There is a reason why Bandon Dunes is always near the top of everyone’s list of golf resorts. Everything about this place is just perfect. Golf as it was meant to be…that’s their slogan and it truly is the kind of experience every golfer is meant to have.
The resort itself is understated, yet impressive. The golf is fun, unique, and breathtaking. The food is simple and delicious. The accommodations are top notch. You probably don’t need me to convince you, so if you’re planning a trip to Bandon, I’ve included some tips that should help you make the most of your experience here.
Don’t rush off the plane/car onto the golf course
I know, I know. You roll in to Bandon Dunes and you’re not going to play golf your first day?! That’s madness! Trust me, its not. No matter how you choose to get here, your travel day to Bandon is looooonnng. Bandon is on the Southern Oregon coast (aka BFE!). If you arrive during the day, it’s best to take it easy and spend your first day on the practice facility or on one or more of the short courses. Your trip will feel more relaxing and less crammed with non-stop golf.
The practice facility at Bandon is AWESOME! Head to the practice green first. It’s gigantic and will help you get a feel for the greens here. Be sure to practice a few 100-foot putts. You’ll likely have a few of these while you’re here. Also, practice putting from off the green. Most American golfers are not used to links courses where you can putt from well off the green so develop a feel for these types of putts when the pressure is off. Next, head over to Shorty’s, the 9-hole course at the practice facility. It was designed by David Kidd, who also designed the flagship course, Bandon Dunes. Shorty’s will give you a feel for the tight lies, the bunkers, and the greens that you will encounter on the real courses. Plus, it’s really fun and 100% free!
Alternatively, you could check out Bandon Preserve and/or The Punchbowl. I haven’t personally experienced either course, so I will keep my comments brief. Bandon Preserve is a 13-hole, par-3 course and is a great option if you want to play more than one round of golf a day, but don’t have the stamina to walk 36 holes. The Punchbowl looks downright devilish! It’s another great option if you want to extend your golf, but don’t want to grind it out for another 18. Punchbowl is also free!
Speaking of free, I think it’s worth mentioning that one of the subtle things that makes Bandon Dunes excellent is the absence of price gouging. It is not cheap to play or stay here, but the cost for everything – golf, food, lodging, etc. – is very reasonable and they don’t nickel and dime you everywhere you go. The beers aren’t $10 each and you can do a lot here for free!
After dusting off the travel cobwebs on day 1 with some light golf, grab some drinks and a casual dinner at McKee’s and head to bed early so you can dream about the most fun you will ever have on a golf course on day 2!
Call ahead and request a caddie recommendation
What type of golfer are you? Are you quiet and serious? Talkative and fun-loving? Think about the type of golfer you are and the type of caddie who would be complementary to your personality. Call ahead and request someone who fits your criteria. Bandon’s caddie services will play matchmaker and try to set you up with the right caddie for you. This is especially important because they usually pair the same caddie with you for your entire visit. You can always request someone different if you don’t have a good experience with your caddie, but it’s better to get it right the first time.
I’ve had a couple different caddies and had great experiences each time. I prefer someone who is experienced and excellent at reading greens. I will gladly putt the ball off the side of a cliff if you tell me that’s the right line, so I need a caddie who can read greens for me and whom I can blindly follow. It’s part of what makes the caddie experience fun for me! I’m serious about playing well and expect my caddie to be attentive and serious about his or her job. But I also like to relax in between shots and chat with my caddie and other playing partners. My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t care so much about green reading gurus. He wants a caddie who is all business and who will help him with course management that is appropriate for his skill level.
Skip the Summer
Let’s talk Bandon Oregon weather. I’ve been here in early September, late October, and New Year’s Day. We have been lucky with the weather every time, but surprisingly, New Year’s Day was perfect. 60 degrees, sunny, and not a whisper of wind. I constantly check the weather in Bandon – it’s a borderline OCD habit. Somehow, Bandon seems to escape the violent winter storms that pound the Pacific Northwest coast in the winter.
Bandon Dunes weather really doesn’t change much throughout the year. In fact, I’ve heard that the common weather pattern here in the summer is foggy mornings and windy afternoons. That mix doesn’t make for ideal playing conditions and the Pacific and Bandon courses aren’t nearly as majestic when you can only see 50 yards in front of you. The weather in the off season is still temperate and often, less windy.
The cost also drops significantly in the off-season, from $265 (June-September) to $75 (Thanksgiving-January). If you live in Oregon or California, you can get away with a last minute vacay when a weather window opportunity comes along. Otherwise, I recommend planning a trip in the fall. Or December if you are on a budget. Yes, I’m recommending that you plan a trip here in December! Pack your rain gear… if a storm knocks you on your butt, at least you’ll have some memorable stories to tell!
Leave the resort at least once
Even if golf is the ONLY reason you came to Bandon Dunes, it’s too beautiful here to handcuff yourself to the resort. Your caddie and the staff are usually very helpful and will be eager to provide you with great recommendations. On our first trip to Bandon, our caddie recommended dinner at Alloro Wine Bar. It was a cozy restaurant with great food and we fell in love with it. The beaches in Bandon are spectacular and accessible, thanks to Oregon’s land laws. If you like crabbing and fishing, there are plenty of options depending on the time of year. Check out the Chamber of Commerce website for more information.
Don’t Ignore Old Mac and Bandon Trails
A lot of people who visit Bandon tend to gravitate toward Bandon Dunes or Pacific Dunes. Lots of holes at these courses offer spectacular ocean views, and too often, Old MacDonald and Bandon Trails are relegated to second string. In fact, when I ask someone what their favorite course at Bandon is, I can usually guess the answer before they open their mouth – Pacific Dunes. If I ask many of these same people what they thought of Bandon Trails or Old Mac, I often hear that they’ve never even played the course. It’s a shame really. Don’t fall into the seductive promises of Bandon and Pacific. Play all of the courses here before you pick favorites.
Personally, I think the Bandon Dunes course provides everything one could ever want in a golf course. It’s totally unique and it is the most fun I’ve ever had playing golf. Pacific has the most breathtaking scenery, but if the weather is calm, the course is too easy and frankly, a little boring (Gasp! I said it!). Bandon Trails is a grind. It’s the most challenging course in my opinion and has more wooded areas than the other courses, yet it still offers great vistas (as shown in the photo above). Old MacDonald is my favorite. I’ve heard some people call it a Martian course, which is a statement that has some truth to it. Old Mac has the largest greens complex in the world. You will never have putts at any other course that are like the putts you will have at Old Mac. 100+ feet…quadruple breakers…putts from 40 yards off the green. You must be thoughtful and creative, and you just have to shake your head sometimes at the uniqueness of the lies you’ll encounter here.
If you’re planning a trip, I hope these tips will help you maximize your experience and if you haven’t yet booked a trip to Bandon, what are you waiting for?!?! If I make it to heaven and there is golf there, I hope it’s exactly like Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. 🙂