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The Pilgrimage: Oregon Golf Trip, Day Two (Sandpines)

7/31/2006
Just wrapped up 36 holes at Sandpines in Florence, OR. Sandpines was named the Best New Public Course in Golf Digest when it opened in 1993. After playing the course twice, I can’t help but think that the course has fallen on hard times. We were out there on a beautiful Sunday in the middle of the summer and the place was a ghost town. We had the first tee time at 7:00 and the next group wasn’t scheduled until 8:00. We finished up well-ahead of our noon replay time, checked back in and they said we could tee off whenever we wanted...it was wide open. We didn’t run into another group until the 15th hole of the second round, and I can only remember seeing three other groups all day.

When the ratio of golfers to golf club employees is less than 4-to-1, you’re in serious trouble. I can’t help but think that for the average local golfer, Sandpines is both too difficult and, more importantly, too expensive. $110 to ride for 18 holes is probably a little steep, especially when a decent course called Ocean Dunes is in town at less than half the price.

Although open for 13 years now, they are just now putting the finishing touches on a new clubhouse. The clubhouse is huge and provides a nice backdrop for holes 16 & 18. However, it doesn’t totally block two huge unsightly water towers which hover immediately over the course.

Sandpines has some very nice holes. It starts off pretty tame, although no. 2 is a nice-looking short par 4 that wraps around a pond on the left. You better make your pars on the first three holes because it gets exceedingly difficult from there. Holes 4-9 are a tough six-round stretch that will make or break your round (probably break). The back nine is pretty lackluster -- a lot of boring parallel holes that are dead straight and have mounds separating them. Things get a little more interesting the last three holes, including a Pebble Beach-inspired par 5 to finish it off. The other lackluster aspect of Sandpines is the greens. Putts roll true and the greens were in good shape, but they were nearly all dead flat. Generally if you aimed within the hole, you had a pretty good chancing of making it. Overall, I’ll probably rank Sandpines around 90-100th, putting it at about a 5.5 on my 10-point scale.

Unfortunately, I didn’t play nearly as well as I was expecting to. Large numbers killed me. A triple bogey on the 4th and a double on the par-5 8th (two sevens...never good) were the main culprits of a front nine 44. I started hitting the ball much better on the back nine, ending up with a 82. The second round was more of the same on the front nine (although I birdied the 4th this time for an amazing 4-stroke swing versus the first round), but managed to improve a couple of strokes for a 40-40 80.

The second round was capped off by an unconventional birdie. Instead of going around the right side of the lake, I took a shortcut and blasted over to the 16th fairway, leaving only 170 yards to the green. Hey man, nobody said that you had to play the hole the way they want you to. The goal is to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible, via any route possible.

Speaking of playing from other holes, Charles must’ve set a record for playing from the wrong fairway, albeit unintentionally. On one par three on the back nine, his wayward tee shot hit the cart path and bounded to the eighth hole about sixty feet below the level of the green. The downside of this strategy at Sandpines is that instead of a Cart Path Only policy, Sandpines has a fairway only cart policy (an even a sign that says this...a first for me). So if you hit in a different fairway, you have to guess where you think it might be, and traipse up and down the mounds separating the holes. Try doing this (or watching this) 11-12 times in a 36-hole timeframe.

After Sandpines, we made the 90-minute drive down the coast to Bandon Dunes. We have made the pilgrimage! This place is great. We hit some balls on the range into a tough (although relatively tame for here) wind, tried my hand on the massive putting green (you wouldn’t believe how fast and firm they are). Unfortunately, the new lil par-3 course, Wee Dunes was closed, as was most of the putting area and all of the chipping area (I was really hoping to work on bump and run, which I haven’t needed to use since playing the Old Course in 2000). They were closed for the Curtis Cup which was just wrapping up while we were checking in (the U.S. won for the 10th time in a row or something...quick name one person on either Curtis Cup team). We then got some hardy grub at the pub (saw Dottie Pepper there...what a hottie!!!). As the only bachelor in the group, Charles got himself invited to the post-Curtis Cup celebration, using some alias by the name of Kevin Brook. Charles hopes to meet some budding college golf hotties, and Jimbo joked that all his groin problems might be solved (unfortunately he didn’t end up going).

After dinner, we headed over to Bandon Trails right before sunset to get a sneak peek of the course. Climbed up to the first tee, and it only took about .5 seconds for our entire group to become absolutely terrified to play Trails tomorrow afternoon. The first hole is a benign 370 or so yards, but it looks like it’s about 480 yards from the tee box. That course looks like a killer. Very cool looking from what little of it we saw.

By the numbers:

Birdie Count: Jim 4 (6 total), Jimbo 0 (1 total)
Scores: Jim 82-80; Jimbo 85-83; Ken 96-90; Charles 102-98
1 - Clubs thrown (Jim, first in a long time...and it felt goooood)
2 - Mouth On Ball violations (for example, saying ‘great shot’ when it’s in the air, only to have the ball end up in the water) by Jimbo on Jim in the first four holes
11-12 - Times Charles played from the wrong fairway (we lost count)
1 - Ranger warnings (actually his hat said ‘Security’ for some reason) to Charles for driving over or between a tee box trying to retrieve one of his wayward tee shots 2 - Number of beds in the one room shared by the four of us. Yikes! 95 - Degrees of said room after Charles cranked up the fireplace.

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