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After a short lunch break, we moved by shuttle from Pacific Dunes over to Bandon Trails.  Although our caddy wanted to rejoin us, we decided to forfeit our advantage and go it alone.  It was a tough call as we both played well with Joe’s help and his advice certainly saved us strokes, but there is a certain aspect of enjoyment derived from “exploring” a course for the first time on your own – testing how your instincts and mental calculations hold up on first look at a new track.

We grabbed a yardage book and hit the first tee.  There was a breeze, to be sure, but it was moderate and the sun was shining in a clear sky. Bandon Trails is perhaps the least exposed of the 4 courses and discussions with the caddies revealed that many of them prefer it as their favorite track.  There are no oceanfront holes.  It’s a Coore and Crenshaw design and of the caddies we spoke to, perhaps 80% listed “Trails” as their favorite to play. They refer to it as their “Spyglass” and we soon found out why.

We would come to find out that above all, Bandon Trails is a diverse walk.  The first holes play away from the clubhouse through a series of dunes similar in appearance to those at Pacific but with less room to stray.  Fortunately, they are short holes and I played a 2 iron down the fairway setting up a short iron approach.  Jordan decided to have some fun and play a 75 yard putter for his approach but the plan went awry.  Please excuse my laughing if you can hear it… that’s just the way we are and we both know it’s not personal, all in good fun.

Meanwhile I pitched a short iron up pin high and converted the 12 footer for birdie.  -1 after 1, a perfect start and I was thinking I could keep the momentum from my morning 75 going.  The second hole is a beautiful downhill par 3, again through the dunes.  I played a long iron to the bailout area just short and was able to play a straightforward pitch and run to a makeable distance.  Still -1 after 2 and 1 up in the match.  The third hole is a part 5 that moves you away from the dunes into a rolling parkland style of terrain surrounded by trees.  Some interesting fairway bunkering makes you think off the tee and I played a hard draw up the right with driver.  Once the tee shot was in play, it was a straightforward matter to advance it down the fairway and onto the green, two putting for par.  I took this picture on the number 3 tee, showing how the golfer moves out of the dunes into the trees.  It really is an fun and beautiful hole.

Number four is a medium length par four with a ridge the obstructs the view of the green. I played persimmon off this tee and caught it on the toe and pushed it but it drew back to the center.   This was the opposite shape you want off the tee here but it ended up right on top of the ridge and I had a clear shot to the green where I made a par. Here’s the swing off the tee.

Jordan pulled his tee shot and found one of the bunkers hidden over the ridge on the left side.  It was a tough recovery from there and he had to settle for a 6, putting me 2 up after 4.  The 5th was a short par 3 with a forced carry to a massive green with severe contours.  The middle of the green has a trough the runs sideways through it and that’s where my tee shot settled -

Pin was back however and it was a tough two put.  Jordan mis-clubbed (wind was strong in our face off the tee) and his tee ball drifted into a deep pot bunker short and right.  My lag put was marginal but I made a nice 6 footer for par.  Jordan spent some extra time int he bunker and came out with another 6.  3 up.  At this point I was -1 though 5 and swinging and putting well.  Just as at Pacific Dunes earlier in the day – my “comfort” mechanism must have kicked in because I took double on the short 6th.  The 7th was a long par 4 but downwind and I hit a really good drive.  My approach shot was on the green pin-high but I must have gotten aggressive with the birdie putt because I walked away with bogie and was then only 1 up. This was the approach:

I played two perfect shots on 8 but so did Jordan and only he made the putt for birdie, leaving us all-square in the match after 8 and that’s how we turned after both parring the number 1 handicap 9th.  Number 10 features waste area down the left hand side and that’s where my tee shot settled.  I made solid contact but the wind was strong against and the ball ballooned, landing short.  A failed up and down gave me a bogie and put me 1 down in the match.  Little did I know that I wouldn’t get off this bogie train until 15.  Several factors conspired against us in this stretch of difficult holes:

  • We had started to consume some adult beverages around hole 7
  • Fatigue was starting to set in after walking 27+ holes
  • The weather was getting more severe with wind picking up to around the 30mph range
  • There were some really tough holes in this stretch that included the only water feature on the course (abuts the number 11 green), a 235 yard par 3 (number 18 handicap!)that saw a fine shot from the Hogan 3 wood, and some really small green complexes.

As this stretch was challenging for both of us, I stood only 1 down after 15 holes.  I parred the number 2 handicap 16th evening the match and we both took bogie on the easy 17th.  We went into the final hole all-square.  The wind was howling at this point and straight into our faces on 18, a down-then-up par 4 which re-emerges on the dunescape where the course originated.  There was no advantage after 2 solid drives and I must have taken 4 extra clubs for my approach while still landing short.  Jordan hit a $h@nk on his approach (our first of the weekend) but played an all-world long bunker shot up onto the surface.  I could only get down for bogie and Jordan lagged to 3 1/2 feet. With it all on the line, Jordan settled over a wobbling ball and put a solid stroke on it… 180 degree lipout!

I hate to win with a bogie but afternoon wind was serving notice this it was still the boss.  I signed for an 80 which was somewhat disappointing in that I turned in 2-over 38 but I took heart from the fact that I played well for 36 holes this day and only lost 1 ball all day.

The victory beer:

Pacific Trails ended up being my favorite course on the property and maybe my personal favorite course I’ve ever played.  You feel like you are on a nature hike and the journey takes you through such a lovely variety of terrain.  The transitions don’t feel choppy however and nothing is tricked-up.  The holes are fair but challenging with a variety of play options to make use of depending on your style of play or the weather conditions.  The course was surrounded by trees but they were never really in play on the course.  It still felt like true links golf with sandy waste areas, brownish green turf, and fairways that blended seamlessly with the greens allowing for imaginative shots once near the surface.  This one is a true gem and when I think back on this trip, this is the course I will remember most and look forward to returning to.


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