Bandon's design features mounding as soft as cashmere, and the holes themselves are as smooth as a fine single malt—and sometimes possess the same bite. Greens are large and welcoming, until one must putt on them. Tight mowing throughout the course calls for artistry anywhere close to the flag. Pot bunkers, hidden bunkers, revetted bunkers and cross-bunkering will leave wedges shaking in the bag. Add the gorse, windblown pines, sea air and crashing surf, and it all combines to form one of the most moving golf experiences on the planet.
Pacific Dunes 57744 Round Lake Drive, Bandon, OR; 888-345-6008, bandondunesgolf.com. Yardage: 6,623. Par: 71. Slope: 133. Architect: Tom Doak, 2001. Greens Fees: $60–$200. T+L GOLF Rating: *****
Lord knows, it should have been nearly impossible to match the brilliance of Bandon Dunes, but Tom Doak did just that—if not more—with this collection of eighteen masterpieces. Although ranked a bit easier on the scorecard than Kidd's adjacent layout, the Irish-style Pacific Dunes has a darker, more threatening feel. While Bandon plays wide open, its little sister winds between, over and through massive dunes and sand blowouts. The bunkering is often undecipherable from the dunes themselves. Waste areas seem to extend into deep wilderness of gorse.
The entire layout is insular and hobbit-like and requests finesse rather than power. From the blind tee shot on the ninth over an enormous bluff to a finishing hole that is a puzzlement of angles and prodigious bunkers, Pacific Dunes is as deep and rich as the perfect pint of Guinness. One would be hard-pressed to find its equal anywhere outside the British Isles. Unless one manages to get on Cypress and Pebble, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Dunes constitute, without question, the best pair of courses a human being can play on the same day anywhere in the hemisphere.
Bandon Trails 57744 Round Lake Drive, Bandon, OR; 888-345-6008, bandondunesgolf.com. Yardage: 6,934. Par: 71. Slope: n/a. Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, 2005. Greens Fees: n/a. T+L GOLF Rating: n/a
Although Coore and Crenshaw are still carving out the last holes here, early surveillance reveals a course that begins in low dunes, winds inland through meadows, crosses into woodlands, then drops back to finish amid meadows and dunes. Five or six holes will offer ocean views, and every indication suggests that the walking-only course will more than keep pace with its older siblings. Those looking to make their own assessment can do so this fall, when as many as nine holes will be opened for limited play to guests at the Bandon resort.
Also Play: The Running Y Ranch (Klamath Falls, OR; $50–$70, 888-850-0261) boasts the only Arnold Palmer design in Oregon, a 7,133-yard journey that begins near wetlands, climbs onto a forested plateau and finishes back in the open. Many golfers stop to play Sandpines Golf Links (Florence, OR; $45–$89, 800-917-4653) on their way from Portland to Bandon Dunes. The Rees Jones creation is noted for a massive dune that rises Sahara-like along the 593-yard seventh hole.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
57744 Round Lake Drive, Bandon, OR; 888-345-6008, bandondunesgolf.com. Rooms: $80–$300. Suites: $150–$1,100
With accommodations in the Cape Cod–style clapboard main lodge and cozy cottages, there's little reason to ever leave the property, as that would only take you farther away from two of the best golf layouts on the continent. Rooms are plenty comfortable, if a bit spare.
Bandon Channel House
(Seafood) 480 First Street SW, Bandon, OR; 541-347-9057. $$$
The only reason most visitors leave the Bandon resort is for dinner at this warm retreat overlooking the Coquille River. The Channel House won't serve anything fried—even the oysters are lovingly grilled. Fresh pastas and fish (e.g., halibut in pistachio sauce) are perennial favorites.
One comes to southwest Oregon to golf—and do little else. There are, though, a few diversions to be had. Crater Lake National Park (541-594-3100) is home to the deepest lake in the country and offers boat tours in the caldera. One mile south of Bandon resides the imposing Face Rock, a stone monolith that resembles, well, a face. The old gold-mining town of Jacksonville is one of few cities distinguished as a historic landmark and offers surprisingly fascinating tours.