Bandon Dunes became one of America’s top golfing destinations by taking an un-American approach to golf. Opened in 1999 and 2001, the southern Oregon resort’s Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes golf courses are the most authentic links layouts outside of the British Isles. Both follow rolling paths over coastal bluffs and sand dunes lined with gorse (planted in the region by a 19th-century Irish immigrant), and each is devoid of trees, artificial lakes, manicured landscaping, and even golf carts. Although Bandon Trails also prohibits carts and lacks excessive adornment, the new course at Bandon Dunes plays like a pure-blood, all-American classic.
Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Bandon Trails does not mimic the links styles of its predecessors (both of which consistently rank among the country’s top 50 layouts). Had it not been for the course’s architects, however, the Trails may have marked an even greater departure from Bandon and Pacific Dunes. Resort owner Mike Keiser initially had set aside an inland, forested site for the third course on his 2,000-acre spread. But after inspecting the area, Coore and Crenshaw requested that Keiser expand the parcel to the west to incorporate a sprawling meadow and a brief stretch of dunes. “Mike came back to us and asked if we were confident that we could take these completely divergent landscapes and make them into one seamless course,” recalls Coore. “And that was the challenge.”
Coore and his design partner of 20 years responded to the challenge with an epic 6,800-yard course that travels from an inland dune to the meadow, up through a woodlands stretch to a forested ridge, and back down again for a finale in the sand hills. The initial sign of the Trails’ distinction from Bandon’s other courses is subtle: On the par-3 second hole, a large pine tree stands at the back edge of the green (a dune shadows the right side). By the next fairway, golfers are surrounded by pines, Pacific madrones, and manzanitas as they play through the meadow, and on the par-4 seventh, the terrain rises into the dense woodlands tract that Keiser originally earmarked for the entire course.
The front nine ends on a prototypical resort-course par 5 with forgiving fairways and strategically placed bunkers. The Trails then climbs to its apex at the 14th tee, which drops nearly 200 feet to the par 4’s fairway. Throughout the course, elevation changes afford views of evergreen landscapes that appear more the scenery of the Broadmoor than of Bandon Dunes. Perhaps to remind golfers of their whereabouts, the Trails returns to the sand for its closing holes.
“Our goal was to try to create something that would be perceived as a complement to the other courses,” says Coore. “Just like Tom Doak and David Kidd [designers of Pacific Dunes and Bandon Dunes, respectively], we believe that if you have a gifted site, you let the site determine the course.” In the case of Bandon Trails, at least, it also helps to have gifted designers determine the site.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort