Bandon Trails
OR, USA

Green Keeper: Ken Nice

Sixth hole, 395 yards; Giving wide fairways playing interest is best accomplished in three ways: 1) central hazards, 2) interesting land forms, or 3) the green complex. At the 6th, Coore uses all three methods toprovide this straight hole its playing merit. 240 yards from the back markers is a solitary fairway bunker that creates all sorts of concern, especially when playing into the prevailing summer wind. Just past that bunker is a created shelf that gives the golfer the absolute ideal angle and stance from which to play his approach. Just past that shelf the fairway gives way down and to the left where another fairway bunker lurks. This second central fairway bunker is hidden from the tee and at 295 yards from the back markers, creates worries for the golfer when the hole plays downwind in the winter months. On the heels of the wildly undulating 5th green, the 6th putting surface is the most level on the course.

The bunker in the middle of the fairway guards the ideal spot from where the golfer would like to approach the 6th green.

A drive well right of the fairway bunker leaves an approach over a vast expanse of sand.

Downwind approach shots in the winter have a way of finding this wrap-around back bunker.

Seventh hole, 440 yards; Perhaps the hardest two shotter on the course, a big drive is a must just to bring the uphill green in reach on one’s second. The generous width of the fairway conceded by the architect is quickly forgotten as one studies the demands of the second shot: any shot short of the green may rolltwenty yards back down the fairway given the uniformly firm playing conditions presented by Ken Nice and his crew. Unfortunately, there is no help above the day’s hole location either as the steep back to front pitch of the green leaves the golfer an unwanted downhill shot of some sort. A bunker at the left rear of the green makes for a nightmarish recovery shot to the front left hole locations – if faced with that shot, the golfer should consider playing sideways from the hole unless he relishes the sight of his ball running past the hole and off the green.

The uphill 7th hole was the last hole completed during construction of Bandon Trails.

The right bunker off the tee was expanded in the winter of 2007 and now comes more into the fairway. A true work of art, its random look mimics nature more so than any intentional handiwork by man.

Eighth hole, 320 yards; A superlative short two shotter as its downhill nature combined with the uninterrupted flow of the fairway feeding onto the putting surface goads the golfer into a false sense of security. Any score from a two toa wretchingly much higher one becomes a possibility if the golfer decides to have a go at the green from the tee. The bunkers down the left are actually mercy ones as they contain a tee ball missed left from takinga pronounced right to left slope and running away into the wilderness. The bunkering scheme employed here provides hope and confidence which is important: the best attribute of a drivable two shotter is to entice the golfer into poor decisions (i.e. having a go) and the view from the 8th tee accomplishes that exceptionally well. The hole’s ultimate defense is its elusive putting surface, which Coore calls ‘one of the best we’ve ever done.’ Its crowned nature shrugs balls off and to the left, thanks to the masterfulwork of Jimbo Wright.

This view provides the golfer with hope that a draw from the 8th tee will take the fairway slope and run onto the green. As Coore maintains, 'More options make it harder for the good player.' Just before pulling the driver back here on the 8th tee, one imagines the conflicted good player thinking 'Is this the right decision? and/or 'Am I making a mistake?'

Ninth hole, 565 yards; A golf course is a string of golf holes. Especially if it happens to be an eighteen hole course, how the holes relate to one another is important. As the golfer is out there for several hours, it is nonsensical for each hole to continual out duel its predecessor as eventually the golfer’s senses become overloaded or worse, dulled. As Coore writes in the introduction to the yardage book, ‘As its name implies, Bandon Trails will take you on walk if you will, through windswept dunes, meadows of vegetation framed by indigenous shrubbery, and through woodlands of towering fir and spruce trees. Sometimes the journey and the golf will be wild and tumultuous, sometimes serene.’ This 9th green complex and the ninety yards prior are one of the ‘serene’ moments to which Coore refers. Despite the media scrutiny that would accompany the opening of this course and the clamoring for eye-popping features to compete/compare against the other two courses, Coore & Crenshaw’s show of restrain here at the 9th hole makes the experience of playing Bandon Trails all the better.

Holes 7 through 13 were carved from a thick forest. However, the huge width of the 7th playing corridor followed by the golfer's attention being drawn to the green from the tee at the 8th means that only here at the 9th might one realize how the nature of the property has changed from meadow to forest.

