While its sister golf course, Pacific Dunes, gets most of the publicity, Bandon Dunes is still a great play. Ten years in, the original course has only gotten better with age.
BANDON, Ore. - It would seem rather absurd to entrust an unproven, 27-year-old architect with the flagship golf course of a resort with such lofty expectations.
But that's exactly what Mike Keiser did when he conceived the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, appointing Scotsman David McLay Kidd to build the first golf course in a new initiative to counter the many posh resorts of America and get the golf retreat back to basics and back on the links.
"The opportunity of a lifetime," Kidd said of Bandon Dunes. Ten years later, both parties are smiling. Since its construction, Kidd has been awarded such high profile links projects in Scotland as the Castle Course in St. Andrews, and Machrihanish Dunes, a pure links course built on a Site of Special Scientific Interest in Campbeltown that opened earlier this year.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort will open its fourth golf course in 2010, Old Macdonald. Each of its existing three golf courses are rated among America's highest public golf courses and is proof that it doesn't matter how hard great golf is to find, the people will come.
Even though Pacific Dunes has become the darling of the resort to most golf publications, Bandon Dunes still gets nearly the amount of rounds yearly (about 35,000 last year to 45,000 at Pacific Dunes).
For starters, Bandon Dunes is more player-friendly than Pacific Dunes, which is more wild in spots and can yield some high numbers. Bandon Dunes has its bite, with some steep bunkers and challenging green complexes, as well as a longer yardage at more than 7,100 yards from the back tees with higher slope/rating.
But for the daily player off the middle-back tees, the fairways are wider and the margins for error are a little bigger than Pacific Dunes. Chances are, your best round of the trip will come at Bandon Dunes, especially if you replay it a few times and learn some of the subtleties.
From its sharp dogleg right in the fairway that turns towards the coast, the par-4 fourth begins an invigorating front nine stretch along the ocean. But for my money, No. 5 is among one of the best holes at the resort. Steps from the fourth green, the tee box is exposed, footsteps from the cliffs. But the hole then funnels through gorse to the green. As you play this hole, you hear the waves crashing ashore but can't see it. It's a surreal hole.
In case you forgot the ocean was there, the par-3 sixth hole, one of two seaside par 3s at Bandon Dunes, awaits.
The neatest aesthetic points about Bandon Dunes are the fourth, 12th and 15th greens, all playing in succession along the sea, and from the fourth or 15th green, the three bold, red flags line up beautifully.
It's one of many picture-perfect moments on the golf course. But probably the most scenic spot on the course, if not the entire resort, is the 16th hole. This is the only spot on the property where Pebble Beach-like rocks sit hugging the cliffside terrain.
And the great thing about the 16th hole is that with a prevailing summer wind at your back, the hole is drivable from the tee, just down leak your ball to the right, or it will sail over the edge of the sea.
Actually, it's a pretty cool site to see if your ball does sail off, so don't be too tight on the tee here.
Bandon Dunes Golf Course: The verdict
Second fiddle? Hardly. The original Bandon Dunes offers its share of remarkable holes on equally remarkable links terrain. Whether or not you believe it's better than Pacific Dunes or inland Bandon Trails is going to depend on your own tastes.
One bonus to Bandon is that unlike the other two courses here, its routing consists of two nines that return to the clubhouse. Both No. 9 and 18 are par 5s, too, so it makes Bandon Dunes a good bet for those looking to play a second round during the day but aren't sure they want to go more than nine holes.
New to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort: The Inn
Opened in 2009, the resort has added another accommodation option to the resort, the 39-room inn is designed for one and two-person groups, with king beds or two queen beds in the room.
The Golf Double room is the inn's biggest, with two queens, sitting area, private bathroom with two vanity mirrors and views of Bandon Dunes' 18th hole.
The Inn is located right next to the Lodge, so you can walk to the golf course and numerous dining options.