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Before I get started:  I was informed that there were some users who registered but either didn’t receive confirmation emails or the emails were bounced to junk folders and deleted.  I tried to manually add all those users who I knew weren’t spambots.  If I missed any of you and you still follow this site, please let me know and I can add you.  I apologize to anybody who wasn’t promptly registered as desired.


In trying to decide how to frame this review, I’ve come to the realization that I am not a course architect, nor am I a professional photographer, elite amateur golfer, or paid journalist.  Please don’t expect these things as you will be disappointed.  I’m therefore going to present a general trip summary that focuses more on the impression that the courses, lodging, town, weather, and golf left upon a relatively decent golfer and (if I may) moderately intelligent person, all distilled through the filter of “traditional golf”.

The trip started out with bad news as my good friend and trip organizer Thomas had a family emergency and had to pull out at the last minute.  That meant his friend Ben was out too so it was down to myself and my best friend Jordan which was a bummer from a golf standpoint but still OK…Jordan and I grew up playing the game together from the time we were about 10.  Some of my most cherished memories of growing up involved 36 holes on long summer days, getting a ride from Jordan’s mom to a local muni and trying to figure out this crazy game.  He was better than me for about 15 years but in the last 5 or so I’ve finally caught him and my handicap is a little lower but we play pretty even matches.  We have mutual friends in Portland and after a weekend catching up with them we set out at 6:30AM in a borrowed truck for Bandon, 5 hours to the west.

First step on arrival was check in for our lodging and we expected to have a negotiation ahead of us.  Bandon has a cancellation policy that requires something like 1 week notice and our friends had cancelled inside that window.  After explaining the situation to the front desk clerk, she informed us politely that in unexpected emergencies refunds will be provided.  As this was such a case, she offered to take care of everything, provided us our keys, and sent us on our way.  I regret that I forgot this kind lady’s name, but her cheerful, professional, and helpful attitude when we anticipated a hassle really lifted our spirits and put us in a good mood as we stashed our stuff, suited up, and prepared our 1:10 tee time.

The Bandon Dunes Golf Resort consists of four full length couses along with a par 3 course and central practice facility.  We were staying in a room at “Lily Pond”, a small complex of about 16 suites adjacent to Bandon Trails.  Our agenda put us on Bandon Dunes first though so we called up a shuttle as directed.  The shuttle arrives within 60 seconds of our call and the driver again greeted us warmly.  We were starting to get the impression that service was really a point of emphasis here.  After a short trip to the Bandon Dunes property we were escorted to the golf shop where we paid our green fees ($230 I believe).   We did not have caddies scheduled for the first day so after a few practice putts we proceeded straight to the starters shack where a happy-go-lucky starter was measuring the windspeed on the first tee.  We were informed it was 33 mph, straight into us.  The sky was overcast and there were no other groups waiting to tee off.  A few moments later we were free to play away and just like that we were off.  The game, as usual, was match play for an undisclosed sum of money, large enough to make it interesting but not larger.

My first impression of the course was that it synched perfectly with the scattered clouds in the sky.  Both had an icy grey, washed out (but attractive and natural) look.  The fairway was clearly identified by the cut and quite generous indeed but if you drifted off of it you were immediately in knee high heather.  The absence of a lush, green look was welcome and while I don’t know that I could say I felt like I was in Scotland, I could without a doubt say I wasn’t playing an American style and heavily watered botanical garden.  The fairway grass was tight, short and brownish-green.  The feeling was as if you were actually playing off the ground itself rather than a 1 inch squishy green membrane only to be peered through when replacing a divot.

My drive on 1 was short but found the center of the fairway; Jordan pushed his into the rough and it somehow disappeared.  Despite 5 minutes of diligent searching it was not to be found and he was off to a rough but laughable start playing 4 from the same spot in the fairway I was playing 2. The wind was so strong I had to hit 2-iron in which found the green.  Jordan played up to the collection area right of the green.  Now you have to understand that although I had the intention of trying to get plenty of videos of myself, the majority of what I came home with were strange or interesting videos of Jordan as those were a lot easier to take than to transfer my camera over and ask for shots of myself.  With that disclaimer, here’s Jordan playing up to the first green.  This was the first of a great many putts from off the green.  All the greens at Bandon blended seamlessly into the fairways so putting was always a viable and sensible option.  With the wind up on the first day, we jumped right into playing the ground game.

As I addressed my putt on 1 I immediately felt uncomfortable – I was being manhandled by the wind.  Sure enough I three putted and despite taking the hole I walked away with a disappointing bogie.

Hole 2 is a Par 3 of only 155 yards but I recall playing 4-iron as we were still into the prevailing wind.  We were giddy as little kids as we watched both our balls trickle over a mound in the center of the green onto the back right portion where the flagstick resided.  I suspect either of our shots could have been the best on the hole all day and we grabbed a picture to remember the moment.

