Bandon Dunes Resort has long been on my personal bucket list. I was lucky enough to find my way out to this amazing resort during the first week of December, 2017. With more and more groups discovering Wisconsin as a golf destination, I have been involved in numerous conversations involving Bandon Dunes Resort and how Sand Valley and Kohler compare. Now that I have made the trip and received my Bandon education, I feel much more credible when speaking to groups who have been there and are asking questions.
There are two topics that inevitably come up when discussing Bandon Dunes: the weather and how much of a pain it is to get there. Addressing the travel first….yes, Bandon Dunes is not the easiest place in the world to get to. For the average traveler, you are looking to fly into Portland (5 hours) or Sacramento (7.5 hours). Some airlines fly into Eugene (2.5 hours) and fewer fly into Southwest Oregon Regional Airport near Coos Bay (40 minutes). I flew into Portland and took a shuttle service down to Eugene where I met up with a friend from high school. We drove over to Coos Bay and stayed at a hotel the night before we started golfing. As for the weather, someone who heard I was going out in December told me that if I could avoid the rain I could possibly run into some great weather. Oregon in December? Really? Based on the forecast, I tempted fate and did not bring one spec of rain gear with me. Turns out, we didn’t see a drop of rain for three days. Monday was cold, high of 50, and I was bundled up for most of the round. Tuesday, I had my winter hat off by the turn, and Wednesday was unreal. 65 and sunny without a cloud in the sky and no wind. I was in a polo shirt for most of the round and was a tad bit warm!?! Amazing.
Our first day was our busiest. After a quick warm up on a cold range, we were first off at Pacific Dunes, ranked #2 on Golf Digest’s Top 100 Public Courses list. Designed by Tom Doak, Pacific Dunes was a true test of golf from start to finish. My word to describe Pacific Dunes was rugged. Even though I made some birdies and posted my best score there, I didn’t enjoy Pacific Dunes as much as the rest of the trip. We drove over to Bandon Trails to eat lunch, but discovered we could get off on Bandon Preserve instead. I seem to be running into memorable par 3 courses lately, and Bandon Preserve may have been the most fun we had the whole trip. There were holes of all shapes and sizes that you could play a dozen different ways. The last hole was 100 yards downhill and the starter encouraged you to use your putter. So much fun!
Our second day of golf took us to where it all started, the Bandon Dunes course designed by David Kidd. Since Mr. Kidd has designed the Mammoth Dunes course up at Sand Valley in Wisconsin, I was very eager to absorb all that I could from his famous design in Bandon. I was immediately captivated by the vastness of his handywork and pretty much had a smile on my face from start to finish. On our last day we played Bandon Trails, often recognized as the course NOT on the ocean. I have had the pleasure of seeing a few different Coore/Crenshaw designs this year, so I was excited to see how the Trails stacked up. It took me a few holes to adjust to the different feel of the course, but once I got settled in I was amazed. The back nine especially pretty much blew me away. I hope my pictures below do it some justice, it was an amazing track. Unfortunately, we did not get to play Old MacDonald…that will have to wait until next time.
Bandon Dunes is a pure golf resort. I don’t think there are many guests there that aren’t golfing. Many people I have talked to expect Sand Valley to be a carbon copy of Bandon Dunes since it has the same owner, same architects, same management company, etc. While I see some serious similarities in the clubhouse look, lodging options and other things, the golf is completely different. I don’t believe there is one hole or one shot at Sand Valley that will remind you of Bandon Dunes. The land, the feel, the surroundings….Sand Valley stands on it’s own. Thank you to all the connections I made while on my trip. I look forward to my next adventure at Bandon Dunes some day soon.