EATING AND DRINKING
Although the sleepy village of Bandon-by-the-Sea (as locals sometimes call it) has a number of good dining options, especially for fresh seafood, it would be easy to feed for several days at Bandon Dunes and never get bored. The food is excellent—hearty and unpretentious. Any resort that can elevate meat loaf to the realm of the sublime deserves extra credit, too. The Gallery restaurant in the Lodge is the place for a formal meal, while the Tufted Puffin Lounge next door looks out on the course and is perfect for lunch between rounds. Downstairs, the Bunker Bar is the quintessential nineteenth hole, serving up single malts and selections from an extensive and well-balanced wine list. And the patio of McKee's Pub is a great spot for post-round reckoning. In the cooler months, McKee's outdoor fireplace fills the air with scents of cedar and shore pine.
The three courses at Bandon Dunes, as well as the practice facility, are all located within minutes of one another, and shuttle buses run continually between them and the various lodgings. A central reservation system handles tee-time bookings for all three courses. Greens fees for guests in the summer high season are $175 at each course, with $90 second rounds for those who wish to make a day of it.
We highly recommend taking advantage of the resort's caddie program, at least for the first round or two. Bandon caddies are friendly and extremely knowledgeable. The base fee is $50 for a single bag, with a tip structure ranging from more than $25 for a senior caddie to $10 for an "A" caddie to the player's discretion for an apprentice. The vast practice facility, meanwhile, is only getting better. Visitors can take lessons at the full-fledged golf academy and also get a series of quick "Links Lessons" to develop the unique skill set required to score at Bandon.
In an intriguing footnote, David Kidd also recently completed nine green sites and informal teeing grounds in the heart of the main practice facility. Kidd is no stranger to this type of project—prior to his success with Bandon Dunes, his claim to fame was designing a world-class practice facility at Gleneagles in Scotland. In a touch of Bandon ingenuity, it is possible for this area to function as either a part of the driving range or as a walkable par-three course, depending on the demands of the day. But don't expect to play it right away—the resort is adopting a wait-and-see attitude as to how often (if at all) the short course will be open to the public this year. However, Josh Lesnik of Kemper Sports, Bandon's management company, did say that they plan to open the facility to local high school golfers during the offseason. Those lucky enough to play it will have a treat in store. Far from a wimpy pitch-and-putt, the course has "amazing" bunkering, according to director of instruction Grant Rogers, who adds that the nine holes (among them a Redan) will "challenge experts as much as it will beginners."
The next wave of speculation regarding the future of golf at Bandon Dunes will probably begin as soon as the first drive is struck at the Trails. Resort owner Mike Keiser hopes there will ultimately be four or five courses, but "it depends on how Bandon Trails is received." With 15,000 rounds already booked at the Trails as of press time, three months before opening day, we fully expect to see Keiser back in action by mid-2006. The land is there, and it's extremely promising—of the two potential sites Keiser has mentioned, one is directly inland from Pacific Dunes, and the other is the awesome oceanfront property at the quasi-course known as the Sheep Ranch. Back in 2000, Tom Doak's right-hand man, Jim Urbina, bulldozed a few green shapes there during the construction of Pacific Dunes. Visible to the north from the resort's coastal holes, the wilderness golf played by a handful of insiders at the Sheep Ranch has become the stuff of obscure legend, but its days as a Shangri-la may be numbered. Stay tuned.