test all facets of your game. A fan favorite is the 109-yard 13th hole that gives golfers the option to throw a wedge at the pin, or you can even pull your putter out and tee off with it down the left side of the hole and make it all the way to the green! Even better, all proceeds are donated to the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance which makes you feel even better about playing one of the best short courses on the planet.
The golf: The Punchbowl
The Punchbowl is the perfect way to cap off a day, talking some trash with a cocktail in hand and play 18 holes on a putting course designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina that is 100,000 square feet. You better make sure the flatstick is working if you want to win some money here. The course is located next to the first tee at Pacific Dunes, is free to play, opens at 2 p.m. and closes at dusk. You’ll often hear huge roars coming from buddy groups who are either making or missing a big putt to close out the day as the sun is setting.
The golf: Shorty’s & the Practice Center
When David McLay Kidd designs your practice area, you know you are at a special property. Serving as the practice area for the whole resort, Shorty’s and the Practice Center is a massive facility that features a large range, huge putting green and two short-game areas where you can prepare for your round. The facility also features Shorty’s, a 9-hole, par-3 practice course designed by David McLay Kidd that is open Thursday through Sunday from 2 p.m. until the Practice Center closes. It is complementary to play with an “Honor Box” for donations that all go towards the junior golf program and the Evan’s Caddie Program.
It’s a short car ride or shuttle ride to get here, so if warming up is a must for you it’s a great asset to have on property.
Lodging at Bandon Dunes
When it comes to staying on property at Bandon Dunes, this is the part we suggest you focus on the least. Your trip here is all about the golf and the experience, and if you’re doing it right, you’ll be spending a minimal amount of time in your room.
As you’ll see when you get into the booking process, double rooms in The Lodge, The Inn, Lily Pond and Chrome Lake are all around the same range. Rates are really quite reasonable for such a bucket list destination, and the accommodations are all appointed fairly similarly and are very comfortable.
If you’d like to step it up a notch, you can look into staying at The Grove in one of the 4-bedroom cottages or at the Lodge in one of the suite options. The advantage of these rooms is a shared common area to give you and your crew a private space to recap the day, play some cards, or just share stories late into the evening.
Dining at Bandon Dunes
The dining at Bandon Dunes is exactly what you’d expect for the property: not overstated or pretentious and it provides incredible value and a great experience. If I’m being honest, I’ve never cared too much about which restaurant I end up at, as I usually find my way to McKee’s Pub most nights followed by a fireside chat on the back patio.
If you’re looking to class it up for a night, the Pacific Grill at the Pacific Dunes clubhouse is a great way to go for a seafood-focused experience with a Mediterranean flare. For breakfast and lunch, the Tufted Puffin is great for a quick bite or grab-and-go food.
The Bunker Bar located in The Lodge is the quintessential man-cave experience that features a perfect spot to shoot some pool, play some cards, and have a cigar and cocktail as you wind down your day.
The only suggestion I would throw out there is that it is worth locking in some reservations for dinner with your booking specialist when you call as the resort is often full, so you’ll want to have something locked in on the calendar.
How to get to Bandon Dunes
Getting to Bandon Dunes is part of the allure of the property. It’s located on the southern coast of Oregon and, like most great golf resorts, it is off the beaten path as that is what it takes to find a piece of land special enough for epic golf. If you are flying here there are four main options for most golfers traveling to Bandon:
- North Bend: The closest airport to Bandon Dunes is the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport (OTH) in North Bend located about 35 minutes from the resort. It’s by far and away the shortest drive to the property, but typically you’ll need one, if not two, connecting flights in order to fly in here. The beauty of flying here is that it eliminates the need for a rental car, as you can take a shuttle to the property. Also, there are shuttles onsite at Bandon Dunes that can get you anywhere you want to go.
- Eugene: The next closest option is Eugene Airport (EUG) located about 2.5 hours away from Bandon Dunes. This is my favorite airport to fly into. It’s a bit of a drive to the resort, but it’s a beautiful and peaceful drive, as you’ll wind your way through the forests of Oregon alongside flowing rivers until you get to the last tree-lined stretch into the property. It may just be the excitement of knowing what awaits me, but I’ve always found it to be a great ride.
- Medford: Located Southeast of the resort, Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR) is a smaller airport that is a little under a 3-hour drive away from the resort. It has a lot of seasonal direct flights available from western area hubs such as Phoenix, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, so if you live in this part of the country it is worth looking into this airport as an option.
- Portland: Even though it’s about 4 hours and 45 minutes away, Portland International Airport (PDX) is a popular option for golfers as it is the largest airport to the resort and gives golfers more options for a direct flight on their way to Bandon, especially from East Coast destinations.
In case it isn’t clear, this resort is on the Mount Rushmore of golf resorts and is a must visit for any golfer. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your trip:
When to go
One of the great things about Bandon Dunes is the affordable options they provide in the winter months. You are rolling the dice when you visit between November through March as we are talking about the Pacific Northwest, but I’ve visited in this window before and it’s crazy how much value you can get if you are willing to go in the offseason (Rounds as low as $100). Peak season here is July through September, and you’ll pay a premium, but it’s worth it as this is the best time to go. If you’re looking for a good budget time, I like late April and May as the rates are in an in-between spot and the weather tends to be pretty good this time of the year. Also, daylight savings time is in effect, so 36 holes in a day is a viable option.
This is probably the biggest key to your trip. Bandon Dunes is very popular, and for good reason. Times for 2021 are filling up very quickly, and they are already seeing a good number of bookings for next year as well. If a trip to Bandon is high on your list, get with your crew and start planning the details of your trip now.
Maximizing your tee times
Let me reiterate: Every course here is worth playing and you really can’t go wrong. If you can time things correctly, finishing your round late in the day on Bandon Dunes as you make your way around the final three holes near sunset is going to provide you with views that provide lifetime memories. I haven’t been able to make it out since the Sheep Ranch opened but based on the course map, I’d imagine the same can be said for sunsets on this gem as well. Bandon Trails is a great course to play later in the day as the tree-lined fairways can help guard you against some of the winds that tend to pick up in the afternoon, and in that same logic we suggest playing Old Mac earlier in the day as it’s large and robust platform makes it very susceptible to heavy wind gusts.