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Day two was on us before we knew it and despite putting back a few crispy Stellas the night before (to drown the sting of a 91), we were hangover free and pumped to play 36!  Since we knew it would be a long day, we had a caddy reserved to give us some advice and free us up to enjoy the walk.  The tee time was 7:10 AM and I made sure we arrived in time that I could tinker with my putting stroke for a few minutes before I stuck a peg in the ground.  I basically flipped everything I was doing on Day 1 upside down and got super low with forward hands and used a “pop” stroke where the clubhead never went very far past the ball.  After holing a few in the practice area I felt good and we were ready to go.

We met our caddy just before the first tee.  His name was Joe and he proved to be cheerful, intelligent, engaging caddy.  Really top notch and it didn’t hurt that he was a good golfer.  He said he split his time (like many of the Bandon caddies do) between Bandon in the summer and Palm Desert in the winter.  Over the course of the day we learned about his time caddying for Janice Moody, Arnold Palmer, and also his collegiate and professional playing career.

The weather was way better in the early morning, warm with the sun shining through scattered clouds.  Pacific Dunes is a Doak design with a nice mix of rolling, moundy fairways, elevation changes, native plants and grasses, greenside traps, and dunes.  Number one was a straightaway par 4 and we let er rip with driver.  I thought I had a perfect line but the caddy said I pulled it and it would be close.  When we crossed the ridge in the fairway I saw that my ball was perched on a little mound in the fairway and if it had gone 5 yards further it would have slipped down a slope into the gorse.  So I was sitting perfect and after a short wedge I narrowly missed my birdie and tapped in for par.  Jordan parred as well and we were off to a solid, uneventful start.

Number two is a short par four with a fairway bunker that forces you to shape a drive left or right.  After a solid drive I had only a short iron in and with the aid of Joe’s calculations I positioned the approach on the proper tier with an uphill putt.  The pop stroke was solid and I looked up to see it disappear for birdie, my first of the trip.  Jordan parred as well but with  good weather and a helpful caddy we suspected pars weren’t going to win many holes today.   I was 1 up after 2.  Hole three plays along the oceanfront and is a fun little par 5.  We didn’t go for the green but made pars despite a nasty hole location and made a relatively easy hole into something with bite.

Hole four is an awesome par 4 positional along the cliffs.  You tee off from a finger that extends out over the ocean and lets you play away from the beach if you choose to.   It’s a long par 4 (449 from the green tees) and you are faced with a choice off the tee – play a drive to the right that risks running down into the hazard or play left – safe but possibly into a bunker from which you will have no chance to reach the green.   This picture shows the view from the tee:

I erred on the side of safety, going left of the bunker and setting up an odd angle.  My approach got caught up in some heavy greenside turf and I played my best pitch shot of the weekend that I was able to convert for par.  I felt like a boss hitting the shots my caddy told me to.  Even he was quite impressed with the chip shot.

Hole 5 was a medium length par 3 but wind was behind.  After some deliberation I took a the shorter club and swung hard.  It was a touch thin but on a good line and settled about 12 feet from the pin.  Jordan found the first bunker of the day and had to settle for 4.  I knew I had the hole won as I set up over my birdie putt and I somehow cozied it in on the line Joe pointed out.  At this point I was two up in the match and Jordan informed me that I was also 2 under par after 5.  I was thrilled and so happy to be rebounding from the day before.  Best of all the putter seemed to not only be behaving, but gaining me strokes.

Number 6 is a another super fun short Par 4.    Sidenote: there’s a exceptionally friendly pro shop worker at my home course in Sonoma County.  The week before I left on this trip he asked if I had a partner for the Santa Rosa 2 man Best Ball, a city-championship tournament at our home course.  I told him I was going to Bandon that weekend and he gets all excited and yells “RILEY – YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER THIS – DON’T DRIVE TO THE LEFT ON NUMBER 6 AT PACIFIC DUNES!  IT LOOKS LIKE THERES A LOT OF ROOM BUT THE GREEN IS TOO SHALLOW FROM THAT ANGLE.  YOU’VE GOT TO PLAY TO THE RIGHT!”.   I thought it was hilarious at the time that this is what he told me, rather than ‘awesome, have fun!’ or something like that.  /End Sidenote.  Sure enough I remembered this hole and knew not to drive to the left (Joe reminded us this) so I played a fade into position A.  Jordan tugged his drive and was in the fairway but his approach skipped over the green as advertized.  I had only a lob wedge in a stuck in to 6 feet.  As I marked by ball I saw why I had been warned: the back drops down about 20 feet below the surface with a steep slop back up to green that slopes away from you.  This is the shot that Jordan had ahead of him and he played it like a champ.

I hit a good putt but it didn’t fall – I was a whisker from being 3 under after 6.  I think that was when my unconscious “comfort zone” behavior kicked in because I made 3 straight bogies to turn at 1-over.  On the plus side, we did get this cool picture (modern driver is ugly, I know…) I was playing both this day and the caddy got a kick out of my gear.

