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15 things to know before booking your Bandon Dunes golf trip

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Bandon Dunes. Almost from the day it opened, the passion project on the Oregon coast by developers Michael Keiser and Howard McKee has been one of the most sought-after golf destinations in the world. Fast forward, and the resort now boasts 5 courses, three of which are rated in the top 10 public courses in America. It started with Bandon Dunes, arguably the first true links course in the United States. Designed by Scottish wunderkind David McLay Kidd. It is the embodiment of pure golf, a revolution and a revival at the same time. If you woke up on the first tee and didn’t know where you were, you would swear that you were on one of the great courses of the Emerald Isle or bonny Scotland.

After Bandon Dunes came Pacific Dunes, the Tom Doak masterpiece that debuted in 2001 with more ocean views than the QE2 and now ranks only behind Pebble Beach among public courses in the United States. Pacific Dunes is as stunningly beautiful as a Hollywood starlet and, when the prevailing North wind is blowing, about as difficult to approach.

Then came Old Macdonald, another links gem that ranks number 10 in the country but may have the most passionate following of all of the courses. Even though it’s only been around for about a decade, it has an old soul. Old Macdonald is a course completely without pretense; walking it is in so many ways like a walk through life, full of beauty and fraught with danger, moments of glory and of potential four-putt despair. Like all great links layouts, Old Macdonald can be successfully navigated by players of all abilities and styles.

And there is the classic parkland beauty of Bandon Trails by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the partnership that is dropping a trail of golf magic from coast to coast. The cherry on top is Bandon Preserve, the 13-hole short course that is a condensed version of the original and now ranks as the No. 1 short course in the U.S., just ahead of a 9-hole course in Augusta, Georgia that is reasonably difficult to book a tee time for.

Most people rightly compare the Bandon experience to Ireland or Scotland; the golf is stellar no matter which course you play, it is surprisingly affordable, and the off-course amenities are as memorable as the courses themselves. Truth of the matter is that from the East Coast it’s easier to get to Dublin than it is to get to Bandon. But once you get to Ireland you’d have to spend days moving from hotel to hotel on roads the size of cart paths in order to get the level of golf that is available within a five minute shuttle ride of your hotel room at Bandon Dunes. With the golf, the food, and the camaraderie, you are almost guaranteed to have a memorable golf experience at Bandon Dunes. But there are a few ways that you can 100 percent guarantee that it will be extra special…for your consideration, I present some tips to assure a perfect Bandon Experience.

1) Be prepared to walk

With only the rare exception (two or three rounds a day), all of the courses at Bandon Dunes are walking courses and they are not an easy walk . One round takes you on a 5+ mile walk up and down the dunes, and if you plan to play 36 holes on at least one day (see below), it will take a toll on your body. Walk some rounds or get on a treadmill to prepare before you get to Oregon and bring plenty of your preferred pain medication.

2) Book during May or December

The weather on the Oregon coast can be unpredictable to say the least, even in the summer months when tee times are the most expensive and difficult to secure. Booking in the shoulder season means not only greater availability; it’s also about 30% cheaper. And Bandon veterans know that there are days in December when warm Southerly winds bring weather when you can play in shirtsleeves.

3) Bring the proper gear

As mentioned above, the weather at Bandon is predictable and unpredictable at the same time in that you know it’s going to rain but you just don’t know exactly when or how much. Bring quality rain gear and plenty of changes of shirts and socks.

4) Fly into Eugene and drive to Bandon

Coming from the East Coast you can fly into Portland (4-hour drive) or North Bend (30-minute drive), but the best option is Eugene, about a 2-hour drive to Bandon. It is a gorgeous drive that will have you stopping often to snap pictures of some of America’s most beautiful scenery.

5) Stop at the Sugar Shack in Reedsport and SharkBite’s Seafood Cafe in Coos Bay

Ok, it’s going to take more than 2 hours from Eugene because you will have to make a couple of stops. The Sugar Shack in Reedsport is an old-school bakery that has warm service, hot coffee and some of the best donuts you have ever tasted. If you are feeling lucky try the Bigfoot, a donut that is roughly the size of an Air Jordan. And just outside Bandon in the town of Coos Bay is the SharkBite’s Seafood Cafe, a relaxed little joint that offers hand-crafted cocktails and quesadillas the size of a boogie board.

6) Stay for at least 4 days and play every course at least once

This is especially true if you are from the East Coast. It is a long trip, maybe once in a lifetime, and there are multiple courses to play. There are some hardy souls that plan 2-3 day trips with 36 holes or more per day. That’s ambitious at best and potentially self-destructive. Plan for at least three days of 18 holes and at least one day of 36.

