Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pacific Dunes #11

Sitting inside watching it rain on another cool winter day in Florida has got me day dreaming about my upcoming trip to Bandon Dunes, the first of August. This summer will be my third pilgrimage to the Resort. Now with the new fourth course opened we will be playing 8 rounds over four days, instead of the six I have played the past two trips. The weather at the start of August has been in the 60-70 degree range, sunny, with average winds of 10-20 mph. It can be much stronger and the courses are designed with the ground game in mind. One of my most used shots is the hybrid runner from up to 100 yards out when the wind is gusting. Walking is mandatory with caddies and pull carts available.

Of the three courses I have played there, Pacific Dunes is my favorite followed by Bandon Trails. Pacific was designed by Tom Doak's team and came online in 2001. In fact of all the courses I have played to date, if I had one last course to play again, Pacific Dunes is the one I would pick.

There are endless ways to go about playing each hole at Pacific, with the many routes you can take on the ground or through the air. The fescue fairways are very generous and almost as firm and fast as the fescue greens. It is somewhat unconventional in the layout with two par 3's starting out your back nine. But they are so different that you never really get the feeling you have just played back to back one shot holes. Before your back nine is completed you will have another two par 3's and a short par 4 to experience. Par is 35 and plays a bit over 3100 yards from the back tees. It is one of the most enjoyable nines you will ever play. Who says you need length to have a great course?

The 11th hole is a short par 3 that plays from 110 to 145 yards. In the summer it usually plays into the prevailing NW wind which can get up to 40 mph or more. On the left is the Pacific Ocean ,110 feet below, with a deep bunker in between it and the green. Short is a series of tiered bunkers, gorse, and beach grass. To the right are three more bunkers to keep you in play. If that were not enough of a challenge, you are shooting uphill at the smallest green on the course.

When you step up to the tee this is one of the most beautiful and visual intimidating holes you will ever play. It ranks right up there with the 7th at Pebble and 17th at TPC Stadium that I have played. Actually, the hole has more bark than bite. I think of the five par 3's at Pacific Dunes it is the easiest for me.

I have played it in moderate winds, and winds of 40 gusting to 50 mph. That particular windy day I hit an exceptional 6 iron from 110 yards right over the pin to about 6 feet. I have hit as little as a PW. Missing to the right you will initially think you have got to be dead, but more times than not you will have a chance to hit it on the green and have a shot at par. The one place you don't want to go is left on the beach below, fortunately the stronger the wind the less chance you have of doing so. There are bunkers guarding the left side of the green, so don't be afraid to aim at these if the summer wind is up.

I have played this hole six times with the worst score being a bogey. I have had some good birdie chances but have only made one. Even par at #11 for my 6 rounds, is the best I have done on any of the holes at Pacific Dunes. Visual intimidation, beauty, and scoreablity are reasons why this is one of my favorites at Pacific Dunes.

8/1/10 Update. My favorite par three at Pacific Dunes did not treat me so well on this trip. I plugged in the left bunker and took a double my last round but was still able to shoot 78. The other two days produced bogies from the right side. This trip I played the other par 3's at even par.

Other notable short holes at Pacific: #2,#5,#6,#14,#16, and #17.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pacific Dunes #4 & #13

These two long par 4's both play totally along the Pacific Ocean, but in opposite directions. Holes #4 and #13 are some of most awe inspiring and difficult holes I have played. There always seems to be wind coming off the ocean in the summer which is cool and refreshing. Take a deep breath and be assured you are getting some of the freshest and purest air in the world.

Looking along the shoreline into the beautiful blue sky while you take that deep breath should help relax you a bit before hitting that tee shot on #4. The back tee box is positioned out on a finger toward the ocean. Playing downwind and at around 450 yards, you can either hit a driver or 3-wood off the tee. The fescue fairways at Pacific Dunes will run out downwind like you would not believe. A well placed drive will get you out to the area of the bunker on the left and leave you with around 180 or less in. To far right you are on down on the beach below with the wind surfers, to far to the left you end up in the bunker. If you go OB right there is little chance you can utilize the lateral red stakes on your drive unless you hit one big slice, so error to the left if you must.

If you have been able to leave your tee shot on the right side of the fairway you will have a great angle into the green. To far left and the raised bunker 50 yards in front of the green comes into play. Which ever position you are in you have got to play much shorter than you think on your approach and to the left side of the green. As the one photo caption denotes, the back right bunker has become my home. The green slopes from left to right and I swear back into that bunker. The ball never seems to want to stop rolling on this green. I have played 3 wood and 7 iron on this hole and still ended up long. So play at least two clubs shorter to allow for the firm and fast fairways. If the pin is back right be careful not to putt the ball to far past the hole or the slope and sometimes strong winds may take you into that bunker. I have hit what I thought were two good shots here and still have never come away with a par on this hole. Bogey is a good score for me.

Hole #13 takes you back into the summer prevailing wind. In the distance to the right you will see the largest natural bunker you have ever played. A generous landing area awaits your tee shot. As most great architects do, the closer you play to the riskiest portion of the hole the easier your approach shot will be. If you play down the left side and put the ocean in play, you not only get the best angle but there is a down slope run out area that will take you much closer to the hole than the right side will. Play it to the right and you bring into play bunkers at around 70 yards out and a poor angle. With the left to right wind helping keep you in play, challenge the left side here. Ideal shot would be a low draw into the wind off the tee. Worst case is if you over cook it, you will get a lateral drop where you went down into the ocean.

Your approach shot from 135-200 yards is to a long, elevated green with a false front. Make sure your shot makes it to at least the middle third of the green or you may be watching it roll 50 yards back down the fairway. A back pin position into any wind, expect to play several clubs more than you might think. Hitting it on the middle third of this green will go a long way to a good score here.

Walking up to the green you will notice how enormous the dunes on your right actually are. You may see a ball all the way up at the top and wonder how could anyone hit it there. Worse yet there may even be foot prints up to the area. Once on the green take a look out over the ocean to the north, this is the last time you will see the ocean on this round. Similar to a back pin at hole #4, this time be careful putting downwind to a front pin position at #13. I have made par twice here, both by getting up and down. It helped me post the two best rounds I have played at Pacific Dunes. My last round in 2008, I finally was able to break 80 with a 77. Again, bogey is a very good score here.

Holes #4 and #13 will give you the two extremes of wind conditions at Bandon. The Practice area at the Resort is one of the largest you will find. The practice green has got to be almost 100 yards long. Until you get on the course you wonder why such a huge green? Only after having to putt that far out on the course will you realize why. The fairways really have no big difference in speed from the greens, and can be putted on. The other unique feature is that on either side of this practice green are two driving ranges, one facing north and the other south. Be sure and allow yourself plenty of time to use both of these as it will be a great help in determining how many clubs you need to adjust into and down wind for that days play.

Looking at my old scorecards, I have played these two holes 20 over par for my nine rounds. These are two holes that I play as bogey being my par. Between the two of them you will have the opportunity to play just about every shot you have in your bag. I am looking forward to the challenge of playing these another three times this summer.

8/1/10 Update. My first round of the 2010 trip I parred both #4 and #13. Missed an 8' birdie putt on #4, but was happy to make my first par on it in 7 rounds. I challenged the right side of #4 and left side of #13 with my drives. The left side of #13 FW actually has a punch bowl effect to keep you in play, so if you can get it on the ground it should stay in play.

Other notable long holes: #3, #7, #8, #15, and #18.