2001: Preferred - High ball hitters beware: Pacific winds dictate strategy

By Brian Hewitt

Bandon, Ore.

The smart-aleck answer to the question of how to play Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes is “very carefully.” This, of course, is the universal answer to the question of how to play any challenging golf course.

One of the first things you must do upon your arrival at the first tee is check the wind. If the ocean breezes are up – they usually begin stirring in late morning – you might want to consider playing from the green tees. Bandon from the “greens” measures 6,221 yards and plays to a par of 72. “Pac” Dunes from the same colored markers is 6,174 and par 71.

Which course is better?

“It’s kind of like deciding which one of your children you like more,” says Tim Hval, the resort’s head professional. “It depends on the day.”

If you are a 10 handicap or higher, the green tees on either course will give you all the golf you need almost all the time. The single-digit handicapper and/or the sadist might want more. For the record, Bandon Dunes from the tips (black tees) measures 6,732 yards with a course rating of 74.6 and a slope of 145. The numbers for Pacific Dunes are 6,557, 72.9 and 133.

Because so many of the golfers at Bandon are serious players and because so many of them will play 36 in one day, here’s the smart compromise: Play the back tees in the morning when the wind generally is tame. Play the green tees in the afternoon. You will be walking all 36 holes (there are six carts on the grounds and the use of them is broadly discouraged) and your legs will start to wear down late in the day.

Another tip: If your ball winds up in the gorse – and you are lucky enough to find it – take your medicine and declare your lie unplayable. Attack a ball lodged in the gorse (it’s the dark green stuff. . . the stuff that makes the caddies get real quiet) at your own risk. If you try to slash it out, you risk serious injury to your score and your wrists.

Most players don’t notice that the back nine at Pacific Dunes contains just two par 4s. One of them, the long 13th, is a memorable signature hole with a soaring dune to the right of the green and the ocean to the left. But architect Tom Doak also built four par 3s on the backside and three par 5s. Most players don’t notice that idiosyncrasy, either, until after their round.

Both architects – David McLay Kidd at Bandon Dunes and Doak at Pacific Dunes – have allowed the player multiple opportunities on most holes to play bump-and-run approaches. If you are a high ball hitter and don’t know any other trajectory, you probably want to plan your vacation elsewhere. An “upshooter” into a Bandon wind will be eaten alive.

The best hole on either course may be the 445-yard (from the backs) par 4 fifth at Bandon Dunes that requires a long, straight drive and a pinpoint iron through a narrow entrance to a crowned green. The prettiest hole at Bandon Dunes is the par 4 16th. But the limited landing area for the tee ball has prompted critics to demand more space for the drive. To their credit, the powers-that-be at Bandon Dunes are looking into the situation.

After golf, there is a restaurant and a separate bar with tables for dining. Both are located in the lodge just a lob wedge from the first tee box at Bandon Dunes. A full menu and wine list are available at both spots. A limited number of rooms are available at the lodge and there are cottages nearby with understated amenities such as Sony television sets (with The Golf Channel) and “Seattle Best Coffee” in the in-room coffee makers.

You are likely to see an eclectic array of celebrities at Bandon Dunes (Maury Povich, Sidney Poitier and Stone Phillips were recent visitors). But it is unlikely they will be treated better than you. When Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser arrives unexpectedly and the lodge is full, he stays at a motel in town. Big-footing is not allowed here.

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