Reader’s Trip Report: Bandon Dunes in a Hurricane

Mike Goldman, a reader, recently spent several days at Bandon Dunes with seven friends. Here’s the local forecast from part of their trip:

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They played every day, naturally, even though the Speed Golf World Championship, which was supposed to be held on Old MacDonald while they were there, was canceled because of the weather. Here’s what the wind did to the speed-golf scoreboards:

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From Goldman’s report:
While the entire trip was a home run (mainly because my team won), the lasting memory will be our trudge through the hurricane on Saturday, on Bandon Dunes. What started as a light mist and a stiff breeze quickly regressed into a wind and rainstorm so dramatic that one member of our group said, on the second tee, “We’ve already passed the point of bringing all the animals inside and duct-taping the windows.” 
 
I’m not an agronomist, but my understanding is that gorse is a hearty plant and that it’s unusual to see it rolling down fairways like tumbleweeds. At one point, on the sixth green, we suspended play and hunkered down in a catcher’s stance, and leaned into the wind to keep from blowing off the cliff. We were a little nervous, but, mainly, we were laughing hysterically at what we were going to have to do to complete the match. Here’s one of our caddies climbing uphill into the wind:
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On the seventh green, as we were trying unsuccessfully to mark our balls, one of the caddies said, “Whatever you do, do not get within 10 feet of that cliff.” No. 9 at Bandon is a straightforward par 5. On a normal day, it’s two good shots and a little pitch, and then you’re putting for birdie. Playing dead into he storm, I hit driver (hard), 3-wood, 3-wood (again), and then a torched 8-iron to the front fringe, 50 feet from the hole. I’m more pleased with that result than hitting it in two on a normal day.
 
At the end of nine holes, much to the relief of our caddies, we suspended play for a burger and a beer, and strategized about how best to complete the matches. We settled on the Preserve, Bandon’s new 13-hole par-3 course. The longest hole is only about 160 yards, but many holes turned out to be unreachable. On others, you’d hit a simple pitch shot and watch the wind whisk your ball over the green and into the gorse. At the end of the day, we were tattered, wind-damaged, and in possession of a golf experience we’ll all remember for a lifetime.  
Here’s the winning team. (Marty Hackel: note the wardrobe.) From left to right, they are Mike Kemmet, Trevor Dyer, Mike Goldman, and Steve Harry. Dyer (a.k.a. The Captain) organized the trip, and kept everyone up to date with a website he created for that purpose —an excellent idea.
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Here’s Dyer during the hurricane. It looks like he’s swinging, but he’s actually just being bent into a pretzel by the wind:
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And here’s a picture of Goldman during a round once the storm had passed:
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And here’s a golf quiz: when you read Goldman’s account of their Saturday rounds, did you wish you’d been there, too? I did. (That means I passed the quiz.) I visited Bandon back in February 2007 with Tony and Ray. We played ten rounds in five days, all in the rain. During lunch between eighteens each day, we parked our rainsuits in some industrial-strength dryers in the clubhouse. Here are Ray and Tony with our caddies:
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During that trip, a starter told me that, several winters before, on a day when the wind blew hard and Bandon received almost seven inches of rain, all eighty-five golfers on the tee sheet played—and so did two walk-ons, who were passing through and thought the day looked reasonable for golf. They were right!
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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.

What’s In My Bag: Jack Chesnutt

Royal Birkdale, May 19, 2013.

Royal Birkdale, May 19, 2013.

Today, I played Royal Birkdale with Paul Jones, a young member and a terrific golfer, whose swing finish you see here:

P1060461Before we teed off, I bought my wife a sweater in the golf shop and decided not to buy myself an enameled ball marker. Then, during our round, I found an enameled ball marker that was even nicer than the one I had decided not to buy. The exact same thing (except for the part about my wife) happened to me a year ago, at Cruden Bay, in Scotland. The ball marker I found there turned out to be one of the luckiest I’ve ever owned, for about a month. Fingers crossed!

And that brings me to Jack Chesnutt, a reader in Colorado, who recently wrote:

I found the ball markers below (along with one from a course in Ireland I have since lost) on a fairway at Pacific Dunes in 2008. They did not seem to have been dropped accidentally from someone’s pocket. They were arranged in a small triangle with a well-worn repair tool in the middle. The last act of a frustrated golfer after watching one more drive arc toward the rocks and surf? Or maybe a little memorial to a departed golfing buddy? The view from that point in the fairway was wonderful.

photoAs I do with all the markers I keep in my golf bag, I rotate the Arrowhead marker in and out of my game. The first three-putt sends it into time-out. But I never use the Old Course marker. I don’t want to lose it. Maybe I will find the owner or his/her son/daughter someday.

Before claiming that these are yours, be prepared to reveal some telling piece of information that only you and Chesnutt could possibly know. Meanwhile, here’s what Chesnutt has to say about his own game:

I caddied for my dad back in the early sixties, but a huge banana slice and indifferent putting convinced me that tennis was more my game. When I turned fifty, my brother-in-law the pilot-golfer (what else do they have to do when they are not driving a 737?)  persuaded me to play a round. I shot 99. I was hooked. My wife (hey, it was her brother who got me into this) made fun of my golf habit. “Why would any human being need more than ONE pair of golf shoes?” Luckily for me, she took up golf, became a 9-handicap, and soon bought her third pair of golf shoes. The trip to Bandon was our first big golf vacation together. The first round, at Pacific Dunes, was memorable not only for the stunning setting but also for finding the ball markers. It was so windy that my stand-bag blew over—twice. I’m now sixty-two years old, and my index is 4.5, and I keep about ten ball markers and three repair tools in the rotation. The repair tools don’t seem to have the same cosmic effect on my putting as the markers. I’m also up to four pair of golf shoes. 

I’ll put up more What’s In My Bag items as soon as I’m back in the States. I’ve got several in the hopper, but there’s room for more. Keep ’em coming—and include at least one photo and a golf-oriented description of yourself.