Bandon Dunes is synonymous today with the world’s best golf resort. The original course is now complimented by two additional courses (with a fourth on the way), but it remains the impetus for the resort’s immense popularity. Given the strength of the subsequent courses at the resort, Bandon has faded only slightly from its initially lofty status, a testament to its original underlying quality. Golf architects rarely produce their best work in their first course for several reasons. One reason is obviously inexperiencebut just as importantly, they alsohave yet to establish aconstruction crew that knows how to best translate their ideas into the dirt.Although David McLay Kidd understood the strategy of golf architecture, the finishing details at Bandon Dunes pale relative to those of its sister courses, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails. These later two courses benefited immeasurably from the veteran team that designed and built the respective courses. DoesBandon Dunes stand up to scrutiny in the way that Pebble Beach and Cypress Point have for decades? No. However, it certainly stands toe-to-toe – and then some – with many heralded modern courses such as Spyglass Hill and Kauri Cliffs. Bandon is a special place, largely due to the fact that it enjoysas romantic a settingas any course built since World War II. Yet most people who play here struggle for specific comments onits designaspects. They justly rave about the setting of the course,the firm and fast playing conditions that Green Keeper Troy Russell and his staff present, the understated clubhouse and its cozy cabins. While these factors enhance the overall ambience and experience, they also mask a very good, but not great, design. One of the design’s chief attributes is that Bandon Dunes remains imminently playable in even the fiercest of winds. The fairways are quite generous and the greens huge, althoughboth unnecessarily so in spots. However, this concept works well even in calm conditions as the reasonable and interesting undulations of the greens present a challenge in terms of negotiating 50 feet with two putts. Bandon’s design weakness lies in its finishing touches, which are sometimes not fully and compellingly integrated together. The scenic sixth hole, for example, is quite demanding, but largely due to the awkwardness ofitsraised green complex, which negates the opportunity to hit a low running shotunder the prevailing summer winds. One great course that Bandon Dunes doesshare broad similarities with is Royal Portrush. The owner Mike Keiser has long enjoyed playing links golf in the United Kingdom and Portrush is a course he admires. Similar to Harry Colt’s masterpiece, the 4th and 5th at Bandon are the course’s most compelling two shot holes and are followed by a tough one shotter,both ninesloop to the cliff’s edge, there is a general paucity of greenside bunkering, the golfer is given a chance in windy conditions as putts tend not to break much near the hole, and finally, the arresting nature of some of the holes helps the golfer overlook several mediocre ones. Some guests declare Bandon Dunes their favourite course at the resort and this is largely testament to the oceanside holes mentioned. The feeling of turning the corner at the fourth hole andtrying to drive the reachable 16th hole give the golfer greatthrills, the equal of any of the high notes reachedat its two world-class sister courses. As we see below, the Scot Kidd especially succeeded in coming up with strategic concepts, which he undoubtedly derived from his experience on his native links.
Holes to Note
Forth hole, 410 yards; The authors’ favorite hole, the fourthoffers little encouragement from the tee as the hole sweeps right. The player can see only fairway and bushes (from the back tee not even the fairway is visible!), which presents the golfer with an all or nothing drive. After a successful tee ball, the hole unfolds before the player as he nears the corner of this dogleg right. David Kidd wanted this approach to be the player’s introduction to the ocean, and what a glorious one it is. The player now faces a mid-iron to the angled green with bunkers to the left and ocean beyond. Unlike the drive, the approach is not a death or glory affair as there is plenty of room near this large green
Fifth hole, 445 yards; The fifth leaves one withmixed feelings about what is probably the most photographed hole at Bandon Dunes. The approach shot through the dunes is arguably the course’s finest. However, what is perplexing is how not enough room wascreated to the left of theislands of rough in the fairway. The player is simply not tempted to drive down that side (although doing so would provide for a better approach as the right side of the fairway offers a blind second). Since this is already a 445-yarder into the prevailing wind, the fifth should in theory have one of the wider fairways on the course, not one of the narrowest.David Kiddmaintains the islands were originally there so he merely left them. Still, if the left fairway were enlarged so as to be a real option, it would be an all-world.
Seventh hole, 410 yards; Boasting a long time favourite ploy of Pete Dye and Tim Liddy, the tee ball favors a draw while the approach shot favors a fade. The green is one of the most boldly contoured and from its elevated perch, requires an exacting approach for a hole of its length. Architecturally, this is one of thefiner oneson the course though few people talk about it as it is removed from the cliffs.