7) Play The Punchbowl

The Punchbowl is an 18-hole putting course that has become an end of day ritual for Bandon regulars. It’s a great place to have a drink (brought to you on the course from the clubhouse), smoke a stogie and make a friendly wager or two. I find watching a group of good friends play the Punchbowl, with the laughter and shouts of friendship as a soundtrack to the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, almost relaxing as playing.

8) Have the Lamb Stew at McKee’s Pub

Howard McKee, along with Mike Keiser, was the visionary developer who brought Bandon into being. A gifted architect and an exceptional human being, McKee passed away in 2007 at the age of 68. He is remembered by all who knew him and his spirit lives at McKees Pub. Located near the clubhouse for Bandon Dunes, McKees feels like stepping into a pub in Edinburgh, and tastes like it too. Everything on the menu is good but try the Lamb Stew, a big bowl of slow cooked goodness. You will gain the wonder and admiration of your friends of you finish it.

9) Play At Least One Solo Round

Bandon is all about spending time with old friends and making new ones. That said, I find the solitary round at either the beginning or end of the day to be like going to church. If you have time, book a late afternoon round at Old Macdonald. Walking alone with only your clubs and your thoughts will give you time to truly appreciate how wonderful our game truly is…and how lucky you are to be able to experience it.

10) Book a Massage

On some golf trips, many guys think of massage as something that the significant other goes for while they are out on the course. But after several days of navigating the ups and downs at Bandon the muscles will be screaming for relief. Book a massage at the on- property spa and you’ll get welcome relief.

11) Budget for the Pro Shops

Five courses, five logos and thousands of great gift options await at Bandon. If you are a collector of shirts you might want to bring an extra suitcase for the gear you are going to bring back. Like Vegas, set a limit before you go in the door and walk away when that number is spent.

12) Collect Cheap Souvenirs

Like I said souvenirs can be a costly business, especially if you are buying for friends as well as yourself. Scorecards, ball markers and even empty water bottles are frugal ways to score some memorabilia for your buddies back home.

13) Have a Cigar in The Bunker Bar

As the name suggests, The Bunker Bar is located on the lower floor of the Bandon Dunes clubhouse. There isn’t a lot of signage for it and on the stairs down it seems like you are going to end up in a storage room. But what you find is a cozy retreat that features poker tables, pool tables and a bar with a skilled bartender and a first-class collection of spirits. And since you can smoke indoors there, feel free to channel your inner Don Draper and try one of the fine choices offered at the bar or bring one of your own.

14) Bring a Phone Battery Charger or a Camera on the Course

The courses at Bandon are one big photo op, and you don’t have to be a pro to take snapshots that are magazine worthy. Taking all those snaps will drain your phone battery faster than a pony keg at a frat party so bring a battery pack or a dedicated camera so that you won’t be cameraless when you find yourself standing in front of the perfect sunset.

15) Hit The Boat for Fish and Chips

On the drive home, stop at The Boat Restaurant in Coos Bay. This little gem is packed with locals munching on the some of the best fish and chips in the area. While you wait for your grub you can take a quick stroll through the train museum next door.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Steve

    Aug 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Play the nine hole course called “Shorty’s” near the practice facility. A hidden gem.

  2. Mac

    Aug 28, 2018 at 2:01 am

    Go into town it’s a must see! Stops you should definitely go to are 1st stop The Beverage Barn! 4,000 sq feet looks like Cabelas inside but it’s a BevMo— nothing like it in Oregon and it’s right here in Bandon! Stock up!!
    Food: Edgewaters, Tony’s or The Farmers Market Farm & Sea! Face Rock Creamery too!

  3. Chris

    Aug 4, 2018 at 8:23 am

    The Sheep Ranch – never, ever, forget the Sheep Ranch!

  4. Alex Poole

    Aug 1, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    The Trails course was actually the third course built, not Old Mac. I visit once per year and I’m in North Carolina so the travel recommendations are right on. Also going in the winter months is playable just watch the precipitation.

  5. Thomas Noel

    Aug 1, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Pretty much leaves me out. I have a torn ACL and a bad knee so I can’t walk that far! Man, I’m bummed!

    • James T

      Aug 1, 2018 at 7:49 pm

      Thomas… hold on. I think you can use a power cart with a doctor intervening. Call the course and find out… thinking you can still play.

    • moe

      Aug 3, 2018 at 11:44 am

      You need a doctors note to get a cart. A week before my group went I sprained MCL and tore meniscus and they wouldn’t let me use a cart without the doctors note. My knee was huge everyday. It ruined an otherwise great experience.

