Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bandon Dunes 2010 Trip

After months of anticipation the end of July finally arrived. In the past four years I have visited BDGR twice before in 2006 and 2008, around the first of August. The weather and conditions had always been perfect at that time of year, 60-70 degrees, sunny, with winds up to 40 mph. This year we experienced what the caddies called a Marine Layer for about half the trip. That was like the locals in Florida calling cock roaches, palmetto bugs. To me it was FOG. It produced cooler temps, less wind, and photos that looked like there was a forest fire nearby.

The trip began on a beautiful day with an afternoon round at the Portland GC, which hosted the 1947 Ryder Cup. Next day was Eugene CC, home of some of the tallest trees you will ever play next to. There is no chance of trying to go over these monsters. That afternoon we headed south for the airport in North Bend to pick up the two other golfers who would round out our foursome at BDGR. Four wonderful days of 144 holes didn't tire us down a bit. We all wanted more but had to head back to the Midwest. Before the trip there was concern among some that we would not be able to withstand 10 hours a day walking. Amazingly as the week progressed everyone felt better and better. Was it the fresh salt air rejuvenating our systems, the exercise that kicked in the release of endorphins, the great visuals and golf at BDGR? Probably all of the above, but for sure none of us wanted to return to the real world. Two of us had one more course to play on our way back to Portland for our return flight, Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge. The weather again was picture perfect, sunny, and around 80.

After 20 rounds of golf in the summer at BDGR my next trip will be in the off season to experience how the courses play in the winter winds. So what is my favorite course at BDGR? Pacific Dunes is still the champ, but with a few more rounds on Old Macdonald it may be ready for a title shot. Every hole on Pacific Dunes is strong. Bandon Trails has a nice tranquil feel to the course with many fine holes, but it has the absolutely worst designed green complex at #14 which is a round wrecker. Bandon Dunes to me is a distant 4th to the other three courses and I am amazed how it continually is rated above Bandon Trails by the "experts". Must be the ocean views or it is still living off of its laurels when it was the only course at BDGR. Bottom line is that there is no other place I would rather spend playing golf. If you have never been, put it on the top of your Bucket List because you will not find four better courses at one site in the world.

TRIP TIPS- 1. GOLF-When setting up your courses at BDGR try to schedule the same courses on different days and in the AM and PM. This will give you different pin placements and wind conditions. The wind builds as the day progresses. If you want to take a break from walking one day, head south of town, play Bandon Crossings golf club and take a cart. I have always played 36 holes a day, but you may want to take a half day off just to kick back and explore what all the resort has to offer. Second round of day at BDGR is 1/2 price.
2. LODGING-I would stay off site the night before in Bandon and then spend the the remaining nights at the Resort. I have stayed twice at Lily Pond which are very large rooms with a fireplace and room enough to put a roll away in for a 3rd person which will cut down your lodging costs by a 1/3 at BDGR. This year we stayed at The Inn which overlooks the 18th green, but it is a smaller room which I did not feel was worth the extra expense for a view. The resort has 24 hour shuttle service and I have never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a ride anywhere.
3.FOOD- Great choices at the resort with huge, affordable, breakfasts to start your day off. Some nice places in Bandon proper if you have a car.
4.FLIGHTS- You can fly into North Bend and you will not need a car, but the connections are not that good from the Midwest and more expensive. Two of us flew into Portland and were able to play a round the day we arrived, played the next morning in Eugene and made it to North Bend to pick up the other two guys at the airport in the PM. It is a beautiful 4 1/2 hour drive down from Portland and if you have never seen Oregon I would suggest that route. After our last round we drove back to Portland and could have flown out the next morning. By spending only one more day than the other guys, we played two extra rounds of golf, got to see some beautiful country, and had a car for about what it cost to fly direct.
5.TIME- 3 days- play 36 a day in this order Pacific,Old Mac, BDunes, Trails, Old Mac, Pacific.
4 days- same order + play Bandon Crossings on day 3 with rest of day to play the short course.
5 days- same as 4 day except on day 4 play Pacific in the AM and BDunes in the PM unless the wind is up then switch to Trails. Trails is the least played and most protected from the wind.
6. Caddies- I suggest taking a caddie for at least the first round on each course. At around $80 per round it can add a few hundred $$ to your expenses if you are playing 36 a day. I have either carried or pulled a cart one round every time I have been there.
7. Cost- Figure almost $700 per day if you are playing 36 with caddies, which also includes room and food at the lodge. It is worth every penny to make this trip at least once in your life. $3500 for 4 days of golf, flight, and souvenirs should be enough.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Top Holes by # at Bandon Dunes Resort.

With the addition of Old Macdonald at BDGR I thought it would be interesting to see how each starting hole on down to the finishing holes compare to one another. What I realized when I sat down and started examining each set of four holes was that this is really subjective to my personal feel for each hole not the overall quality of the hole. Some of the holes I didn't pick #1 you can certainly make a strong case that they are better designed or much tougher to make a par on, but I would rather play my first picks over the others.

I will list the four holes in order from first to last using the following abbreviations: B=Bandon Dunes, T=Bandon Trails, O=Old Macdonald, P=Pacific Dunes and a short comment about my first choice.

