Bandon Dunes - Links Golf The Way it Really Is

Bandon Dunes' Website

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos By Jeffrey A. Rendall and Charles Rendall


BANDON, OREGON – ‘Golf as it was meant to be,’ is the slogan of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon – a heretofore little known town along central Oregon’s rocky, windy coast, several hours from a major international airport and not much easier to reach by car.


That’s an awful bold slogan to adopt, as golf’s an ancient game (as sports go), and this resort’s only been open less than ten years.  It all began with the unveiling of Scottish-born Golf Architect David McLay Kidd’s Bandon Dunes course in 1999, and soon after waves of golf enthusiasts and writers made the somewhat difficult journey out to Bandon, to discover for themselves exactly what golf is ‘meant’ to be like.


The opening of the resort’s second course, the Tom Doak inspired Pacific Dunes (in 2001) and its third offering, Bandon Trails this summer (2005, designed by the team of Crenshaw & Coore) has only hastened the influx of the curious and devoted.


Bandon Dunes’ premise is that golf is ‘meant’ to be dictated by the land a course occupies, where ‘every hole, every hazard, and every shot is defined by nature’s infinite presence’ (quoting from its brochure).  And because the game was ‘born’ hundreds of years ago on seaside land in Scotland, where the elements of nature were as much a part of the game as the sticks and balls – this Scottish-style re-creation on the West Coast of the United States, under similar conditions, would mean that this is how golf was ‘meant to be.’


Without getting into deep philosophical debates about what is ‘meant to be,’ we will say golf at Bandon Dunes Resort is without a doubt, the most unique golf experience on the North American continent.  Numerous courses from coast to coast boast of offering the ‘links-style’ experience, but until you go to Bandon (or across the Atlantic), you don’t have a clue what seaside links golf is really like.  There’s even real gorse – how about that?


Perhaps Bandon Dunes’ slogan could’ve just as easily been ‘Links Golf the way it really is.’  Not quite as sexy, but descriptive, nonetheless.


Bandon Dunes’ setting rivals that of California’s Monterrey Peninsula several hundred miles to the south, home to America’s number one ranked course, Pebble Beach.  The ocean views are stunning, the topography is nature inspired, and the elements are your constant companion.  The golf courses melt into the landscape like hot knives into butter, and you’ll walk every inch of those golf holes – the way it was meant to be.


Battling nature, the golf courses and the ground is exhausting, but it’s equally inspiring.  You probably won’t score like you would at your club down the street, but it’s hard to care about the ‘temporal’ things of golf life (like numbers and scorecards) when you’re at a place like Bandon Dunes.


It’s a pilgrimage to a very special place.  A difficult journey, yes, but one you’ll never forget.  We’ll address each course individually in separate reviews – for now, here are some glimpses from Bandon Dunes’ three unique golf courses:

Bandon Trails' first two holes are quite intimidating from the back tees, as it looks like there's very little 'safe' space to play to. Here, the par three 2nd hole.

Standing on the tee of Pacific Dunes' monster par four 4th hole (463 yards). There's plenty of room to play to, but if you head right, the beach awaits 100 feet below. One you'll certainly never forget.

More subtle than the other courses, Bandon Dunes is perhaps the most gentle, and plays the most like a true links course, often requiring shots played close to the ground. Here, greenside at the par four 4th hole.

Looking back from the green on Bandon Trails' 408-yard, par four 4th hole. You can't see the green from the tee, but as you can see from this view, there's really nothing tricky or contrived about the golf hole.

One of the few truly blind shots on the course, Pacific Dunes' 9th hole's tee shot is a test in length and shot shape from the tee. Aim for the correct spot on the plateau and let fly.

We played Bandon Dunes in late July. The temperature was in the high 50's, and the wind was blowing about 40mph off the ocean. For the front nine, it almost seemed like every shot was into the wind. If this ain't Scotland, it must be the rugged Oregon Coast. Here, looking back from the par three 6th hole.

In this late afternoon photo, shadows obscure and reveal Bandon Trails' par four 15th hole. Unlike most of the greens on the Trails Course, there's very little margin for error on any side for your approach shot.

You're back on the ocean at Pacific Dunes' short par three (148 yards) 11th hole, referred to as 'real sweetheart.' Don't let the yardage or the nickname fool you -- this green is the smallest on the course, and the howling wind in your face off the tee will have you praying for the right club selection.

Bandon Dunes' par three 12th hole is a good example of the links play required throughout the golf course, as it's best to land short of the putting surface and trust the contours to move the ball close to the hole.

Bandon Trails' 14th hole is an excellent short par four. The putting surface is raised and there are severe roll-offs and bunkers to avoid for anyone hoping to take a stroke away from this cleverly designed link.

Standing on the green of Pacific Dunes' par four 13th hole, looking towards the water below. The hole measures 444 yards and is usually into the wind. If you take a par from this hole, you've earned it for sure.

Perhaps the single-most spectacular tee box view on all three courses, Bandon Dunes' short par four 16th hole usually plays with the prevailing wind at your back, allowing you several options on how to play the hole. If the wind's in your face, however, you'll need all you have to just clear the gorge in your view.


Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Round Lake Drive

Bandon, Oregon  97411


Phone:  1-888-345-6008

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