Sheep Ranch promises new cliffside thrills just north of Bandon Dunes

Courtesy of Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch

Sheep Ranch promises new cliffside thrills just north of Bandon Dunes

Courses

Sheep Ranch promises new cliffside thrills just north of Bandon Dunes

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BANDON, Ore. – Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is famous for the clifftop, ocean-front holes on three of its four highly ranked courses set basically in the middle of nowhere next to the Pacific Ocean.

There soon will be even more flagsticks along that coastline.

Nine new cliffside greens are under construction just to the north of Bandon Dunes as part of what is being shaped into the par-71, 7,000-yard Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch. The opening date has not been set, but expect play to begin in spring of 2020 if all goes to plan.

And you read that right – nine of the 18 greens will be directly on the 100-foot cliffs. Compare that to the resort’s Bandon Dunes course, which has five greens directly on the cliffs, six if one green (No. 5) shrouded by a dune is counted. The Pacific Dunes course has three greens directly on the cliffs and a couple very close, and the Old Macdonald course has one.

The site of what had been the Sheep Ranch – 13 greens with an unset, play-as-you-like routing built by Tom Doak – will become the fifth 18-hole course associated with the resort that already has four of Golfweek’s top 10 resort courses in the United States. The Sheep Ranch had existed since Doak built the resort’s Pacific Dunes course and came next door to set up a rustic experience accessible to a handful of golfers who went to the trouble to determine the place actually existed and to gain access.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are the architects of what is becoming Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch – that duo also built the resort’s Bandon Trails course that opened in 2005. Sheep Ranch founder Phil Friedmann and Bandon Dunes founder Mike Keiser will co-operate the new course. A road is being constructed to ferry players from Bandon Dunes Golf Resort to the Sheep Ranch, which will have its own clubhouse, and bookings and accommodations will be through Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.

From left, Mike Keiser, Phil Friedmann and Bill Coore check out the layout at Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch. (Courtesy of Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch)

Golfers have for years peered from elevated spots on the Old Macdonald course, across the crevasse that holds Whiskey Run Lane at the northern edge of the resort property and seen flagsticks on what kind of looked like a golf course in the distance.

Those flagsticks were replaced in recent months with bulldozers and other assorted heavy equipment. Golfers on No. 7 green at Old Mac could see construction, but resort officials stayed mum.

Now the semi-secret is officially out.

“It was wonderful to have this incredibly special golf experience early on,” Friedmann said of the Sheep Ranch on the new course’s website. “It is now time to share the magic of the Sheep Ranch with other lovers of the game.”

And this course will be all about the cliffs.

A green complex (bottom of image) sits south along the coast near Fivemile Point. This green will be closest to the Old Macdonald course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, just across the crevasse that holds Whiskey Run Lane. (Courtesy of Billy Bandon Sheep Ranch)

The resort’s three existing cliffside courses share almost two miles of oceanfront. The Sheep Ranch will have a mile of coastline all to itself stretching along each side of Fivemile Point, which marks its distance from the town of Bandon to the south. It took some creativity, but Coore configured a routing that maximizes the number of green locations directly on the cliffs.

And unlike the oceanfront at Bandon Dunes, where the existing holes are plotted alongside the cliffs but never really offer a view back at the cliffs from the oceanside or a shot over the steep walls of rock, the Sheep Ranch will require shots over the cliffs from tees and to greens set on a promontory.

Most dramatic likely will be the double green for Nos. 3 and 16, which will sit directly atop Fivemile Point.

After playing the double green at Nos. 3 and 16 atop Fivemile Point, players will launch tees shots over the gorse-covered cliffs. (Jason Lusk/Golfweek)

“How cool is this?” asked Michael Chupka, Bandon Dunes’ director of communications and the former head pro at Pacific Dunes, as he stood next to what will become that double green during a recent tour of the property under development.

Sounds simple, and of course he works there, but he’s absolutely right. It’s almost impossible to imagine a more dramatic setting for golf in the U.S. It’s all cliff, ocean, rock and gorse, and the grass will come in soon enough. Standing next to the cliff is enough to make a flatlander nervous because of the very real possibility of falling off the edge.

The site is mostly dirt now, and tracks from heavy equipment push right up against the cliffs. Irrigation is being installed, and shaping continues as the routing takes its final form.

Construction is underway, with irrigation being installed as dirt is shaped into its final form. (Courtesy of Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch)

Since it opened in 1999, Bandon Dunes has redefined destination golf, with players from around the world going to great lengths to reach the obscure southern Oregon coastline. In those 20 years, the Bandon Dunes courses have achieved great acclaim and rankings: Pacific Dunes is ranked No. 2 on Golfweek’s list of modern courses, Old Mac is No. 5 on that list, followed by Bandon Dunes at No. 8 and Bandon Trails at No. 15.

Can the Sheep Ranch, with its mile of coastline and nine oceanside greens, measure up?

“The design is brilliant and there is a mystical nature to the interaction of the land and the ocean,” Friedmann said on the course’s website. “The experience will be amazing. Could it be the best? Yes!”

Time will tell, but expect plenty of players to line up for their chance to send a ball flying over those nearly vertical rock walls.

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort from Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on Vimeo.

 

 

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