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Bandon Dunes Golf Resort: Readers have shared their thoughts, now it's time to respond

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Pacific Dunes - No. 3
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The three links at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort may be challenging, but the fairways are often plenty wide enough for even the worst duffer. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)

The golf courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort are among the most reviewed by WorldGolf.com's readers.

Having just returned from a trip there myself, it's easy to see why. Bandon Dunes puts the golfer first and foremost, making for an unforgettable golf getaway for any lover of links.

With my own trip now complete, I've been re-reading some of the comments left by you, the readers, and there are some points brought up, in particular, to which I'd like to respond.

On the Bandon Dunes course's links-style difficulty, Joel Grant wrote in March:

"I and 10 golf buddies stayed at the resort and played all three courses. Collectively they are the most difficult, wonderful and maddening golf courses I have ever played. Do NOT play here if you are a hack. Simple as that."

Maybe it's because I caught the courses on an abnormally calm stretch of days where club selection was seldom swayed by more than one or two clubs, but I wouldn't call the courses "maddeningly difficult," although hitting some shots around these massive greens takes some getting used to. In fact, all three golf courses have very wide fairways, so you shouldn't lose too many balls. I saw some pretty bad swings over my six rounds, so it's safe to say there are hacks on the golf course there. And unlike many of the Scottish golf clubs, you don't need to present a handicap certificate to get on a course here. I would say a 24-handicap could still immensely enjoy these courses, so long as they're not dealing with 20 mph-plus wind speeds.

And Bandon Dunes does have its own teaching academy that can help you learn the shots you need on these links or tighten up any loose ends so you can have the closest thing to your "A" game out there.

On the Pebble Beach Golf Links vs. Bandon Dunes debate that Golf Magazine sparked several years ago when Pacific Dunes was rated the best public golf course in America, reader Paul Engstrom wrote: "Why play Pebble? The courses are in better shape, and the staff is wonderful, as opposed to the pompous and snooty staff at Pebble. The views are the best on the West Coast ... a total first class operation ... and the scones are wonderful!"

Having not played Pebble Beach myself, I have heard polarizing opinions on its place in the hierarchy of golf courses in America. Some say it simply cannot be beat, while others say there a few weak holes and has a more corporate atmosphere than they would like.

I invited my uncle along with me to Bandon Dunes, because he played Pebble himself about 15 years ago with his father. I asked him to compare and contrast the two a little after we'd played Pacific Dunes, and he said while Pacific Dunes was remarkable in its own right, there's something about playing a golf course you grew up watching Arnie, Jack and Watson competing on. Until the day an event could somehow make it out to this remote part of Oregon, that will always be the argument from those who favor Pebble.

Regarding the service and amenities at Bandon Dunes, I will agree with Paul that the service at Bandon is top-notch but not in-your-face like some other golf resorts, where there is always a door man/valet/bag boy, etc., around trying to get a tip from you for a pretty lame reason. It's a very understated kind of luxury at Bandon Dunes and something it does to perfection. I also praise it for its reasonable halfway house and grill prices, something many larger resorts won't hesitate to gouge you on, like $4 bottles of soda.

On Pacific Dunes' incredible links topography, 18-handicap Scott English wrote in October: "Incredible golfing experience. I can't wait to go back. The layout was challenging but fair. I had never played anything like it. It's almost the perfect topography for a golf course, and Doak laid it out very naturally."

Having played a great deal of links golf in the British Isles and Ireland, I would say that Pacific Dunes' land may be some of the firmest I've ever seen.

Having played a great deal of links golf in the British Isles and Ireland, I would say that Pacific Dunes' land may be some of the firmest I've ever seen (and I have the calluses on my feet to prove it). The only other course I can think of that might be firmer is Pennard Golf Club in Wales, which is set on rocky bluffs overlooking the sea, much like how Bandon Dunes overlooks the Pacific.

The greens on Pacific Dunes are incredibly large and firm, and there was a term used by our caddie I'd never heard before, "chunk and run," which happens when you chunk your ball pretty bad but the ball still over-spins and bounds its way to the hole. One of the best shots I hit all trip was a "chunk and run" on No. 13, which somehow found its way to six feet from the hole. On a "normal" course, I would have easily been 40 yards short.

Most recently, Mike Wong wrote in April on Bandon Dunes' variety of courses, "I like Pacific Dunes, my partner liked Trails a lot, but all three have something to recommend. Different type of golf than typical resort golf, challenging, and should be experienced."

As I let the three courses sink in a little, I think I might be slightly partial to Bandon Dunes over Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails, with holes like the par-5 12th, signature 16th along the rocks (which is drivable with a good poke and a little tailwind) and even the 17th. It's also a little easier than Pacific Dunes for the mid-handicapper.

But I'll probably change my mind about which is my favorite repeatedly over the years. I liked Pacific Dunes' alternate greens and tees on No. 9 and 10 and its three par 3s on the back nine, and Bandon Trails had some of the prettiest parkland holes I'd ever seen, though the turf was still a fast and firm fescue, making for a sort of "inland links" course.

And a fourth course at Bandon is currently being seeded, Old MacDonald, that many are saying could become the toughest, most traditional links-style course here when complete. It's just another excuse to head back to Bandon Dunes and to share your thoughts on WorldGolf.com's reader review section.

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Bandon Trails - Hole 18

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Bandon-Pebble

    Walter Bagley wrote on: Jul 8, 2008

    You have never played Pebble and you are writing about golf courses?? Pulleeeze