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We Spy... Bandon Dunes

By: Tom Cunneff

This article appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of LINKS.

THE CONSENSUS number-one golf resort in the country, Bandon Dunes is at the top of just about every golfer’s bucket list. But is it as good as it’s cracked upto be? I decided to see for myself and talked a few golf buddies into joining meon a four-day, three-night excursion.

Naturally, I encountered problems before my first flight pulled away from the gate.When thunderstorms wrought havoc with departures and arrivals in the Southeast, I missed my connecting flight from Portland, Oregon, to North Bend. That meant renting a car and driving four-plus hours in the hope of catching some of our first round, a 3:30 tee time on the original course, Bandon Dunes. I made it for the last six holes.

The fact that the golf shop charged me to play added to my day-one disappointment but that would be the last and only time I was irritated on the trip. Afterward, we ate at nearby McKee’s Pub, where I had to try the vaunted Grandma’s Meatloaf. It was a little spicy for my tastes but the prices were very reasonable and the tavern ambience pitch perfect.

Our accommodations at the Grove Cottages were a bit pricey at $1,800 a night, but the woodsy setting couldn’t be more charming and each of the four bedrooms has a king bed and full bath. That said, next time I’d go for the least expensive option—$205 a night at The Lodge in-season (May 1–October 28)—because I spent so little time in the room.

Our first full day was our only 36-holer, an 8:10 tee time on Pine Valley-esque Bandon Trails, then 2 p.m. on toprated Pacific Dunes, where our $230 green fee for round two was cut in half (third rounds are free—if you’re still able to stand). Since we were all in our 50s with the attendant physical ailments, we wondered if we’d manage walking more than 18 holes a day, but we did just fine.

The end to this perfect day was playing poker and smoking cigars in the Bunker Bar, which is located downstairs at the Lodge. Make no mistake: Bandon Dunes is one giant man cave. There is absolutely nothing for non-golfers to do. The next day we combined the two newest courses, open, fast-running Old Macdonald and the gorgeous new 13-hole par-three layout, Bandon Preserve. Building a short course was a brilliant idea for aging Boomers to get in more golf without actually having to walk another 18.

Caddies aren’t mandatory but they’rewell worth it, even at $100 a bag (that includes tip). You typically get the same one for the whole stay so you develop a rapport and he (or she) gets to know your game, which is abig help.

We finished our trip with a return to the resort’s namesake layout, with its seven holes on the ocean. As on all the courses, the grass was a bit thin resulting in tight lies, but it’s a small price to pay for the only true links golf experience in the States.

Travel disruptions notwithstanding, it’s not often in life that your expectations are actually exceeded. Is it possible to have something on your bucket list twice?

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