The Pilgrimage: Oregon Golf Trip, Day Three (Bandon Dunes / Bandon Trails)

Bandon Dunes is incredible! What a place. Owner Mike Keiser is my hero. I love him.

I’ve concluded that there are three types of golfers in the world. 1) Golfers who have made the pilgrimage to Bandon Dunes; 2) Golfers who've yet to make it out to Bandon Dunes and are just dying to; and 3) Golfers who have never heard of Bandon Dunes. The reaction from a surprisingly large number of people that I talked to about going on a golf vacation to Oregon replied, ‘why would you want to go to Oregon?’ or ‘are there good golf courses in the Oregon?’. Now that I’ve finally made the transition from Golfer #2 to Golfer #1, I can emphatically say 'Yes!'

We played Bandon Dunes at 6:30 am this morning and the new Bandon Trails in the afternoon. It was a beautiful day here, sunny but cool. Bandon Dunes started off pretty calm early in the morning, but it got increasingly windy in the afternoon. The round at Bandon Trails had a constant forceful wind, but the caddies in our group said it was ‘calm to average’ wind compared to normal conditions. If that is true, I’d hate to see it on a windy day.

I had one of the uber-frustrating rounds at Bandon in the morning. One where you hit the ball beautifully but get absolutely nothing to show for it. I hit the ball extremely well for the whole round, probably only hitting 3-4 ‘poor’ shots. But the poors ones cost me and I couldn’t capitalize on the good ones. The problem was with the flatstick. Numerous three putts and other putts that slid just by. I made four footers for par on the first two holes and those were literally the longest putts that I made all day.

I also parred #3 and was feeling pretty good about myself, but that ended quickly when I hit my 3-iron tee shot on no. 4 into the gorse and had to re-tee lying three. That lead to a triple bogey. Then the putter abandoned me and it was downhill from there. Final tally: 42-43 85, hugely disappointing considering the relatively benign conditions.

Jimbo continued his scrambling ways. He only hit two greens but got up and down from EVERYWHERE and had a respectable 41-42 83. To add insult to injury, our caddies had a little sidebet going between Jimbo and me. Unfortunately, my caddy Frank (who claimed he was a lefty, liked the Pittsburgh Pirates, and had the Mizuno MP-30 irons just like me. Amazing coincidence, although I’m not 100% sure that I buy it) was riding the wrong horse that morning, and he lost $5 (I tipped him an extra $5 to compensate).

Ken was en fuego early on, parring the first three holes and rolling in a long downhill birdie putt to get him to 2 over through 6 holes. Ken Murray...welcome to the place called 'The Zone!' Unfortunately, his time there was short, and once the winds picked up, the Superman cape came off. He ended up with a very respectable 43-51 94. Charles actually started hitting the ball well, and was low man on the back nine with a miraculous 41. I told his caddie Kallie that if any woman could make Charles get around in 41 for nine holes, Charles should drop on one knee and propose. Unfortunately, she was married with three kids, one of those most well-conditioned soccer moms I’ve ever seen.

Bandon Dunes is a sweet, sweet course. The holes by the ocean are fantastic, including #4-#6, #15 and #16. It’s hard to find fault with the course. It’s not as solid from beginning to end like a Whistling Straits, but the course is more rugged and has a more authentic feel (as it should since the Dunes were God-made instead of man-made like Straits). I can tell you with certainty that Bandon Dunes will make it into the top 10.

After shooting such a high number in calm conditions, I wasn’t feeling too confident about scoring well at Bandon Trails, especially since the holes we saw looked extremely punishing. Amazingly, I did a complete 180 in the afternoon. The Trails is one brutally tough course, but I was hitting the ball beautifully and was finally able to get it going with the putter. After missing decent birdie opportunities on the first two holes, I rolled in a 4-footer on the par 5 third, and the flood gates were opened. Bounced back from an unplayable penalty and double bogey on No. 4 by knocking it stiff on the par-3 fifth for birdie #2 (it was a good thing I knocked it stiff, because this hole literally has the craziest green I’ve ever seen. Crenshaw and Coore must’ve been feeling extra surly when they drew that one up). Just missed on a good birdie chance on no. 6, but then made my third birdie of the day on the seventh. Pars on a eight and nine gave me a memorable one-under 35 on the front.

