Trails, Bandon, Sheep, Pacific & Old Mac.

BANDON, The global destination for best-in-class Adventure Golf, delivered a first impression I will never forget. 

During a recent 3-night stay at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, we experienced all five full-length courses, enjoyed a round at the PunchBowl putting course, savored the excellent cuisine across the property, and immersed ourselves in the ‘Golf as it Should Be’ atmosphere radiating from every member of the service team.

This article will offer a brief history of Bandon Dunes, a first-person perspective on the courses, and insights into the overall experience at this magical resort.

After a roughly four-hour drive south from Portland, or an hour and a half from the regional Roseburg airport, Bandon Dunes emerges from the coastal hills, and we have arrived.

Booked through 2025, Bandon Dunes is a physical embodiment of the game. Annually thousands of golfers make the great pilgrimage to pacific coast of Oregon. Today, I was thrilled to be one of them.

Bandon Trails | Opened 2005 – Designed By: Coore & Crenshaw 

Bandon Trails was our first tee-time after checking in. A quick shuttle ride from our lodging took us to the practice range and then to the course.

Initially envisioned as the ‘forest course’ of the property, designers Coore & Crenshaw collaborated with Founder Mike Keiser to create a captivating and challenging golf experience that harmonizes with the natural surroundings.

The course consists of a series of walking trails that undulate over wooded sand dunes and descend into pristine green valleys. Shots appear both distant and achievable as the contours of each hole vary, playing tricks on your perception from the tee box.

Hole #2 Par 3 218 yards

Hole #7 Par 4 440 yards

As the round unfolds, you delve deeper into the coastal woodlands, eager to discover the next challenge awaiting you at the end of each trail. Awareness of bunker placement and approach angles to the green are crucial on several holes, especially Hole #7 pictured above. This is a beautiful yet very challenging golf course.

Throughout the property, various signs and benches tell the story of Bandon and its origins. One such plaque, located to the right of the 14th tee box, stands in front of one of the best vistas on the property. A photo cannot do justice to the captivating view from this special place; you have to see it for yourself.

Hole #14 Par 4 325 yards

Commit to your drive on #14 and favor the left side of this fairway, as shots missed to the right will face a blind approach at the most shallow angle to the green. This hole’s greatest defense is its green – the smallest on the course.

Walking off of #18, you approach the clubhouse from below. Prepare for re-entry. Out of the forest and into the golf vacation of a lifetime.

After a refreshing shower in our comfortable and well-appointed guest room, we headed to the property’s newest restaurant, Ghost Tree Grill. This steakhouse and raw bar offers a laid-back fine dining experience, allowing players to indulge in gourmet meals while keeping it casual. Be sure to enjoy the fire pit off the main dining room, which overlooks the 18th hole on Old Macdonald.

Hamachi Crudo & Smoked Prime Rib – ask for the end-cap 

Nourished and back to the room it was time to stretch and get ready for bed. What a first day. Tomorrow morning we are the first group off on Bandon Dunes. ~Alarm set for 5:30. 

Bandon Dunes | Opened 1999 – Designed By: David MccLay Kidd 

“From the moment I stepped out on these wild, wind-swepted sand dunes, I knew this would be the opportunity of a lifetime.” – Mike Keiser, the owner.

Hole #1 Par 4 352 yards

Built to honor authentic Scottish tradition, designer David McLay Kidd envisioned the course as a symphony—starting strong, building anticipation, with small crescendos, and an incredible finishing sequence along the Pacific.

We were the first to tee off, ready to experience the music for ourselves.

Hole #2 Par 3 189 yards

Our caddie, Dave, provided words of encouragement as our twosome scrambled across the fescue, saving par on the first four holes. “This course was designed so that a golfer has a chance to keep the ball in play throughout the round,” he said.

In fact, that is exactly what had been done, and what a joy it is to play.

“We wanted the golfer to stay hopeful. That’s the spirit of links golf – to keep him enthusiastic and hopeful. As long as you can find your ball and play it, there’s always a the chance that luck will find you, that the bounce will go your way and you’ll be right back in the game.” – Architect David McLay, Kidd

Hole#3 Par 5 543 yards

We were fortunate to have calm conditions during our round, but the sheer width of some fairways on Bandon Dunes gave us a sense of what a day with 30+ mph winds could be like.

Hole# 5 Par 4 428 yards

The rolling dunes offer continuous uneven footing, turning what appears to be a straightforward 40-yard approach into a much trickier shot. Mastering the art of hitting off the tight fescue grass, especially with a downhill lie angle, is a humbling experience. Don’t hesitate to reach for your putter while still on the fairway.

“We weren’t out to create a benign golf course. We had a remote, rugged site, and we didn’t want to tame it down. Mike Keiser wanted to celebrate the drama at every turn. There were times when I wanted to tune it down, but he even wanted the lulls to be dramatic.” – Architect David McLay, Kidd

Hole#17 Par 4 389 yards

As the wind began to pick up towards the end of our morning round, and after a close match of Bingo Bango Bongo, we hurried to grab one of Bandon’s famous BBQ brisket sandwiches from Charlotte’s food truck at the practice facility. With just enough time, we hopped into a shuttle that would take us to our second round of the day: Sheep Ranch.

