Bandon Dunes brings Scotland golf to America

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pacific dunes no. 4
The par-4 fourth hole at Pacific Dunes

 
BANDON, Ore. ' Each July when the Open champion is crowned in Britain, American golfers become reinvigorated with the idea of playing links golf. But with the emergence of Bandon Dunes Resort in southern Oregon, they neednt travel across the pond to enjoy the worlds best links courses.
 
Bandon Dunes isnt your typical American golf resort. Instead of golf carts it has caddies ' many of them women. Instead of modern buildings it has low-lying lodges that blend with nature. Its golf holes arent flashy, theyre raw. By all accounts Bandon Dunes is understated, which is, as its slogan suggests, Golf as it was meant to be.
 
Though its farther off the beaten path than most courses even in Scotland, the two golf destinations do share a lot in common, and they both let their golf courses do the talking.
 

Top 10 Holes at Bandon Dunes
At Bandon Dunes, its namesake course opened in 1999 and instantly became one of the most highly ranked public courses in America. In 2001 Tom Doak completed Pacific Dunes, and it garnered even more respect (Golf Magazine dubbed it the No. 1 Public Course in America). When Bandon Trails opened in 2005, the resort had three courses, none more popular than another.
 
In fact, Bandons parity has become its M.O., and a unique characteristic among its fellow golf resorts. To be fair, Pinehurst, Kiawah and Pebble Beach are all incredible golf resorts, but they each have one course that is wildly more popular than the others. At Bandon Dunes the scale is balanced. And even in anticipation of its fourth course, Old MacDonald, which some say is the best yet, there is no playing of favorites at Bandon Dunes.
 
If Old MacDonald winds up with 26 percent of the play at the resort then I think weve done a great job, Doak said of his second Bandon Dunes design, which is set to open in June 2010.
 
Hes not kidding, either. Every course at Bandon Dunes charges the same rate, a telltale sign that each course has equal demand.
 
One of the things that has helped Bandon Dunes stand out is that golfers want to play every course when theyre here, said director of instruction Grant Rogers. We dont emphasize a certain course for a certain type of guest. All our courses are for people who just love golf.
 
But just because it has parity doesnt mean Bandon Dunes lacks variety. Each course is an experience all its own, and Old MacDonald is no exception. Old Mac pays tribute to the founder of the U.S. Golf Association and father of American golf course architecture, Charles Blair Macdonald. Its characterized by massive greens that Doak says are probably bigger than any set of greens anybody has built in 30 years. (They take up to 45 minutes to mow.) Before we played our round, we practiced 200-footers at the par-3 10th green.
 
Though the course has yet to fully open, it is now allowing the public to play 10-hole preview rounds.
 
In addition to the unique greens, the bunkering at Old Mac is also memorable. Doak describes them as eclectic, specifically the four that are boarded up with railroad ties to reflect what Macdonald would have seen when he was playing golf 125 years ago.
 
Doaks other design at the resort, Pacific Dunes, is purely his own. Known for his minimalist style of golf course architecture, he kept much of the natural lay of the land intact. The course starts off amidst shore pines but quickly exposes itself to the Pacific Ocean. Rugged in nature, the fairways have gentle undulations throughout. Many of the bunkers were carved out of natural sand formations that have been in existence for centuries.
 
Though only 6,700 yards in length, tight driving corridors and windy conditions make Pacific Dunes the most difficult course for scoring. If you can play to your handicap here, consider it a great round.
 
The resorts namesake, Bandon Dunes ' designed by then-unknown Scottish architect David McLay Kidd ' is a more forgiving links layout with wide fairways and large greens. Driving accuracy isnt as important here as it is at Pacific, but placement of approach shots is paramount.
 
As is the case with many of golfs greatest links courses, trajectory into greens is the key to hitting it close. At No. 4, for example, misses long might end up in the ocean, and misses on the wrong side of the green could leave you with a 90-foot putt. Well-struck shots that dont consider the wind could meet either fate.
 
Bandon Dunes inland course is Bandon Trails. Designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, Trails takes golfers through a more diverse set of surroundings than any of the other courses at the resort. Players begin their journey near the ocean atop a massive sand dune before diverting inland to an open meadow.
 
The middle of the round takes golfers through a hilly coastal forest where the rugged, natural beauty of Oregon shines through. By 18, golfers have made their way back to the ocean dunes. Like every other course at the resort, no hole at Trails is like another.
 
Yep, Bandon Dunes is the real deal. Its Scotland, with better food. Its the best golf resort youve ever seen, but better. Hey Scotland, welcome to America!