    • Hacker3766

      Aug 28, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      Take a caddy. Well worth it

    • john corman

      Nov 30, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      Medical exemption will allow you to take a caddie driven cart. Call resort to find details.

  6. Eclectic Taste

    Aug 1, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Bandon Preserve (the 13 hole par 3 course) allows 8-somes, a great way to play with all your buddies. A great way to finish the day, especially if you want a little more golf, but aren’t up to the task of walking another hilly 18.

    • Brad

      Aug 28, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      and dont forget the margaritas on the preserve – great round to finish the day! and never let anyone hit anything but a putter on hole 13!!!

  7. Dirty Dan

    Aug 1, 2018 at 11:56 am

    The best breakfast option is the breakfast bowl at Trails! Eggs, pulled pork, brown rice, avocado… you can even split it with your hungover buddy and it’s a great deal!!

  8. Eclectic Taste

    Aug 1, 2018 at 11:53 am

    If not getting a caddie, buy a yardage book. The hole layouts aren’t obvious, and nothing worse than hitting a beautiful shot that lands in an unseen bunker.

  9. KYLE

    Aug 1, 2018 at 11:47 am

    Better to stay on the resort or cheaper off site?

    • Eclectic Taste

      Aug 1, 2018 at 11:51 am

      I just went with a group of 11. Rented a giant 4 bedroom, 8 bed house with hot tub and bbq for far less than anything on the resort. Only 5 minute drive from the resort.

      • john corman

        Nov 30, 2018 at 1:36 pm

        Staying on-site is more convenient but cheaper lodging available in town. Green fees are higher for non-guests and reserving tee times may be tricky. See resort website or call to understand their policy.

    • Dirty Dan

      Aug 1, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Resort for sure, great restaurant options! The shuttle will come get you and take you to the range in the morning then you can take it to the course!

  10. Po Boy

    Jul 31, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    Bandon Trails is not a parkland course. Inland, yes, parkland, no.

  11. Eric Johnson

    Jul 31, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    Don’t forget to read “Dream Golf” before visiting

  12. Sam Crocker

    Jul 31, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    The most important part of a good Bandon trip is going with someone that feels the same way about golf as you. If you are a 54 hole a day guy go with someone that is the same. Want to play one round and drink go with that guy.

  13. stuart

    Jul 31, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Great write up. I have played more than 100 rounds at Bandon and think you are missing a few key items: Book a caddie, eat the meatloaf, have a drink at sunset in the main bar off the putting green at Bandon and spend a few minutes with Shoe

    • Noa Idea

      Jul 31, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      A solo round is like going to Church he says – I find going to church a complete waste of time.

      • Jamie

        Aug 1, 2018 at 12:12 am

        Bandon is not for you then. Nor is the author speaking to you. Try TopGolf.

      • Rascal

        Aug 1, 2018 at 3:11 pm

        Mr. Idea, I’ll take that extra a off your hands.

      • Tony

        Aug 5, 2018 at 6:53 pm

        Luckily for you, Jesus does not think you are a waste of time.

    • Brad

      Aug 28, 2018 at 8:02 pm

      Shoe is great and so is the meatloaf- good call! pizookkies at Pacific Dunes and dont forget to visit the “sprinkler box” by the tree on Bandon Dunes! we left a gift from AZ

  14. Jim

    Jul 31, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Great review and help with booking a trip to the complex. Can you use a push cart there or is it strictly carry only, possibly with a caddie? Hope to someday get there on a bucket list trip from the northeast too.

    • Eclectic Taste

      Aug 1, 2018 at 11:49 am

      They have carts for rent – $5 for all day.

    • Snuffy

      Aug 1, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      You can rent a pull cart. Can’t remember but it’s $5 or $10 for the day.

  15. norcal

    Jul 31, 2018 at 11:50 am

    I played last May the day after Memorial Day and was the only one on the course at Old MacDonald. Played the next morning at Pacfic Dunes and was one of maybe 6 or 7 groups on the course, no wind, 65 degrees.

    There are typically a few stretches in January or February with unbelievable weather for anyone that can swing an impromptu trip. The fees are way cheaper then, too.

    • Devin

      Jul 31, 2018 at 7:09 pm

      Us Oregonians call that the February fake out. Lots of great weather in February. The Norths rain, specifically Portland, gives the rest of the state a bad rap. We have mild winters in the south of the state.

  16. 2putttom

    Jul 31, 2018 at 10:47 am

    great write up, ad one more. A flask in your bag if your playing winter rounds.

    • James T

      Jul 31, 2018 at 10:15 pm

      When I went I took a flask with a good single-malt scotch from Islay in Scotland… Laphroig to be precise. Shared it with my caddie.

