In the mid-90s a millionaire named Mike Keiser decided to buy 1,200 acres of coastal property in a remote area of Oregon.
Keiser made his millions through his own greeting card company called, Recycled Paper Greetings. He was a golf nut from the time he was young. After building a 9-hole course in Michigan in the 80s, he searched for years hoping to find a property to build a proper links-style course.
When he was close to giving up, he got a call about property in Bandon, Oregon, which is about 4 hours south of Portland. By 1999, he had his first course on the property, Bandon Dunes, built by David McLay Kidd, a first time golf course architect from Scotland.
Today, there are five courses, four of which are full 18-hole courses, and one is a 13-hole par-3 course. The courses, in order of when they were built, are Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, Old MacDonald, and Bandon Preserve, which is the 13-hole course. All of the courses sit on a magnificent property, and are designed by this generation’s greatest golf course designers.
Additionally, there is a practice area that has a driving range, short game area, putting green, and a 9-hole par-3 course called “Shorty’s” that’s designed to help you warm up before a round. The resort also has the “Punch Bowl” which is an 18-hole putting course filled with curves and mounds. It’s basically mini-golf for adults.
If this sounds like golf heaven, that’s because it is. And I got to experience it this August. I spent four days and three nights at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. In that time I played everything except the Punch Bowl. I played Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, and Bandon Preserve twice. I played Shorty’s, and Old MacDonald, one and a half times. I played Bandon Trails once.
It was exhausting and amazing. I highly recommend it to anyone that likes golf even a little bit. Like just about everyone else on the property I took a ton of photos to try to capture what it’s like at Bandon Dunes.
The actual resort is set in a ways from the road, so if you have to go to the bathroom, don't think you're off the hook as soon as you turn in!
I checked in, but my room wasn't ready, so I headed to the range. After hitting a few shots, I played Shorty's, the 9-hole warm up course. This is hole 9, which is about 150 yards into the wind.
This is the putting green next to the first hole of Pacific Dunes, which is where I played my first round. In the distance is the Punch Bowl.
This photo was taken from the second tee box at Pacific Dunes. Pretty quickly, I figured out this is unlike any other golf course in the world.
This is a view from the third tee box on Pacific Dunes. From here, you start moving out to the ocean.
This is the fourth hole. It's brilliant. You want to hit your tee shot out to the left to avoid the massive drop on the right side. But even if you do that, your approach into the hole is still going to be aimed at the cliff because the green sits out to the right. So, your best play is to hit it right, then you have a straight shot into the green. But who has the guts or skill to hit that tee shot?
Here we are on the fourth hole again, looking back at the tee box. You can see the stunning views here, but what you don't see is how strong the wind is whipping. I'm not a big hitter, but I caught the downwind breeze (and the slope of the turf) and had a 268 yard 3-wood land in the back corner of the green. I had to hit a 3-wood because I sliced my tee shot on to the beach below.
When the wind is at your back, you can pump a drive 315 yards. Without wind, I normally hit it 240 yards. Into the wind, I was lucky to hit my driver 200 yards.
There's only one golf ball I play. (Not actually true! I only have two Business Insider golf balls, and I'm scared to play them for fear of losing them in the woods.)
This is from the same day, the same round. About mid-way through, the fog rolled in. It's cold enough there that I was wearing long pants and short sleeved wind jacket.
This is the par-3 11th hole. The back nine starts with two back to back par-3s. This is another jaw-droppingly beautiful hole.
Because I am an idiot, I forgot to take photos of my room, or of the food at the restaurants. The accommodations are great, and the food is good, I promise. Here is a photo of the main lodge at 7 in the morning. It's foggy out there!
When you're in the fairway of the third hole, the fairway of the fourth hole is just to your left. You can see the sun breaking through again.
This is the fifth hole. It's one of the prettiest par-3 holes on the property. It has a tricky multi-tiered green.
As you can see here, Bandon Trails is totally different than Pacific Dunes. It starts near the ocean, then moves inward, and eventually you are surrounded by pine trees. It actually feels quite a bit like Pinehurst No. 2.
This hole has an amazing view. Of equal importance, it's a great golf hole. It's just a touch over 300 yards to a slim green. You're free to bang away with the driver, odds are you'll hit fairway somewhere. But then you have a tough green to hold.
Here's another gorgeous par 3 on Bandon Trails. It's the 17th hole. After wandering through the woods, you're aimed back towards the ocean, which is far off in the distance. But you can hear it from the tee box.
After a meal and a break, I was back at it, heading to Bandon Dunes, the original course, and in my opinion the best course on the property.
Debating which course is best is silly since you can make a strong argument for any of them to be the best. I think Bandon has the best views on the property, and the best mix of holes. (This is the par-3 second at Bandon Dunes.)
This stuff is gorse. It's all over the property. If you see a golf ball in it, you may want to stick your arm in there to get the ball. When your arm comes out of the gorse it will be covered in gorse, and probably bleeding.
Here is where Bandon Dunes really opens up. This is the fourth hole, and from the tee box it looks like any other hole.
The hole dog legs to the right. And once you're in the fairway, you can see the hole open up and suddenly you're hitting your second shot into a green that sits on the ocean.
Here's a look at the greens at Bandon Dunes. This photo doesn't quite capture it, but the greens are firm, almost all dirt. They're totally different than what you have at your local course.
Here is one of the people I was paired with walking up the green of the 12th hole. Most people get caddies. There are NO carts. It's all walking unless you get a note from a doctor, so most people have caddies.
Here's a video that gives you an idea of how expansive the property is at Bandon Dunes. You can see multiple greens that all run along the ocean. If you have the sound on, you can hear the wind whipping in the background.
This photo is of the hump-filled fairway on the par 5 13th hole. One thing that's great about all the courses is that the fairways are wide open, so you don't have to be worried about losing an errant drive.
Here we are in the fairway at 17 of Bandon Dunes. Deer run behind us. The great fun of the open fairways is that there are a number of options for playing the course. You decide the strategy for each hole, not the guy who grows the rough and decides where you can and cannot hit the ball.
Standing in the 17th fairway, you can see Bandon Preserve, the par-3 course. It might be my favourite thing at the resort.
And, hey, here we are on Bandon Preserve! I played at dusk, which is something every golf must do before they die.
None of the holes are longer than 150 yards. They all have views of the ocean, and they play in the wind. It's the best way to learn how to play the wind at Bandon.
You just don't get views like this anywhere else. You can see much of the Preserve headed out to the ocean as the sun sets.
This is the 5th hole, and it's a doozy. It's 110, but you want to hit a 70 yard shot to the right and let the wind carry it to the pin.
I don't have much to say about this one! Sunsets don't normally translate to photos, but this one did.
And... we're back again for another day. I'm back at Pacific Dunes. This is how foggy it can get in the morning. You can't see the fairway. Just hit and hope if you don't know where you're going.
After playing Pacific, I head over to Old MacDonald, which is the most wide open of all the courses on the property.
Old MacDonald is probably my least favourite of the courses, but that doesn't mean much. If it were in the New York Metro area it would be the top ranked public course. It's a great, great course. It just has tough competition!
Here's a look at how much I walked during the two days when I played golf all day. By the end of the day, I could barely stand.
All-in-all, it was a blast. If you're thinking about going, do it. If you like golf at all, you have to go. There's no place on Earth quite like it, as far as I can tell.
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