NCGA Golf

Spring 2018

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Bandon Dunes D eep in the Southern Oregon forest, just past a lovely pond and across a foot bridge, the towering trees part to reveal a metal labyrinth, laid out atop dark stone. Modeled after one that could be found in France's Chartres Cathedral in the 13th century, the labyrinth is one of many little surprises awaiting pilgrims to Bandon Dunes . The resort has many miles of hiking trails, for those who want to commune with nature minus the frustration of making bogeys. (A plaque at the labyrinth says it is "…a metaphor for our journey through life. Its path leads toward an inner light.") Of course, there are plenty of fairways to walk at this haven for walking golf, and most of us go to Bandon, set hard against the Pacific Ocean, to pack in as much golf as possible. It is one of golf's great parlor games for individuals to rank the four courses. Indeed, all four are rated inside the top 20 of "Golfweek's Best" modern course list. Old Macdonald , an homage to pioneering architect C.B. Macdonald by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, is a consensus number four, and yet its closing stretch of holes is the best on the property and there are other gems sprinkled throughout the layout. The rippling fairways of Pacific Dunes remain just as Doak found them. It is considered by many to be one of the best courses built in the U.S. and yet it is only my third-favorite at Bandon, though, to be clear, I love it. However, in heavy winds Pacific is a little too tight and tough for my tastes. Bandon Trails , designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, might be the most underrated course on the planet. It is, to me, an almost perfect mix of holes with a wondrous routing through dunes and forest and up and over foothills. If only it had the expansive ocean views of its sister courses. That's the difference in choosing Bandon Dunes, the genius of Scottish golf course architect David McLay Kidd, as my favorite of the bunch. Perched on a bluff high above the ocean, Bandon Dunes is a rollicking ride loaded with half-par holes and wild green complexes. Don't miss out on Bandon Preserve , which is the most fun you can have without a wood in your bag. This 13-hole par-3 course with outrageously-contoured greens along with The Punchbowl , a wooly putting course, are a perfect setting for betting games and cocktails. What is so lovely about playing golf there is that the four 18-hole courses at the resort all have their own distinct personality. So, while it can feel like a chore to get there, a trip to Bandon Dunes should be at the top of any golf enthusiast's list. As a sign over the clubhouse door attests, Bandon Dunes is golf as it was meant to be played. And Another Thing: At Bandon, gluttony is not only encouraged but rewarded: your second round in any given day is half-price, and a third round is free. If you have time for one more round, check out Sheep's Ranch , which sits adjacent to Old Macdonald, just to the north of the Bandon Dunes resort. Talk of turning it into a fifth 18-hole course at Bandon is on the table, but no timeline has been determined. Word is Gil Hanse is being considered for the design should the project proceed. For now, you can play the course as it currently sits with no defined routing. It's 13 greens laid out by Doak more than 15 years ago, and can be played from multiple directions. It's been called the Bandon course you've never heard of, and some say it has the potential to be the best one yet. n July 2010, Alan Shipnuck became the first person to play all four Bandon courses on the same day. He still has the blisters to prove it. BANDON DUNES: "Golf as it was meant to be played." By Alan Shipnuck Old Macdonald BRIAN WALTERS

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