I was still uncomfortable over the ball and only Jordan converted, giving us our first birdie of the week and evening the match.  We halved the uphill par-5 3rd with 5′s and I knew my swing was going to hold up all day but having hit the first 3 greens I felt like I should be at -1 but was sitting 1 over.

The 4th hole is a signature hole and it happened to be where things started going sideways for me.  I misjudged the wind on my tee shot and went through the dogleg onto a hillside of thick stuff.  I’ve heard that this is the hole where David Kidd wanted to introduce the golfer to the ocean, and perhaps it was the beautiful backdrop that distracted my approach shot into the rear bunker.  My first experience in a Bandon bunker was a learning experience as I found out the hard way that this sand is THICK, like wet sand but not packed tightly.  I left my first one in and played the exact same swing but 50% harder to get myself out in 4.  I must have three putted because the card read 7 when I was finally through and Jordan played smartly to a 4 to go 1 up in the match.

We both bogied the number 1 handicap 5th hole and despite puring another long iron onto the green of the par 3 6th I walked with bogie and my putter was officially in the doghouse.  The wind was tossing me around on the greens and I didn’t have a counter.  Its pretty rare that I’ve ever had to deal with ball that is wobbling and bobbling as I try to address it.  I got on a bogie train that I couldn’t get off and made the turn at 9 over 45 with about 22 putts (3 down in my match) despite 5 or 6 greens in regulation.

Rather than relent, the wind grew more brutal as we set out on the back.  After parring the short par 4 10th, we both took double on the tricky 11th where we fell into a trap with good drives leaving poor angles to attack from.  The wind must have been up to 45 mph as I stung another 2 iron into the 153 yard par 3 12th, only to see the ball wobbling on the surface as I tried to putt it.  3 putts later all I could do was halve with bogie.  I almost lost my lone golfing companion on the par 4 14th as Jordan went cliffside to recover his drive.  I’m talking sheer, Sylvester Stallone “Cliffhanger” cliff but somehow he managed to brave the terrain and the elements to play a nice wedge back back into civilization.  From this video you can get an idea how cruel the wind had become at this point.

The 16th is a great short par 4 with ocean right and wind blowing left.  Landing areas are available short but it’s no sure birdie or par from there as you play uphill to a tricky mound green.  I decided to try to drive it and held it well against the wind but an unfortunate bounce put my ball 100 feet down on the beach in the hazard.  I crossed the line up near the green however and was able to make a 5 but even winning this hole was too little too late.  A beautiful hole nonetheless.  Here’s a shot from the tee:

The final few holes involved an 8 on a the par 4 17th where I drifted an approach shot into a wide gorge which was never to be found again.  A par at the closing hole was little consolation as I had already lost the match 2 and 1 and had about 41 putts on the way to a 91.  This was the worst the wind the ever got on our trip and I took heart from all the good shots I hit on this opening day. My upright, languid approach with the putter would certainly not do and I flipped everything upside down in the subsequent days but I’ll get into that in my next report.  It was all better from here on out!

Bandon Dunes proved to be the most exposed of any of the courses on the resort.  It had perhaps the best short par 4′s but in the end I found it my 3rd favorite of the 4.  It was fair, even in the nasty breeze, as the fairways were wide and the greens fairly receptive.  It was a harsh but appropriate welcome and after the very first tee shot we were completely caught up in the landscape and the golf course crafted from it.  Neglecting the two blow up holes and the horrific putting, this was a REALLY solid ballstriking round.  I knew I had a lot to build on and was able to put it to use the next day but you’ll have to wait for that review.


Next up, Pacific Dunes!






2 Responses to “Bandon Day 1 – Bandon Dunes”

  1. Avatar of Blade Junkie Blade Junkie says:

    Super stuff Riley. Enjoyed reading that. What driver were you hitting on day 1 in that wind ? I’ve always fancied playing this resort – top100golfcourses.co.uk has all 4 of the Bandon Dunes tracks in their Top 50 courses in the whole USA … 10th, 31st, 41st and 45th ! To have that many top courses on the same piece of real estate is possibly unique. I can’t think of anywhere else, even in Scotland, where you have that sort of concentration of quality. You have played #31 first up btw.

  2. Thanks Blade – I appreciate that. I had both in the bag and hit them both. My only other wood was a Hogan laminate 3 wood that I threw in on a whim and really earned it’s keep although I didn’t need a 3 wood this first day. I hit the modern on probably 4 out of every 5 holes and for sure everything downwind. I felt comfortable with the modern driver because A) These courses are newer, built in the titanium age so I figured I wasn’t “cheating the architect” or wedging into every hole. B) I was playing 1 on 1 against my friend and not just against myself and the course. My modern driver is an Adams 9015 or something from a few years ago with a bunch of lead tape to make it heavier. The classic driver I brought was my Mac M43.

    By the way that 91 I shot was my worst score in years but I still walked off with a smile :) This course can do that to ya.

    Also just realized looking the card over that it was only a 2 and 1 victory, not 4 and 3! I guess I should check the card over when I don’t have it…live and learn. Fixed it now.

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