The absence of clutter for the last ninety yards of the 9th fairway is a fine attribute in its own right. Again, special praise should be paid to Ken Nice and his crew for how well the fairway merges with the green. Indeed, the lack of definition provides lack of depth perception, making it harder for the golfer to get his approach close.

Tenth hole, 420 yards; In less than a decade, the name Bandon has become synonymous with the glories of links golf. People from around the world come to Bandon to experience golf of that type. For the Americans who come, such golf is a rare treat. The golfer cherishes the long views across Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes that culminate with the Pacific Ocean. As noted by Stephen Goodwin, this is ‘dream golf’. However, though all three courses make for a wonderful walk through nature, golf is the thing. Though Bandon Trails doesn’t afford the same amount of ocean views as the other two courses, its own unique setting appeals and inspires the golfer. Several holes, especially here and the 15th, remind the golfer of the sandbelt courses around Melbourne, Australia. Indeed, for some traditionalists, there is no more inspired setting for golf than the West Course at Royal Melbourne. For such golfers, Bandon Trails might even become their favorite course at the Bandon resort, an unheard notion prior to the course’s construction.

A view down the 10th hole. The low profile huckleberry bushes and manzanita add a distinctive rustic character to the bunkering here and throughout the course. Indeed, the golfer can be pardoned for occasionally thinking he is at Royal Melbourne where ...

...the indigenous low-lying vegetation has long played a part in having the bunkers appear fully integrated with their landscape. Pictured is the 4th hole on the West Course at Royal Melbourne.

Eleventh hole, 445 yards; The scale of the green makes the hole. At 48 yards deep and over 11,000 square feet in size, it’s the biggest green on the course. However, given its entire right side is guarded by water, the right third is never an aiming point. Given the rugged nature of the property combined with Coore & Crenshaw’s reluctance to place water hazards close to greens, the golfer is initially surprised to see this placid water feature suddenly incorporated into the design. However, after a few rounds, the golfer comes to relish the approach shot from well back in the fairway to the green below handsomely framed by the tall spruce, fir and cedar trees and the lake. Coore & Crenshaw added a new tee in the winter of 2007 to insure tee balls stay back up the hill, even when it plays downwind during the summer months. Otherwise, a short iron approach into this green undermines the hole’s playing intent, as well as depriving the golfer of one of the more thrilling shots on the course. Give Keiser credit for this hole too: when Axland and Coore were debating on how or whether to drain the area right of the green, Keiser’s expressed his fondnessfor the playing characteristics of the 16th at Pine Valley Golf Club. From that moment on, the notion of the pond and a large rolling green became a reality.

From 200 yards away, the golfer stares down at the massive 11th green with the water hazard hard to the right. The left bunker is 50 paces from the front edge of the green.

Twelfth hole, 240 yards; Greens where the penalty is severe on all sides leave the golfer with a lack of choice: it is high demand architecture and the golfer must produce the required shot. Several of the world’s finest courses do this to great effect, highlighted by Oakmont Country Club and Pine Valley Golf Club. However, the notion of having one side tightly defended by obvious trouble (e.g. a deep, menacing bunker) while leaving the other sides apparently trouble free (e.g. tightly mown grass) held greater intrigue for many master architects, especially Dr. Alister MacKenzie. His 17th green complex at The West Course at Royal Melbourne is the all-time case in point. At the 12th at Bandon Trails, a tightly mown five foot knob right of the front edge of the green may not appear as devilish as the scrub and bunkers left but it has the same ability to make a mess of one’s score. Though visually the first timer won’t believe it, the place to miss the tee ball is on line with the green and short.

The sprawling bunker that Jeff Bradley and Tony Russell created between the tee and green was an 'excercise in patience' according to Coore. The bunker masks all the short grass between it and the green, the start of which isn't for another 75 yards. The back right bunker over the green compliments this front bunker perfectly and creates the illusion that there is nothing but trouble from tee to green, save for all the short grass to the green's right. However, as this photograph hints and ...

...as this photograph shows, this cursed mound at the right front side of the green makes recovery shots from the right anything but straightforward. Short of the green leaves a much simpler up and down.

Continued >>>