Wow! What an amazing place! I just returned from an 8-buddy trip to Bandon. We stayed at the Grove Cottages, played all 6 course at least once (read on), and dined in all the restaurants. The place is a golf mecca -- truly a mecca because it feels like your traveling around the world to get there. We all flew into Coos Bay from San Francisco. The afternoon flight to Bandon was sold out; so I had to fly out to SFO the night before and take the earlier flight. It gave me a chance to start adjusting to the time change.
We have all seen the pictures, read the reviews, and know of Bandon reputation -- so I was pumped! I have played the high-end courses in Northern Ireland and Scotland; I LOVE true links golf. My first impression of Bandon was "Wow, it's brown." They must take all their publicity pictures in the winter, because there was nothing lush and green. Again, I love true links golf, so I wasn't nervous. Here are my thoughts on the golf. I am a 10 handicap who just doesn't play enough golf and never practices. I love great courses. In 2013, here is the complete list of courses I've played (in order): Spyglass, Spanish Bay, Bayonet, Pebble Beach, The Old Course @ The Homestead, TPC Sawgrass, Sabot Course @ Hermitage CC (Richmond, VA), Twin Lakes GC (Fairfax, VA), Spotswood CC (Harrisonburg, VA), Cape Cod National, Triggs Memorial (great old Ross course in Providence, RI).
- Caddies: We had the same four caddies for every round. We had 8 players, so they double bagged and we rotated. Three of the four caddies were great! I was lucky enough to have the same caddy all four days. He won the Irish Closed Amateur in the late '90s. He just oozed "great player." I let him down by not executing lots of shots, but he learned my game and really helped me. I will certainly return to Bandon and I'll certainly request Ciaran. You'll also be very happy if you get Shane or Brandon. All three are great guys and really added to our experience. My mom always said "If you can't say something nice…", so I am only mentioning those three.
- Pacific Dunes: We played it first and then a couple days later. Our first round was cool (almost cold) and very windy (even by Bandon standards in July). We had the typical summer wind for the first round and the prevailing winter wind for the latter round. It was amazing how different the course played. Pacific has some GREAT holes. The oceanfront holes are fantastic. I think there is something magical about a "stretch" of ocean holes -- like #7-#10 at Pebble or #9-#11 at Turnberry. Pacific (or Bandon) never really have that stretch. No the problem: the green were poor. Not bad. Not good. Poor. I was shocked. The combination of fescue and poa annua makes them bumpy and inconsistent. There were sandy spots with very little grass. If these greens were at your local muni, people would be up in arms.
- Pacific Trails: We only played it once immediate after Pacific. The greens were slightly better. I really liked the layout. The combination of short par 4s, a monster par 3, and great par 5s is fantastic. Many of our guys said this was their favorite course. It does have a Spyglass feel (without the great holes by the water). A couple of horrible shots ruined what could have been a great round for me. I was tired. Walking that much in that wind took it out of me.
- Bandon Dunes: I have a hard time deciding if I like Bandon or Pacific better. We played it twice, early on our second day and our final round. Again, we had summer winds for the first round and winter winds for the second. To get a sense of the difference, I played #13 with a solid drive, solid hybrid, gap wedge with the summer wind and solid drive, 7 iron to 3 feet with winter wind (I missed the eagle putt). Again, GREAT holes and lousy greens.
- Bandon Preserve: We played the 13-hole short course in the afternoon -- no caddies, we pulled our bags in the carts they provide. THE GREENS WERE PERFECT!!!! They are by far the best greens at Bandon. The were fast, smooth, true, and beautiful. If the rest of the courses had these greens, I would have enjoyed the golf MUCH more. Preserve is awesome. An interesting mix of awesome par 3s. We were confused by which tees to play on some holes, but that made it more interesting. BTW, they let you play with large groups, so we played as an eight-some with a blind draw two-man better ball. It was a fantastic afternoon.
- Old Macdonald: Old Mac was my biggest surprise. I was not expecting to like it after reading some of the reviews. But I loved it! There greens were much better than the other courses (not as good as the Preserve). The greens are as big as you've read. I shot 80 with 9 three putts. I am not counting when I used putter off the green. I think I had putter in my hand for 45 shots. Crazy. But I loved it. Lots of the holes reminded me of other great holes I've played; but these aren't copies, they just draw inspiration from other great holes. Lots of the bunkering has problems. I don't know if they plan to just let the winds form organic bunkers or if they are going to fix them, but lots of sand has blown out and you can get some bad lies that you wouldn't expect on a world class course. For example, my ball was sitting on gravel in a fairway bunker on #17. There was literally no sand left in the bunker. But it is a great golf course and I wish we'd played it twice.
- Okay, I said 6 courses. They have a nine-hole par 3 laid out in the driving range. When the range is open, they are target pins. A couple of nights per week, they close that side of the range and open the par 3. It is much more akin to Pebble's Peter Hay course than the Preserve, which is much more like a "real course." The wind was howling when we played this unnamed course. There are some great holes on it! We played it in an eight-some as a four-man scramble. I would have loved to go back and played my own ball. Next time.
- Okay, maybe there are 7 courses… There is a natural looking, lightly maintained, 12-hole (?) course called the Sheep Ranch just north of Old Macdonald. It isn't part of the resort, but owned by Keiser. I wanted to make the trek over there, but couldn't convince my buddies. Dang.
By the way, practice long putts and tight lies before getting there. Short game killed me! Literally, get comfortable chipping and pitching off hardpan at home. You won't be on hardpan, but it is practically identical.
Here are pros and cons of the resort itself:
- The Grove Cabins are great for buddy trips. Four bedrooms and bathrooms are great.
- The beds were comfortable. I was worried about waking up sore or stiff, but even with all that golf, I was always rested in the morning.
- The food was VERY good and moderately priced. I left every meal satisfied and felt like I got more than my money's worth. The black cod at Pacific was AMAZING.
- Drinks were almost very moderately priced. With a captive audience, I expected the prices to be higher.
- The shuttle service means you really don't want a car. Service was a little slow sometimes, but mostly perfect.
- I got a massage when I arrived. It was very good and really loosened me up after all that travel.
- The Grove Cabins feel like they were furnished as college dorm rooms. The modern furniture and sparse feel wasn't what I was expecting. The gas burning fireplace felt awkward in the big living room. The Lodge at Pebble has gorgeous wood-burning fireplaces, Bandon should consider them. For $1600/night, I really expected more.
- For a place that caters to buddy trips, they do a really bad job splitting checks. We decided to just evenly splits bills between the eight of us, but the wait staff often seemed "put out" to have to do the math to split the check between our individual accounts. My bill was almost $500 more than my buddies at checkout. When I looked at my bill, I realized that I had a $250 charge that should have been split and another time where I was charged for two "shares" of a dinner bill. Seems like they need a better system and to train the employees to be happy we have eight buddies there.
- It was an expensive trip and to be honest, I am not sure it is worth the price. We were there for 6 night, but only played golf on 4 days. That extra $800 in the cabins seems like a waste (in hindsight). Next time, I think I'll fly in, play a course that afternoon, two-days of 36 holes, and depart. I'll get all the golf courses for about half the price.
- I am not a "spa guy." But when I get a massage, I kinda want the "spa experience." They don't have a spa, it is a barebones massage. No sauna. No whirlpool. No shower. You put your clothes back on all greasy. Not what I was expecting for that price.
Okay, that's long… Sorry for the typos; I am too tired to edit this ;-)
- Also Known As:
- Bandon Dunes Golf Hotel Bandon
- Bandon Dunes Resort
- Bandon Dunes Hotel