#1- T,O,P,B. All four ease you into your round nicely but the first at the Trails with the view off the tee and hitting a hybrid into a big bowl is my choice to start my day off with.
#2-P,O,T,B. The par 4 at Pacific wins out over the par 3's.
#3-O,T,P,B. The blind shot over the Port Orford Cedar wins hands down over three fine par 5's.
#4-P,B,O,T. One of my favorite tee shots down wind is to challenge the right side and see how far you can hit it. Makes me feel like John Daly when it runs out over 300 yds. One of the few great holes at Bandon Dunes takes second.
#5-O,P,T,B. Wow, three of my favorite par threes. Flip a coin here and it comes up SHORT.
#6-O,P,T,B. Great par five beats out a great short par 4.
#7-O,P,T,B. The only hole at Old Mac that finishes on the ocean, what a view.
#8-P,T,O,B. I love the options into this green, it always plays long.
#9-P,T,B,O. Dual greens at #9 with dual tees at #10 makes Pacific a 20 hole experience.
#10-B,T,P,O. This was probably the weakest choice I had to make. Tip-#10 at Old Mac I ended up playing down #6 FW to avoid the bunkers.
#11-P,T,D,O. I love this short par 3 at Pacific. Not quite as dramatic as #17 Sawgrass but close.
#12-B,P,T,O. Tough pick here but the ocean view wins out over the other par 3's and the par 5 at Pacific.
#13-P,T,O,B. Another great hole where challenging the ocean will pay big dividends off the tee.
#14-O,P,B,T. Trails #14 is the only hole that I dislike at BDGR. A 12 will make you feel that way.
#15-T,P,O,B. What a great natural green complex.
#16-O,B,P,T. One of the most difficult holes at BDGR with many options depending on the pin placement.
#17-O,P,T,B. Par five with options off the Tee, beats out two great par 3's.
#18-P,O,T,B. The strongest finishing hole of the bunch.

If I assign four points for first to one point for last this is how it shakes out when comparing holes by their number: Pacific Dunes(9)=57, Old Mac(2)=49, Trails(5)=43, Bandon Dunes(4)=31. Numbers in parenthesis are the # rounds I have played on each course during my three trips.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bandon Dunes #5 & #16- Where's the Gorse!

If you remember the little old lady in the TV commercial looking at the small hamburger on the big bun and yelling- Where's the Beef- that is what I feel like when I now play these two holes. Every trip back to the Bandon Dunes course I have noticed the removal of gorse throughout and the widening of fairways. These two holes are great examples of what is going on. To me this has always been the easiest course of the original three. My buddies on this trip called Bandon Dunes, Links Light compared to the other courses. Removing the gorse reminds me of a sickly animal losing its fur.

The Bandon Dunes course in 1999 was the first at BDGR, designed by David McClay Kidd from Scotland. I believe this was his first project and would think it was a big risk to have selected him. I was told by the various caddies that it use to play at least 6 stokes harder and take a lot longer to play due to the tightness of the fairways. Obviously, they have decided that this course is going to play easier and faster by the removal of all the gorse and rough. The caddies also said that the vast majority of golfers that come to BDGR can't break 100. I find that the fairways at all the courses are more than generous off the tee. It really is hard to lose a golf ball, if you bring more than two sleeves of balls you have over packed.
The first course I ever played at BDGR was Bandon Dunes, the day after the 2006 Curtis Cup. Conditions for the Curtis Cup had been unusual in that it was very warm with no wind. We got another calm day that morning and I was able to easily break 80. By the end of our first round the wind started to pick up and build for the next three days, until we had sustained winds of 40 mph with gusts of 50. It was not until 2008 that I would break 80 again on any BDGR course.

Hole # 5 at over 400 yards is a brute of a hole when the summer wind is up. It follows one of the best holes at BDGR. I prefer the angle coming in from the left side of the hole, so I aim to the left of the mounds off the tee. I usually have a long iron or hybrid for my approach shot into this narrowing FW, depending on the wind or pin position. This is a 4 club green as it is 48 yards deep. Easy bogey/hard par hole, I have made two of each on this hole in my four rounds.

With plenty of risk/reward, hole #16 is one of the better short par 4's you will play at BDGR. Now that all the gorse has been removed why not go right at the pin off the tee. Playing from the lay up positions usually gives a tougher angle into the pin. You have the Pacific bordering down the right side, which plays as a lateral hazard with cross ridges to deal with when laying up to the left.

I find that the first time I play a risky hole it is usually my best drive because I have no negative thoughts to clutter my mind of the potential danger. In 2006, the wind at my back had picked up by the time I arrived on the tee and my caddie Damon told me to go for it. As the crow flies it is less than 300 yards to the green, so I let it rip. To my surprise I flew the green and was left with a pitch on for a birdie chance, which I missed. The next time I played the hole I went for the lay up to the left and ended up with my only bogey here. If you can hit it 250 yards I would play the aggressive line off the tee.

Other notable holes: #4, #7, #10, #11, #12, #15, #17.