Bandon Dunes

A column I wrote on Bandon Dunes…. quite an amazing experience.

NORTH BEND, OREGON – Ten hours by car from Vancouver, set
along the Pacific Coast, sits *Bandon* *Dunes*, the world’s hottest —
and perhaps best — golf resort.

It would have been impossible to foresee all the accolades which
would be gushed upon this remarkable spot in the five years it has
been open, especially given its remote location, which requires
either a lengthy drive from Portland to the Pacific coast or a
45-minute flight.

In only a half decade, the resort has come to rival such
world-famous golf retreats as Turnberry in Scotland and Pinehurst in
North Carolina.

But don’t expect the decadence and golf carts you’d see at Pebble
Beach or other palatial resorts that dot the U.S. West Coast.
Rather, *Bandon* *Dunes* is a pure golf experience.

Never in his wildest dreams did Mike Keiser, the greeting card
mogul who created *Bandon* *Dunes*, expect the success he’s having with
the two courses.

The first, which shares its name with the resort, was designed by
the young Scottish architect David McLay Kidd. When it opened no one
thought more than a few thousand people would venture to this
out-of-the-way spot to play golf. They were wrong.

The courses are always full, and finding a room for consecutive
nights at the resort has been next to impossible for several months
now. With a third course, built by the famed team of Ben Crenshaw
and Bill Coore, expected to open early next year, the hype around
the resort will likely continue to grow.

While accommodation at the resort is tip top, the real draw is the
golf. The two current courses — *Bandon* *Dunes* and Pacific Dunes —
rank among Golf Magazine’s Top 100 golf courses in the world.

Pacific Dunes, designed by golf’s renaissance man, Michigan
architect Tom Doak, currently rests in the top 20 courses on the
list — a remarkable achievement for two courses that have been
around for less than five years.

The slogan of the resort is “golf as it should be.” That means you
won’t find golf carts littering the fairways of either course.
Instead, the resort expects players to carry their own bags or
employ a local caddie to loop them around. It also means your golf
bag will be waiting for you on the practice range at your specified
time. Shuttles constantly rush around the site moving golfers from
one spot to another.

*Bandon* *Dunes*, the first of the two courses to open, set the tone.
Mr. Kidd, largely untested as a golf architect, crafted a course
that wouldn’t be out of place in his home of Scotland. The course
starts off benignly enough, but on the fourth hole it turns to the
sea, offering players one of the most breathtaking views in golf.

By the time players reach Bandon’s finishing holes — especially
the dramatic 16th that plays alongside 30-metre cliffs overlooking
the ocean — it is clear Mr. Kidd has created a course filled with
strategy, style and excitement. Too bad the 17th and 18th holes
leave this remarkable setting and march back inland to the

Mr. Doak’s Pacific Dunes has no such problem, being situated a
kilometre and a half from the clubhouse. Like Bandon, it starts out
easily enough, with a short par four, before heading toward the
ocean and the cliffs on the third hole, a relatively short par five
with an interesting green site perched above a sandy outcropping.

The brilliance of the course comes through Mr. Doak’s decision to
ignore convention and build a track most suited for the land. That
means quirks abound — not unlike what you’d find at the Old Course
at St. Andrews or the northern Scottish hideway that is Royal

You’ll get a hole with two greens (the ninth), followed by two of
the best par threes in the world, before Mr. Doak hits back with
longer seaside holes. Like Bandon, Pacific is rustic golf, with wild
blowout bunkers and lots of gorse, a spiky plant not usually seen in
North America. Pacific Dunes provides a rollercoaster ride of
excitement, guaranteeing players will want to grab their clubs and
hit the first tee again right after the monster 591-yard finisher.

Neither course is long by modern standards (both play around 6,700
yards), but with wind capable of kicking up along the coast, both
tracks can turn into monsters quickly. Thankfully, both Mr. Kidd and
Mr. Doak designed wide fairways, although that may not be enough to
protect balls from skidding into oblivion.

The resort also offers a British-style pub that serves standard bar
fare while guests sip scotch. There is also the upscale Gallery
Restaurant located in the clubhouse. Golfers can stay at one of the
rooms in the clubhouse if they book far enough in advance.

Next year the third course at *Bandon* *Dunes* will open, but there is
already talk that Mr. Keiser isn’t finished and will attempt to
build at least one more great golf facility.

Even if he doesn’t, *Bandon* *Dunes* will continue to attract golfers
nostalgic for the game’s golden era.


– *Bandon* *Dunes* Resort: Reservations 541-347-4380,

– Room rates are between US$160 and US$900

– Greens fees range from US$160 to US$200 in peak season for both
courses. Caddies, which are not mandatory, cost US$50.

– Flights: Horizon Air/Alaska Air offer flights to Portland and
South Bend, Oregon from most Western Canadian cities.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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