Sheep Ranch | Opened 2020 – Designed By: Coore & Crenshaw 

In caddie lore, the Sheep Ranch was known as Area 51. Originally laid out as a 13-hole ‘choose your own adventure’ course by Tom Doak. The course gave maximum creative freedom to golfers, allowing an entire day to be spent chasing your ball across the dunes.

15 years later, Coore & Creenshaw were brought in to solve the challenge of both fitting a full 18 holes in the land available, while using every piece of coastline for golf.

Hole#1 Par 5 549 yards

Nine greens are located on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, with each more magnificent than the last. There is a freeing sense of playing golf on this course, as if playing the game with nature herself.

Hole#5 Par 3 198 yards

Due to the wind, and the style of course experience desired, there are no sand bunkers on Sheep Ranch. This absence allows the golf ball to roll out and then some.

Hole#16 Par 3 151 yards

Depending on the wind at #16, outcomes can vary greatly. While the above image doesn’t fully convey the tight and narrow effect created by the encroaching fescue-covered dune on your right and the crashing ocean waves to the left, trust me, they’re there.

Pacific Dunes | Opened 2001 – Designed By: Tom Doak

Overall, I have to rank Pacific Dunes at the top of my list as my favorite course on the property. My deep appreciation for this special track doesn’t stem from firing a low round, but quite the contrary. Pacific Dunes is TOUGH. It’s undeniably stunning, but with any hint of wind, fairways swiftly become elusive, and finding a green in regulation feels more like wishful thinking.

Hole #3 Par 5 499 yards

The varying slope of each hole winds the golfer up, down, and through the gorse-covered sand dunes, constantly prompting reconsideration of club choice. Each green complex plays strong defense, with heavy bunkering and multi-tiered putting surfaces.

Hole#10 Par 3 163 yards

Tom Doak, the course designer, is renowned as a master of minimalist course construction. With an ethos of ‘uncovering the course that lies beneath the surface’, Pacific Dunes rises and falls naturally, as if each captivating hole has been shaped by nature over time.

Hole 13 Par4 444 yards

Schedule your round on Pacific on the day you plan to bring your best game. The course emerges from shore pines to spectacular 60-foot sand dunes. 

An approach that misses the green on this short, downwind hole, will leave you one of the most difficult up-and- downs on the course. Pacific Dunes is short enough to give you hope but rugged enough to test every facet of your game. 

Hole#18 Par 5 591 yards

Don’t let focus slip as you approach the 18th Tee box, the last hole on this epic course calls for three well placed shots in order to have a chance at a two-putt par. 

The Punchbowl

Old Macdonald | Opened 2010 – Designed By: Tom Doak with Jim Urbina 

One of the most iconic symbols of golf, the Ghost Tree looms over the second tee box. Players face a blind tee shot, aiming to sail their ball past the weathered remnants of the Port Orford Cedar and onto a rolling fairway from which the course unfolds.

Throughout the Bandon Dunes course complex, strategically placed benches offer golfers a chance to rest while waiting for groups ahead to clear. These whimsical respites provide much-needed relief, especially considering the average of 15-17 miles walked per day when playing 36 holes. Make sure to try a few. Relax, take a breath and say thank you to God for the opportunity to experience this incredible place on earth.

Old Macdonald is built as in the style of Scottish Links, with its playability determined by the weather conditions on any given day. Players who are willing to be inventive with their shot-choice will be rewarded.

Hole#7 Par 4 363 yards 

Hole#15 Par5 535 yards

Approaching #15, a well struck shot allows a chance for biride. Be sure to take in the incredible coastal view, but return focus to your put because the greens of this course are anything but straight forward.

Hole#16 Par 4 455 yards

Hole #16 requires a blind approach over a massive 60-foot sand dune. Players must listen for the sound of the bell located near the 16th green, a signal that the group playing ahead has finished and that the green is open. 

Walking in off #18

Old Macdonald carries a distinct challenging playability. Wide fairways and large greens allow enjoyable play on windy days. The course experience feels both ancient in tradition and modern with a youthful energy that encourages the golfer to attempt shots that may not traditionally be ‘in the bag’.

As the last round of our trip came to an end, and the setting sun dipped towards the horizon, the sky was set on fire in orange and gold, as if in special celebration of the incredible golf experience we had just enjoyed.

Bandon Dunes is an otherwise unavailable adventure golf experience, and with its recent 25 year celebration and opening of Shorty’s, the properties newest par-3 course, it is safe to say that appreciation this property is only rising. The quality of golf, the caliber of service and overall resort excellence makes this my first but certainly not my last trip to this incredible place of Oregon coastline.

Thank you Bandon, until we meet again.

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