I was aware of this tendency and told myself to keep playing the same way I had been but I still couldn’t stop making bogies.  Ten is a tricky par 3 staight down hill and exposed.  The wind had picked up at this point but wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Day 1.  I took 2 extra clubs and tried to swing easy but as soon as it left the clubface I knew the wind would get it and sure enough it was gone, drifting right into the middle of a patch of gorse.

I guess this would be a good time to talk a little about the native plants.  Apparently the flora that evolved on the dunescape of Bandon, OR survived primarily by transforming into a form of green razor-wire.  This stuff isn’t just swampgrass, it’s like a thousand living knives that no skin can withstand.  Sure, it looks nice enough from a distance:

But you don’t go looking for golf balls in this stuff unless you want scars to remember the experience…

So anyways, I ended up with another bogie here on 10 and still couldn’t right the ship on 11 or 12 giving me 6 straight bogies.  I guess I figured I was back where I should be because I parred the difficult 13th (#2 handicap), and the par 3 14th.  I believe this shot is from one of those holes and shows the dune-like features that were present in nearly every fairway.

I found the fairway bunker on the par 5 15th but pitched out with a short iron and stiffed my approach pin high with a 9 iron.  Jordan attacked in 2 but put himself shortsided for his 3rd and tried a traditional pitch shot.  The green complex was having none of it.

So my conservative play won this hole and despite my earlier bogies I found myself 4-up.  17 was a real tough par 3 with a nasty bunker short and I hit a terrible shot directly into it yielding a fried egg lie.  Joe had little hope for me but I swung as hard as I could and hit one of the most memorable bunker shots of my life, dribling it out, over, and up.  I lipped out a tricky putt but felt ok with bogie here after my lie in the bunker.  Hole 18 was a long par 5 and I hammered my driver right down the middle.  My swing felt good so I pulled my Hogan 3-wood for the first time on the trip and had a go.  Solid but slightly pushed and I was 70 yards out with a good lie but tricky angle.  A high precision wedge was required and I pulled the shot off, landing it just over the bunker and trickling behind the hole about 18 feet.  An amazing, unforgettable round wrapped up with a holed putt, my longest of the day and 3rd birdie.

At the end of the day, I can’t understate how helpful a caddy was on this course.  There were many occasions that I wouldn’t have chosen the proper line off the tee or played the correct break on my putt.  Pac Dunes is a stunning layout.  A variety of lengths in the Par 3′s and 4′s along with natural looking bunkers, risk-reward holes, stunning views, and challenging but fair green complexes made for an unforgettable experience.  This was my best round of the week and could have been REALLY good but I was thrilled to walk away with 75 on my first look at this course and my first match play win as well.  The weather was in our favor today and Jordan fired a solid 80.

 

4 Responses to “Bandon Day 2 – Pacific Dunes”

  1. Avatar of hickorychris hickorychris says:

    Great account, Riley. Glad you appreciate the architechtural possibilities of Gorse (Ulex sps.), we’ve got lots here. In fact it can be so invasive that at Royal Dornoch they have commissioned major work to remove all but the strategic bits. same at our local Silloth-on-Solway, where billowing acreages of the stuff has been grubbed up. You defininitely don’t want to mess with it!
    Apart from a reference to a hogan 3 wood you don’t say what clubs you are bagging or what balls were in use. Sorry if I missed the reference, Ive not been myself lately what with flooded courses and all! Very little golf of serious consequence around.
    Going down to see Blade next month, also trips to Machrihanish Dunes, Crieff and Berwick-on-Tweed GC at Goswick (a reel belter).

    • Thanks Chris. Regarding the gorse, I absolutely respect the stuff. I have been sticking with my Wilson Staff fluid feel blades (late 70′s or early 80′s, not sure) primarily because they have a sole design that works well for California turf. We encounter a little bit of everything and I like a narrow sole with rounded edges – difficult to find in a vintage club. I love playing different irons but have tried to show some discipline and stick with these since in general I’ve been hitting them very well. They are 2-9 but they have “vintage lofts” so they hit the distances of a modern 3-pw. As such, I don’t have a pw in the bag, just a 54 degree wedge and a 58 as well. I brought that Hogan laminate 3w that sits beautifully open and 2 drivers: a MacGregor m43 (same model Greg Norman played) and also an Adams driver (modern).

  2. Avatar of dpark dpark says:

    Glad you had a great time. Our annual trip is coming up soon. Been going every year since 2001 and the trip has gone from 2 days to 4 days because of all the new courses.

    Looking forward to your reviews of the other two courses. The green tees are definitely a stern test for classic clubs, especially when the wind is up. A 75 is a great score on Pacific no matter what clubs are in the bag!

    • Thanks dpark. You saw how I got hammered on Day 1 when the wind was gusting. I’ve heard them say that if you don’t like the weather on the Oregon coast, just wait 15 minutes. I now see why. Enjoy your trip and let us know how it went. The courses are in great shape!

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