Bandon on my Mind

My year-in-review piece, just posted a week and a half ago, had an entire section devoted to my 2011 golf travel plans. I wrote about potential trips to Long Island, New York and Columbus, Ohio, among others, to play a few of the great private clubs in those areas but nothing was set in stone at the time.

It’s amazing how quickly other things can materialize out of thin air.

The very next day, I got word that there might be some openings in an event called “The King’s Putter”, an annual Ryder Cup-type event usually held in California between members of the architecture website Golf Club Atlas.

This year, the organizers went “off the board” with their course selection, choosing to hold the 2011 event outside of California for the first time ever, picking the much-heralded Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the Pacific coast in Bandon, Oregon.

I’ve dreamed of making the pilgrimage to Bandon for quite awhile, as the resort is home to three golf courses ranked in the top 100 in the United States and just opened a fourth last summer that arguably is the best of the bunch.

When I found out that the waiting list for the King’s Putter was only two deep, I decided to sign up as a spare and hope for the best.

Well, two short days later, I received an email from the organizer, whom I met at Ballyneal last year, saying there were a few cancellations and I was in if I could pull the trigger. A quick look at my vacation schedule and a subsequent thumbs up from my better half was all the confirmation I’d need, as I have officially committed to visiting Bandon exactly two months from today!


The original course at the resort, Bandon Dunes (shown above), opened in 1999 to great acclaim. It was the first solo design by Scotsman David McLay Kidd and it’s currently the 33rd ranked course in the US according to Golf Digest.


The second course at the resort opened in 2001. Pacific Dunes (shown above) is the course that propelled architect Tom Doak to the top of a short list of the world’s greatest designers. It’s currently the highest rated course at Bandon, currently sitting 14th on Golf Digest’s most recent list of the best in America.


The world-renowned design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, already revered for their astonishing work at Sand Hills GC in Mullen, Nebraska had the unenviable task of following up Doak’s masterpiece and delivered another one of their own in 2005 with Bandon Trails, shown above. It debuted at #80 on Golf Digest’s list of American courses in the most recent ranking, done in 2009. The course is notable for the fact it is the only one on the resort that doesn’t feature any holes on the ocean.


The most recent addition to the facility came last summer with the opening of Old Macdonald, a Tom Doak and Jim Urbina collaboration that celebrates and is inspired by the work of the “father of American architecture”, Charles Blair Macdonald. Ironically enough, Macdonald was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, the city I grew up in but he’d go onto become one of the most pivotal figures in American golf, helping establish the United States Golf Association and becoming the first winner of the US Amateur before coming on the scene as one of the great architects of his time. Old Mac, as it is affectionately known, is already receiving great acclaim and most suggest it will be ranked right up with Pacific Dunes in the next set of rankings due out later in 2011.

The King’s Putter features one round on each of the courses at the resort, with 18 holes on Friday afternoon, 36 holes on Saturday and 18 holes Sunday morning. My current plan will see me fly into Portland on Thursday evening, rent a car and make the five hour drive to Bandon in time to play an early morning round on Friday prior to the start of the event.

I’ll stay onsite for three nights (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), which will give me enough time to play extra rounds on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning before heading back to Portland to catch the Monday night redeye back to Buffalo.

So, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be playing 36 holes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and a final 18 holes on Monday, meaning seven rounds in four days.

The question I have for any Bandon experts out there (paging Mr. Admussen!) would be which courses should I play multiple times during my trip? As it stands right now, I’m scheduled to play Old Mac 3 times, Pacific Dunes twice and the other two courses just once but I likely can change that around if I’d like.

Either way, I’m already greatly anticipating this trip – these most likely will be my first rounds of golf in 2011 and I seriously can’t imagine a more beautiful place to tee it up for the first time this year!


  • Matt, What a great trip you have in store. Bandon is a very special place, one I have been privileged to return to repeatedly since it first opened with only one course and one structure in 1999. Indeed, my wife and I just returned from a week long visit there, 1/1-9. It was perfect. I've probably played 50+ rounds on Bandon; 20+ on Pacific; and maybe ten or so on Trails. I had never played Old Mac before this last trip. For my seven rounds, not including any replays which were possible, I played each course twice but for Trails which I played once. If I had another seven rounds to schedule next week, I would likely do the same. If I made any change, I might add one more Trails round in place of the second round at Pacific, but I doubt it.Your present rota does not, in my mind, do \”old\” Bandon justice. Nor would I think 3 out of 7 rounds on Old Mac is the best schedule for your first visit or initial exposure to the \”resort\”. (They call it a \”resort\” but all the stereotypes associated with that word are out the window here, and delightfully so.)Recognizing how subjective any ranking of golf courses might be, I know all kinds of golfers who rank these four courses every which way. Pacific probably gets the most first place votes, but Bandon, my favorite, is right up there. Trails has the occasional detractor–\”too hard\”, \”greens too tough\”–but I know good golfers who have it no. 1 on their list of favorites. In my view, Trails suffers only in comparison to Bandon and Pacific; it's not pure links, with meadow and forest holes, and doesn't offer those courses' ocean eye candy. I've now reached the point, however, of appreciating Trails more fully than I ever did. I now rank it just about as high as Pacific. What a dliemna!Old Mac is entirely unique and special in its own way. And great fun! A good golfer I know from my home course, Pasatiempo, who has a 2d home in Bandon town, put Old Mac first on his list of favorites the first time he played it last summer–and I don't question his opinion in any way whatsoever. I thoroughly enjoyed the course the first two times I played it recently, and very much look forward to playing it regularly in the future. I hope this is helpful. At the end of the day, every one of the four Bandon courses is world class and unique in the same manner as the great links courses of Scotland and Ireland. How do you choose among them? You don't, but rather count yourself blessed to have an opportunity to play any of them, any time. Have a great trip, Matt, and haste ye back.John Cowden


  • John,Thank you for the great comments – that was pretty much all I needed to hear. My plan is to see about switching one of my rounds at Old Mac to a second round at BD, making it OM 2, BD 2, PD 2 and BT 1. I really should try to evenly spread things around on my first go at the place.Thanks again for taking the time to write,Matt


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