Bandon Dunes was an amazing course and I will never forget the first time I played #4 and saw the reveal. I feel that #16 is the most visually stunning hole at the resort and I cannot understand how anyone could argue that BD is overrated.
Okay, just to be Devil's Advocate, I"ll be that guy.
Here's the argument: this thread is now 4 1/2 pages long and there are only two or three holes that anyone has singled out as being great holes. And even on those two, just above, you only mentioned the visuals of them, instead of whether they were really great holes to play.
I don't have any question that lots of people love the course . . . it is a great setting for golf, and all of the courses at Bandon get a lot of extra points for that. But if great courses are full of great holes, and everybody keeps coming back to the same two or three holes, is it really that great?
And if fans of the course now fall back and tell us what a great hole the 5th is or the 11th or whatever, at least then we could talk about whether it's a great course instead of the popularity contest.
I agree with you that this thread has been pretty thin on discussion of what's so great about the individual holes on Bandon Dunes...so let me try to fill that in.
I gave my take on why I thought Bandon Dunes wasn't overrated at the top of page 2. Here's that speech:
I would say that it's not overrated being in the top 50 in the US, even though I don't think it's one of the top two courses at the resort. And that's because while I think it has a few more negatives than either Pacific Dunes or Bandon Trails, its positives are about as strong as theirs.
Let's start with the weaknesses: the routing and some of the holes on the front nine. The walks from 1-2 (left tee), 3-4, and 6-7 are all longer than you'd want. The 6-7 walk is especially irritating because the 7th tee is next to the 5th green. And I wasn't a big fan of 2 (from the left tee; I might like it more from the right), 7, or especially 9. Except for a few bunkers in the middle of the fairway, 9, with its mounds up both sides and flattish fairway, reminded me of something from a high-end public course in metro Detroit.
But these walks are at most 150 yards and none of those is a bad hole. And the strengths are so strong. The back nine is as good as any on the property. There are a bunch of very good to great holes including 4-6, 10, 12, 14-17. And I thought that there was a lot of variety in the green complexes. Some were narrower, some were broader. Some had heavy interior contour, others not so much. And I really liked the surroundings of the greens. There's a lot of severity around these greens but unlike some new courses, there's always a good place to miss. The 15th hole--which they made a mess of in the US Amateur--is a good example of this. Yes long left and right are dead, but there's plenty of room short and left. You just have to realize it and use it.
So while Bandon Dunes might have the most weaknesses of the top 3 or 4 courses at Bandon (not counting Sheep Ranch, which I think is clearly inferior to the others), it has many strengths and the strengths are as strong as the other courses. All of that adds up to it probably being rated about right.[/size][/font]
Leave aside the stuff about the shaping, I noted 4-6, 10, 12, 14-17 as very good to great holes. One thing that many of these holes have in common is that you court a lot of danger with an aggressive shot. But they leave you plenty of room if you hedge to the safe side or figure out the right, conservative line.
Everyone points to 4-6 as a great stretch. For me, 5 is clearly the best hole of this bunch because you want to be in the center of the fairway to have a good look at the narrow green. But to get there, you have to flirt with/carry the mounds in the middle of the fairway. Carrying them shouldn't be too difficult if it's downwind, but then you have to be accurate or your can run through the fairway into the junk on the left or right. I'd seen people question this drive before and the pictures of the hole made it look a bit too challenging, but in person, I thought it worked perfectly and I think that this is among the top handful of holes on the whole property.
4 is maybe not as interesting off the tee, but there's still something to do: it's easier to approach the green from the right than the left half of the fairway. That means that you have to flirt with the junk down the right. I also found the drive interestingly awkward because the junk on the right cuts subtly into the fairway the further you go. I actually found this drive to be quite tough. Obviously the big reveal when you get around the corner helps the hole too.
The sixth is excellent because the deeper you try to hit it into the green, the less room you have at the sides to miss. A lot of holes share this principle (Coore/Crenshaw courses seem to have a lot of them) but it's a good one and like many of the best of these holes, the safe play (here to the front of the green) gives a lot of safety. Sometimes on these holes the safe play doesn't leave enough room, but I didn't think that was the case here.
On the rest of the front nine, I also like the 8th hole. But I think that the next excellent hole is the 10th. To me, this is definitely a great hole. You can drive it pretty much anywhere you like. But the approach from the right side of the fairway is so awkward that it's really not advisable, unless perhaps you can get it really close to the green. The best line into the green is from pretty far out to the left and you really have to have some self-control to drive it in a place that looks so far off line. But the green is so skinny and so well-protected by the hill on the right that the angle is very important.
Next, the 12th. Generally, I think that the par 3s, except the 2nd from the west tee, are excellent. This is certainly one of the two toughest (along with 15). Again, like the 6th, you take on a lot of risk in trying to be aggressive to back pins here. One, you can easily go over the green into the junk. Two, you can easily be caught by the pot bunker at the corner of the green. So you hedge short. But unlike six, this part of the green is narrower so you need to be precise. The really safe play, which is very easy, is to hedge just short of the green. If the pin is back-left, you'll have to be on the right to avoid pitching over the pot bunker. You still need to be fairly accurate with the safe play because a miss left is always bad. So there are layers of safe plays here and if you pick the safest, placement becomes important.
I like the 13th hole a lot because it has some of the best fairway contour on the whole property. But the next great hole is 14. Like 10, this a great sucker hole. You know the green is on the right and that it's a short par 4, so you're tempted to go for it. But there are so many bunkers over there. And the approach is so easy if you just play well out to the left, over the first bunker in the center of the fairway. It may not be the most exciting hole once you figure out and commit to this play but given the vanity of most golfers, it works very well.
It seems like there might be some playability issues with the 15th in the summer when the ground is firm. But in the fall, it was perfect. Again, getting aggressive here courts all kinds of trouble because long-left and right are some of the worst misses on the course. But there's plenty of room to hedge short and left and to run one onto the green here. Also, my understanding is that this hole plays more into the wind in the summer. So while the firmness of the ground might create problems for a shot played to the front-left, the wind should hold a careful shot played here.
Sixteen is obviously a stunning hole and gets points for that. But there are plenty of holes in the world that look good but play terribly. I don't think that this is one of them, subject again to the caveat that I haven't played it in the summer. In the fall, when it was a bit into the wind, it was tough just to carry the cross bunkers, even playing somewhat out to the left. I could have played more out to the left, so even though I was pissed off when I found my ball in the bunker, I thought the drive worked great.
This is another sucker drive because there really isn't a lot of room online with the green. You get a lot of "hey, I'm on a dream trip, I'm not laying up" at Bandon Dunes and this hole exploits that fully. If you could squeeze your drive between the bunkers in front of the green, you'd have a much easier approach. It's a tough angle from out to the left. But you should only have ~100 yards and the green isn't that narrow. So I feel like the difficulty is reasonable. It just seems that the discipline to play it over here is often lacking. To me, that counts in the hole's favor.
Finally 17. This is one hole that I think is made by its green, which is probably the course's best. There's certainly something to do on the drive though, namely get it as close to the valley as you can. Because you don't want a long shot in. I think that the green is probably the course's largest and has the most interior contour. It's a nice change of pace for a course that for the most part isn't made by its green contours, but by the strategy-generating placement of hazards and angling of greens. There's plenty of room to miss here, but you'd better be able to putt.
That to me is a lot of very good to great holes and is certainly enough to consider Bandon Dunes a great course, despite a few weaknesses. Still, I'd probably have it behind Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails, which have most of its strengths (plus a few more) and few of its weaknesses.