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The Ultimate Golfer's Getaway

A trio of courses on the Oregon coast— Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails—are a golfer's paradise in the middle of nowhere
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Emeril Lagasse, Sept/Oct 2005

(continued from page 2)

If the course hasn't captivated you by the time you've completed the 15th hole, the 16th should give you a goose bump or two. From the back tee this hole is only 363 yards, yet it demands the most exacting tee shot on the course, a carry across a weedy, sandy wall to an angled fairway seemingly the width of a paper airplane. Once that shot has been executed, the second is a pitch to a green high above the Pacific. With the usual winds influencing the shot, it's anything but easy, even from less than 100 yards. All the best attributes of links golf are wound into this one small, dramatic par 4. It's rather disappointing that the course finishes on two holes that carry you away from the sea. The par-4 17th is challenging, but the par-5 18th is rather routine and appears to be only a means to get you back to the clubhouse.

Doak's Pacific Dunes course has a different look and somewhat more dramatic dunes and elevation changes, along with a quirkier routing. The bunkering at Pacific Dunes is flashed and dished, exposing a lot of sand, and there is plenty of exposed sand in waste areas and dunes. The front nine has one par 3 and one par 5, while the back nine has four par 3s and three par 5s. Pacific Dunes is a shorter course than Bandon, but tends to be more penal and the greenside bunkering downright devilish. The back-to-back par-3 10th and 11th holes are a stern test in the wind, and the par-4 13th running north along the ocean holds great beauty and great challenge. Unlike Bandon Dunes, the par-5 18th at Pacific holds considerably more interest, with a huge dune bunker on the left threatening the tee shot. The approach to the green, be it from long distance with a fairway wood or pitching distance, is classically links. The green slopes away from the player and chances are anything that lands on the green will roll off the back. A shot that finds the belt-width-wide right greenside bunker may not yield a shot that can be played onto the green.

The new Bandon Trails course begins with three superb holes: a par 4 into dune land, a par 3 that starts the journey into the parkland, and a par 5 that completes the transition into forested and meadow areas. You won't likely forget the tee shot on the par-3 17th to a green pinched on either side by gnarly bunkering. This is one scary shot in heavy crosswinds.

"Bandon is certainly a different sort of golf than we are used to playing," says Peter Smola. "My expectation was for it to be beautiful, and it was. While it's called a resort, it's definitely not resort golf. It's not that we didn't enjoy walking and playing either, but I thought maybe it was just a little pretentious in that regard, that somehow the only real golf experience is a walking one. But the bottom line is that we enjoyed it both from the playing perspective and the fact we could have this father-son trip together. It's a very good place in that regard."

Bandon also appeals to golfers who are already familiar with links courses. Jack Makoujy, a clothing importer in New York, has played a lot of golf in a lot of places, including Scotland and Ireland. Makoujy played at Bandon Dunes in April, and soon after made a reservation for June 2006 for himself and seven golf buddies. They will play their own tournament for four days, with the possibility that a few dollars will change hands. He's sure that everyone will have a good time. "If you love golf, good food and a soft bed, and don't feel like taking out a mortgage to be there, Bandon is just a heck of a place," says Makoujy.

The gathering of the clan does not stop after a 19th-hole layover for a few adult beverages. Most of the golfers stay in one of Bandon's accommodations, either in the main lodge or in luxe cabin-style housing. The Chrome Lake, Lily Pond Rooms and brand-new Grove Cottage accommodations are cabin-style and decidedly masculine in decor, though they should not be off-putting to female guests. Chrome Lake even features dual bathrooms, even for the one-bedrooms, on the theory that two golfers can get ready in a hurry for their morning round and get ready for dinner later.

There are a number of dining and gathering options. The Gallery Restaurant and Tufted Puffin Lounge are in the main lodge, as is the Bunker Bar in the basement. A 50-yard walk away is McKee's Pub, meant to evoke the sense of an old-world pub, with Guinness on tap and plenty of sports on television. Excellent cigar smoking areas are also available. The patio outside of McKee's Pub has tables and chairs and an ever-aflame wood-burning fireplace. The Bunker Bar, since it serves only alcohol, allows smoking. It has a small selection of cigars (Macanudo, Partagas, Cohiba), single-malt Scotches, microbrewery beers and a pool table. It's where Marty Weill and his buddies like to hang out. "Now this is a guy kind of place," says Weill, holding a freshly drawn glass of Widmer's, a microbrewery beer that he also happens to distribute.

Weill has also just had one of his favorite Bandon Dunes meals at McKee's Pub—Grandma Thayer's Meatloaf. Meatloaf, being a guy kind of food, is very popular. It's on all the menus at the resort, along with the usual assortment of steaks, lamb and salmon. The resort's wine expert, Phil Sabol, has put together a substantial list, heavy on reds, that includes some of Oregon's dynamite Pinot Noir. Under "Phil's Special Selections" you can find Domaine Serene "Grace" Pinot Noir, Plumpjack Reserve Cabernet and enough Opus One to sate any appetite. "It wouldn't be unusual here to see someone having a bottle of Opus One with Grandma's Meatloaf," says resort manager Hank Hichox.

The open-pit fireplace at the new Bandon Trails resort should become a favorite gathering place, and soon. Set away from the clubhouse restaurant, the covered deck has clear plastic glass to protect it from the winds and a great view out across the course to the ocean. Plenty of microbrews and cigars will be consumed at this precious spot.

For those who just can't get enough of the game, who genuinely want to work on it from dusk until dawn, Bandon Dunes has a 32-acre practice facility where you get a bucket of balls or two or three by striping your room card through a slot on the ball machine. Target greens exist for every length of shot and a one-acre practice green mimics the humps and bumps of the greens on the courses, but runs much slower than them. It can also be tough practicing in the early morning, as the range faces east and the sun tends to burn right into your eyes.

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