Bandon Trails

Green Keeper: Ken Nice

13th hole, 400 yards; A well conceived driving hole with a forest to the right and two large bunkers left pinching in the landing area 150 yards from the green. The green complex is the most built-up on the course yet because of the skill in its construction (i.e. how natural it looks), the approach shot is one of the course’s most engaging ones. As Seth Raynor demonstrated eighty-five years ago, where there is a built-up green, there is a deep bunker(s), and such is the case here.

So gradual is the slope up to the 13th putting surface and so tied in is the back of the green to the hill slope behind, the golfer remains blissfully unaware of the work and dirt (and skill) that went into creating this most attractive green complex.

The built-up 13th green pad allowed Coore & Crenshaw to build the most intimidating greenside bunker on the course.

14th hole, 325 yards; Perhaps the most merciless hole that Coore & Crenshaw have ever designed, the student of architecture (more so than the golfer!) delights in seeing them push the design envelope with this sliver of a green complex. Especially on a public access course, one might have thought that they could have tempered its severity one way or another. Perhaps the green could have been bigger than its 4,000 square feet, much of which does not readily afford usable hole locations. Perhaps the bunkers right didn’t need to be so deep or the fall-off over so abrupt.  Maybe the chipping area left could have been made more conducive to getting the ball up and down. The fact that they stayed the course speaks well as to how Keiser and Coore & Crenshaw interacted. Like the 8th at Pine Valley Golf Club, there is simply no way to insure one gets a par, no matter how defensively or ‘smart’ one plays the hole. The golfer simply must execute a very crisp wedge shot or the resulting score could be anything. Indeed, it would be interesting to compare the scoring average of the 14th here and the 8th at PVGC during a four day stroke event: No telling which would be higher. Thanks to its unique green complex seemingly clinging to the side of the hill, both Ben Crenshaw and Mike Keiser volunteer this as their favorite hole on the course; few golfers who triple it tend to agree!

The golfer emerges from the forest to this glorious long view afforded from the 14th tee. For a hole of modest length, the 14th fairway at 70 yards in width is unusually generous. However, it is paramount that the golfer place his tee ball in its left third.

The ideal drive stays on the upper left third of the fairway and leaves the golfer with a manageable pitch along the slim ridge that feeds onto the kidney shape green. Tee balls in the right half of the fairway leave the golfer with a dramatically uphill shot to a small green set at an angle. Invariably, disaster mounts on disaster from approach shots played from the right.

A view from behind the 14th green shows its precipice nature as well as how elevated the tee is.

15th hole, 405 yards; The merit of the final stretch run of holes is unquestionable as all are very good holes and two of them (here and 17th) are routinely sited among the finest on the course. What varies greatly is just how hard they play. As they head in a general northerly direction, the march home into the summer’s southerly prevailing wind can be a tough one. The highlight of the 15th is the superb natural green location that Coore discovered. Tucked in an amphitheater of dunes left, right and behind, there was little that Coore & Crenshaw did to give this green complex its excellent golfing qualities.

The 15th fairway sweeps past the cross bunker above and to the right, ending at one of the great green sites in world golf.

Though the 14th green complex was manufactured, the 15th's green complex is the most natural on the course and stands testament to Coore's ability to capture the finest natural features of a site within the final routing.

The 15th hole's primary defense is its putting surface. This photograph highlights the green's back to front nature as well as its false front. Jim Craig's bunker and green work made the most of the fabulous green site.

16th hole, 530 yards; Think about the thrill and the variety of the challenges posed by the tee balls at Bandon Trails: down into the dunes at the 1st, avoiding the numerous bunkers off the 3rd, the ridge at the 4th, the solitary bunker at the 6th, the drivable 8th, etc. Always with plenty of room off the tee to encourage a free swing, the golfer nonetheless enjoys the chess match with the different features in seeking the optimum advantage off the tee. Often, like here at the 16th, the golfer will aim at spot X in order for his drive to finish at spot Y. Perhaps only the 7th rewards big hitting without a corresponding amount of thought. All told, the author places Bandon Trails among the half dozen finest driving courses he has seen.

Especially into a summer wind, the 16th tee ball can feel like one of the day's most demanding tee balls. Nonetheless, the pronounced landform on the right is the golfer's friend and should be used to kick one's tee ball into the right middle of the fairway, the ideal spot for one's second.

In wonderfully sharp contrast to the prior green site, the one at the 16th is on top of a dune, exposed to the day's wind. Most approach shots like the one seen above invariably come up short of the hole location.

17th hole, 180 yards; The 17th became an immediate favorite of painters, photographers, as well as golfers the day it opened in June, 2005 thanks to the rich texture and contrast provided by the hole’s setting. The false front leads to a tabletop green with a tightly mown fall-off back right. The team of Coore & Crenshaw are justly proud of the deep right front bunker they created. Though the green is open in front, the downhill tee to green nature of the hole combined with the aforementioned green complex make it difficult to run a shot on. The green lends itself to an aerial approach and controlling one’s flight and distance through the wind is the challenge.

As the 17th hole looks like it has always been apart of the landscape, it is hard to believe that Bandon Trails had been open for only twenty months when this photograph was taken.

Perfect for paint - the 17th at Bandon Trails as captured by artist Mike Miller.

The beautifully constructed bunker right of the 17th green dominates the golfer's eye from the tee. The kinnickinik is particularly attractive in the bunker's face.

18th hole, 400 yards; Into the summer wind, the golfer is content to reach the crest of the far dune with his drive. In the winter or on calm days, the golfer entertains hopes of seeing his tee ball carry the crest of the said dune and run to the bottom, leaving but a short iron approach. The green is located on top of another dune. As at the 7th, the onus is on the golfer to insure his approach carries well onto the putting surface; otherwise, the false front sends the ball back down the fairway. Given the inspired natural landforms from tee to green, it wasn’t necessary to create features to make this hole a strategic marvel; the sense of man vs. nature as the golfer plays through the sand dunes makes for a scintillating finish.

The 18th green as seen from 170 yards back in the fairway. The summer wind against combined with the false front often leaves the golfer with a twenty yard pitch recovery from down in the fairway.

Having just played Bandon Trails, it is impossible that any golfer would lament the lack of cliff top holes. Though different, the property at Bandon Trails proved to be in no way inferior to the property of the other two courses. Indeed, Coore says that ‘its initial biggest drawback of not having the cliff top holes proved to be its biggest asset as it led the course to have so much variety.’ Bandon Trails shares two key elements with Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes: sand and excellent turf. Beyond that though, it stands alone from the others yet acts as a perfect complement, something that pleases Mike Keiser and Coore & Crenshaw a great deal.

The End