|White (18-hole)||70||6500 yards|
A change of pace at Bandon Dunes
In full disclosure, I didn't play the Sheep Ranch. I merely toured it, taking pictures and video and imagining what it would be like to have such a beautiful piece of golf paradise all to myself for an afternoon.
The Sheep Ranch currently consists of 13 greens and some tees and fairways cut by Tom Doak and his crew. Golfers can rent the course for half-a-day, bringing out their own food and drink, and play the holes in any direction. It's a grand way to celebrate the game without all the traditional guidelines and rules.
The opportunity won't last forever, however, as Mike Keiser has tabbed Gil Hanse to design the resort's next full-scale golf course on the spectacular site. Adding a fifth 18-hole resort course at Bandon Dunes is both exciting and sad. Anybody who has played here will miss the unique experience of playing the off-the-grid Sheep Ranch.
Golf as it used to be
When people ask me my favorite course or place, I mention here but with a caveat. This is not a course, it is an experience. I have experienced the Sheep Ranch 3 times and hope to get a fourth in before it is turned into a course. The "course" is 13 greens. You choose the route, the teeing area and the destination. The scorecard, which you should only use as a reference your first time, has a routing (which you should ignore immediately). The idea is to go where you want to from wherever you came from. Make up "holes" on your own. If you are a golfer who prioritizes conditioning, using your range finder, etc. then don't come here. You will not enjoy it at all. Stay at the resort and enjoy those great courses.
If you are a golfer who has always wanted to drop a dozen balls to try different approaches to a shot, wonder what it would be like to approach a green from a different angle, create your own routing, etc. then this place is a dream. Take a day away from the resort and spend one here. Some days at Bandon Dunes Resort and one here is perfect.
The land is great, a variety of greensites-on a bluff, up on a hill, on a peninsula, etc. and plenty of green sites are oceanside. There is one that is on a peninsula like Cypress Point or Cabot Cliffs. The difference is that you can approach it from many places.
The greens are the key to this place. They are large and contoured to be approached from multiple directions. The fairways are in decent muni-shape, but kept firm and fast like a links.
This is not a resort, so no restaurants, range, putting green, etc. However, you can just use the first green you are at to practice. Hit as many balls on your first drive as you want to warm up. You are there all day, so maybe no warm up; just go out a see what is there.
The deal is that you send a check for each player. You get the course all day. Bring your own food and beverage. Some people bring a portable grill. Make a day out of it. I have played from 9:00 until it was dark (5:00); you, like me, might not want to leave. With nobody else out there, that is a lot of golf-as much as you want-great value. Due to the free form nature, they don't let out more than 8 people at a time, although I guess that you could bring out more if you wanted. I have had the place to myself on all three days. I think that you would most likely be with whomever you bring and that is it. A place to create memories.
Have fun, play shots in multiple ways, putt from all over a green to explore contours, don't play to the same greensite from the same angle twice, and gamble on anything.
This is truly a special place and only the "H-O-R-S-E" course at the prairie club has the same idea. This is on a much larger scale. If you are an old golfing soul, this is not be missed while it is around. I understand the economics of building a 5th course and Hanse has a great site to work with. I will just miss playing golf on a "Playground" without rules vs a Course.
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