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|Before Chambers Bay came along, the American course getting all the rave was Pacific Dunes at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)|
Chambers Bay was awarded the 2015 U.S. Open, Pacific Dunes is ranked as high as the best golf course in America. So which new northwest links is better?
The USGA has spoken, awarding Chambers Bay a U.S. Open Championship before it was even out of its terrible twos.
It's a big reason why Chambers Bay is currently America's most hyped golf course, on a level we haven't seen in quite some time. It takes that title from another one of the Pacific Northwest's gems when it opened in 2001, Pacific Dunes at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the southern coast of Oregon, which quickly unseated Pebble Beach Golf Links in Golf Magazine's "Top 100 Courses You Can Play in America" in 2006 and in 2008. Chambers Bay debuted in eighth position.
The two courses are linked for many reasons. They have the same management company, Kemper Sports, and both have achieved success by striving to offer the pure links golf experience, but they come with a wealth of differences as well.
In our WorldGolf.com exit polls, those who review Chambers Bay have a tendency to compare the course to the courses down the coast at Bandon Dunes.
Wrote 11-handicapper Joel Grant in February of 2008:
"For those of us who live near Seattle and for whom Bandon Dunes is a long trip, we now have a taste of Bandon in the Puget Sound."
Fellow 8-handicapper Bob Mart proclaimed in June of 2009: "(Chambers Bay) is better than any course at Bandon Dunes, and better than Pebble Beach."
Colin Campbell, a 7-handicap wrote: "I grew up playing in Scotland's west coast: Turnberry, (Royal) Troon, etc. (Chambers Bay) is the BEST US Links golf course I have ever played. Bandon is overpriced and over-rated for golf (great for social)."
Interesting comments coming from a U.K. golfer who has played the true links of Scotland, because Chambers Bay and Pacific Dunes are quite different.
If the question comes down to which is the better pure golf links, there can be no debating Pacific Dunes' superiority.
While Chambers Bay has been sculpted out of a gravel mine by Robert Trent Jones Jr. into the mold of a links (with a price tag reportedly around $20 million), Pacific Dunes was found on some of North America's most dramatic pure links land, where little land shaping was needed and natural bunkers abounded.
WorldGolf.com reader "dyakimec" agrees with me that calling Chambers Bay a "pure links course" is a bit of a stretch, commenting on Jason Scott Deegan's recent course review of Chambers Bay: "Yes, Chambers Bay does possess links like qualities, but true links golf cannot be 'manufactured.'"
As for being a complete golf course on the other hand, one that can be played by both 20-handicappers and the plus-5 PGA Tour pros during the U.S. Open, Chambers Bay gets the nod. The course can play over 7,500 yards for the pros but can be quite playable from five other sets of tee boxes and lacks the kind of round-killing bunkering that can't be avoided by high-handicappers on Pacific Dunes. The USGA is especially intrigued by Chambers flexibility with tee boxes, so look for them to make full use of the creativity.
As an 8-handicap player who isn't counting on qualifying for the 2015 U.S. Open or 2010 U.S. Amateur, I would rather play Pacific Dunes than Chambers Bay for a variety of reasons.
I find the design of Pacific Dunes to be far more complex. I admire the alternate ninth green and 10th tee boxes daily, to the imaginative routing on Pacific Dunes, with its seven par 4s on the front nine and four par 3s on the back nine. The par-4 16th is a rare hole that plays easier into the wind than downwind, thanks to the delicacy of the approach shot.
Scratch players are probably going to opt for Chambers Bay, and part of that is because Pacific Dunes doesn't set up a back set of tees for daily play, even though there are some hidden tee boxes that could stretch the course out. For pace of play reasons, these tees are generally not used. But for 95 percent of golfers, Pacific Dunes' daily setup is tough enough.
So, all things being equal, I'd opt for a round on Pacific Dunes over Chambers Bay. That said, getting to Bandon Dunes ain't easy, and I'll bet I'm in the Seattle-Tacoma region again before I'm "passing through" Bandon.
Green fees: Chambers Bay (non-resident) - $149-169; Pacific Dunes - $210-265.
Course yardage: Chambers Bay - 7,585, 76.9/135 (middle tees: 6,541, 72.2/129); Pacific Dunes - 6,633, 71.9/129 (middle-back tees: 6,142 69.3-125).
Getting to Chambers Bay: Chambers Bay is located near Tacoma in University Place, a half hour's drive south from Sea-Tac Airport.
Getting to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort: Bandon is a five-hour drive from Portland, 2.5 hours from Eugene. Direct flights are available from San Francisco and Portland via United Airlines to North Bend (OTH) Airport which is 20 minutes north of the resort.
August 23, 2009
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.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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