There never was a question that the land immediately north of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is stunning with a mile of shoreline, 100-foot cliffs above the Pacific Ocean and plenty of sand for a bouncy, rollicking American links.
Previously the site of a somewhat secretive 13-hole, play-’em-as-you-like routing known as the Sheep Ranch, the property is being turned into the 18-hole Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch, set to open in the spring of 2020. Grassing has commenced at the design created by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, which will feature nine greens on the cliffs’ edges.
You read that right: nine greens on the cliffs. That’s three more than any of the 18-hole courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s foursome of 18-hole courses, all of which rank in the top 14 of Golfweek’s Best Modern list of U.S. courses.
“The secret is out, it seems. It was kind of fun, the mystery and the mystique of it,” said Phil Friedmann, the owner of the property and its previous version of the Sheep Ranch that was built by Tom Doak.
“We’re going to have some more design sophistication, some really cool holes. Before we had some really cool sites, and now the greens themselves will be improved upon.”
Friedmann has again partnered with Mike Keiser, owner of Bandon Dunes and Friedmann’s co-founder of Recycled Paper Greetings, Inc., to transform the site into what likely will be the most-talked-about U.S. course opening in years. They will operate the new Sheep Ranch as a separate entity apart from Bandon Dunes, but much of the existing resort’s infrastructure and amenities will be utilized at the Sheep Ranch. Players will be able to book rounds at the Sheep Ranch as part of their stay at Bandon Dunes.
Friedmann said he had considered building a full course on the 400-acre site for years. He and Keiser credited Coore with developing a layout that fits onto the property’s lower 140 acres without climbing into the wooded acreage farther from the cliffs. Coore also pitched a design with no bunkers, letting the wind and terrain provide the challenges, and the owners signed off on the no bunker approach.
“I told Bill when I last saw him that it is a collaboration between him and God,” Friedmann said. “God created the land, and Bill chose where we get to walk on it.”
The highlight probably will be the double green situated atop Fivemile Point, which juts into the Pacific Ocean. 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 or a shot over the steep rock walls, the Sheep Ranch will require balls fly over the cliffs from tees and to greens set on the promontory.
“It’s certainly a dramatic addition,” Keiser said. “Fivemile Point is out in the ocean, and isn’t it exciting to see breakers rolling past you and internal to you? It has always beckoned.” Gwk
(Note: This story appears in the June 2019 issue of Golfweek.)