Reader’s Trip Report: Bandon Dunes

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A bunch of us were supposed to play in a tournament today, but the rain started last night—over an inch so far—and everything was called off. Tony and I decided to play anyway, and because we couldn’t talk anyone into joining us we had the place to ourselves for a Two-Hour Eighteen™ (which actually took two hours and fifteen minutes). The golf shop was locked and empty, so we had to handle our own photography:

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The rain came down sideways for a while, and we were both reminded of a trip we took to Bandon Dunes with our friend Ray in February, 2007. On that trip, we had rain every day for five days, but still managed to play ten awesome rounds.  And although we got wet we didn’t get as wet as we might have. A starter told me that a few years before, on a day when the wind blew hard and the resort received almost seven inches of rain, all eighty-five golfers on the tee sheet played, as did two walk-ons, who were passing through the area and thought the day looked reasonable for golf. Like them, we had a great time, and ever since then we’ve been talking about going back.

Pacific Dunes, February, 2007.

Ray, mystery person, Tony, caddies, Pacific Dunes, February, 2007.

Coincidentally, last night, just as the rain began, I heard from Tim Miles, a reader, who is at Bandon Dunes right now with a group of friends. He began his trip report with a quotation from my first golf book—an effective way to get my attention:

I suddenly had a vision of a sort of ideal community of golfers: a golfing monastery, or golfastery. Men who worship golf living humbly with other men who worship golf. Simple food. Lots of putting practice. A big driving range with well-spaced target greens. Excellent video-taping facilities. Careful study of the rules. Pilgrimages to the great courses of the world. Beer making in the evenings. Who wouldn’t want to live like that?

I’ve changed my mind about some of that—no more range balls for me!—but I agree with Miles that Bandon Dunes comes close to my monastic vision. Here’s Miles’s report, with photos taken by him and his friends:

Tim Miles, our Bandon correspondent, June, 2013.

Tim Miles, our Bandon correspondent, June, 2013.

Bandon Dunes gets everything right for golfers. There’s not an ounce of pretense in the place (save for the occasional jackass, pink-plaid-panted golfer). The food and lodging are not fancy but perfect in every way. The staff is shockingly good. Every employee of every course in America should be required to witness the level of kindness, engagement, and  service delivered throughout the resort. My caddie, Paul, said employees are trained to consider Bandon Dunes Golf Resort to be Disney for Golfers. It shows, except unlike Disney it’s not loud, flashy, or overstimulating. Bandon lets the courses and their settings overwhelm you. 

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It’s not the easiest place to get to, and it’s not the cheapest (though big discounts on a second 18 each day are perhaps the best bargain in all of golf), but it’s worth it. Oh, is it worth it.

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One final note for your visit: when you’re there, do not dismiss Bandon Preserve, a thirteen-hole par-3 course whose net profits go to charity. In its first short season, in 2012 (it opened last May), our starter told us, Preserve donated more than $510,000 to local non-profits. Its goal for this year is more than $750,000. With great ocean views and an opportunity to play 100-yard 7-irons and 160-yards wedges, you’ll never laugh or experience more sheer joy per hole than you will at Preserve. Be sure to try the final hole—a 109-yard downhiller— with your putter.

The Miles party: Chris, Rush, Tim, Steve, Carolyn, Paul, Gerard. Bandon Dunes, June, 2013.

The Miles party: Chris, Rush, Tim, Steve, Carolyn, Paul, Gerard. Bandon Dunes, June, 2013.