You have to make your score on the front at Bandon Trails because the back nine is extremely difficult, probably one of the most demanding 9 holes that I’ve ever played. I made a couple of dumb mistakes on the first four holes and bogeyed each of them. But I bounced back on the downhill 325-yard 14th, driving it about pin high and getting up and down from just off the green. It’s a good thing too, because I needed to save every stroke possible to give me some cushion for the last 4 holes, a masochistic stretch of round wreckers. I managed to somehow par 15, but 16 is an extreme uphill 530-yard par 5 that ate my lunch. Charles assisted with my triple-bogey snowman. I hit a solid shot on #17 but it was too much club and caught the lip of a bunker, leading to another bogey. I couldn’t get in the house quick enough. The round finished with a deadly uphill par 4 into the teeth of the wind. I absolutely bombed my drive and it only went about 210 yards total (remember this was a relatively calm day. Jimbo hit his best drive of the day and still ended up 25 yards short of the fairway. He knew his golf ball was doomed and we said our farewells to his Maxfli Noodle before he teed off). I hit 3-iron in but missed the green, ending up with yet another bogey but finishing with a 35-43 78. Finally a round in the 70’s. What a struggle.

Jim attempts to drive the green at the 14th at Bandon Trails.

Speaking of Jimbo, his scorecard says he shot a 39 on the front, which would normally be considered impressive except for the fact that it was only for the first seven holes. He fought the black tees and the black tees knock out. 39-DNF DNF. He stopped keeping score but did manage to play a little better on the back. Kenyon had a tough time on the holes that were into the wind, but his caddie Lisa kept him headed in the right direction and he shot a 49-50 99. Charles struggled with his high ball flight and lack of directional control and couldn’t repeat his success from the first round...46-54 100.

Bandon Trails is a nice addition to the other coastal courses here. It reminded me of Pine Barrens at World Woods, but is probably even a little more solid with more elevation change and the extra element of wind. Some holes are a little wacky, but there are opportunities to score to go along with the demanding holes. Other than No. 1 which starts out in the dunes, No. 13 was probably my favorite hole, a downhill par 4 with a green tucked to the right and trouble down the right. The one place not to miss is in the deep bunker right and both Jimbo and I hit in there from perfect positions in the fairway. Jimbo even managed to mutilate half the bunker trying to get down to his ball.

Bunkers designed by Crenshaw, Coore...and Tang. Jimbo wants design credits for (accidentally) altering the look and feel of this bunker at the 13th at Bandon Trails. Ironically, two days later Ken hit his approach shot into Jimbo's footprint that was still there.

From No. 13, you climb up a path and actually take a cart shuttle up to the next tee, that 325-yard downhill par 4 that I birdied. I guess the caddies and players used to have to hoof it up the 200-foot incline, but a course ranger try to make the hike one day and had a heart attack and died.

One other thing of note from the round...we were walking the front nine when out of nowhere a dude and his caddie flew right by us in a golf cart. A cart! Where did that thing come from? I joked that it completely ruined my whole Bandon experience, but the caddies explained that one cart was allowed per course per day for those with disability. That’s cool...but from the looks of it, the guy riding in the cart suffered only from obesity.

Tomorrow, it's Pacific Dunes in the morning and Bandon Dunes in the afternoon. Charles has to take off after the morning round.

By the numbers:
Birdie Count: Jim 4 (8 total), Jimbo 1 (2), Ken 1 (1), Charles 1 (1)
1 - Mouth on ball violations by Jimbo on Jim (a 50% improvement in just one day)
1 - Drivers hit by Jim on a par 3, occuring on the 242-yard uphill into the wind par 3 12th at Bandon Trails
0 - Drivers hit by Jim on par 3’s, last 15 years
4 - Times Charles tried to backhand a gimme putt into the hole on one occasion, before failing to pick up the ball with the back of his putter and accidentally rolling his ball towards Ken, who was waiting to putt, and eventually off the front of the green.
63 - Total number of holes played by Charles, who played an extra 27 holes out at Bandon Dunes.


  1. bigwego said...:

    Sounds like a great trip so far. Keep up the great writing and enjoy the golf.

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