      • Thomas A

        Aug 1, 2018 at 9:15 am

        Damn. I bought my caddie a Gatorade. Well done.

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19th Hole

Tweets of the Week: McIlroy’s umbrella mishap, DeChambeau’s new celebration, Wahlberg’s unique swing

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J.B. Holmes won a marathon rain-affected Genesis Open, while Ryan Fox captured his first European Tour title at the World Super 6 in Perth. In an eventful week, full of controversy, here are some things you may have missed, and some of the quirkier moments from the world of golf dished out in the Twittersphere over the past seven days.

Swag Range Swing

I’ve been doing it wrong my entire life.

Phil Mickelson’s Crazy Par

Before the scores were reset due to the weather on Day One of the Genesis Open, Phil Mickelson made the most incredible par save that unfortunately never was.

Sergio In Disguise?

Could have fooled me too.

McIlroy’s Umbrella Moment

Boink.

DeChambeau Reels It In

Not sure on this celebration from Bryson DeChambeau which he showed off during his second round at Riviera…

Tiger is THAT Guy

Might be best not to try this one with Sergio. Then again…

Wahlberg’s Interesting Swing

What do you make of actor Mark Wahlberg’s very different swing, GolfWRXers?

J.B. Holmes’ “Deliberate” Play

We have a new poster boy for slow play it seems…

…and on the subject of slow play, Adam Scott says nothing will change, sadly.

 

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Twitter user Legal Hooks: Matt Kuchar disrespected me when I was a 16-year-old caddie

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With Matt Kuchar’s character being called into question by many golf fans after the nine-time winner on the PGA Tour justified paying stand-in caddie David Ortiz $5,000 at last year’s Mayakoba Classic, a can of worms appears as if it may be about to spill open.

Going by the username of Legal Hooks, a Twitter user who allegedly caddied within the same group as Matt Kuchar at the 2006 Rheem Classic on the then Nationwide Tour, has claimed that Kuchar treated the then 16-year-old in an unfavorable manner.

In Legal Hooks’ social media thread, he claims that while in the group caddying for Bryce Molder, as the players exited the clubhouse, minus Molder who had made a pit-stop, the players and caddies began to hand out ice cream, which is when his experience turned sour.

Treating this with the requisite grain of salt necessitated in the social mediaverse, here’s the thread.

According to the then caddie, Kuchar “hadn’t a single kind word (to say) to me or act like I even existed” throughout the day. The reaction of Kuchar’s caddie, which involved tapping the youngster on the back and offering him a granola bar, is a sign to Legal Hooks that he wasn’t the first or last to be treated disrespectfully by the former Players champ.

The backlash against Kuchar appears to be gathering pace, with plenty of people on social media voicing their disappointment at the 40-year-old’s handling of the caddie dispute involving David Ortiz. Previous incidents, which made little impact on golf fans, such as the one below, look a lot more cynical all of a sudden and are gaining much more traction than they did when they first surfaced.

As business mogul Warren Buffett once said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Kuchar may be finding out the truth of that adage the hard way.

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19th Hole

Tweets of the Week: Tony Romo’s sorcery, Brooks Koepka’s slow play solution, and Jordan Spieth’s distressed hands

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Phil Mickelson is on the verge of career win number 44, while over at the Vic Open, David Law won his first European Tour title, while Celine Boutier also broke through and claimed her maiden LPGA Tour victory at the same event. In a busy past week, here are some things you may have missed, and some of the quirkier moments from the world of golf dished out in the Twittersphere over the past seven days.

No Stopping Brooks

Koepka is on a roll to begin 2019, and his plan to sort the issue of slow play out, at least in the groups he’s playing with, is indeed a novel one.

Romo’s Brilliance

I’m almost certain that Tony Romo perfectly called how this shot would play out in his head before hitting it too.

Lefty Not Keen On Early Starts

You’d think a three-shot lead with two holes to play would have left Phil Mickelson feeling good as he departed the course due to bad light last night. However, Lefty’s reaction to play being suspended said it all…

…Phil had plenty to smile about on Thursday though. For the first time in over two decades, Mickelson found every fairway in a round. Wet fairways FTW.

Ho sung’s Debut

Golf fans everywhere were excited to see Ho sung Choi’s first appearance on the PGA Tour, and while things didn’t all go to plan for the viral sensation, Choi still entertained the fans with eccentricities like this.

Jordan’s Poor Hand

If you thought being a professional golfer was all fun and games then check out this tweet displaying Jordan Spieth’s battered right hand. Eek.

New Players Trophy

The Players Championship has a new trophy on offer, which is said to incorporate aspects of each of the 38 different winners of the event.

 

 

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