The Sheep Ranch was a semi-secret at Bandon Dunes for years.
The original 13 greens with an unset, play-as-you-like routing built by Tom Doak lay just across Whiskey Run Lane to the north of Old Macdonald, one of four existing 18-hole layouts at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in southwestern Oregon. The property wasn’t walled off or exactly private, but golfers needed to know whom to ask to secure a tee time.
That all changes June 1, 2020, with the highly anticipated opening of the Sheep Ranch.
Bulldozers and construction crews replaced those 13 greens in the past year, as Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed a new 18-hole course that will feature nine greens on the hundred-foot cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.
Grass was planted this summer, and the joint effort between Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and original Sheep Ranch owner Phil Friedmann will begin directing players to the new course June 1.
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.
Bandon Dunes began accepting new reservations to play the course on Oct. 8, and players with existing reservations at the resort will be allowed to modify their plans to include the Sheep Ranch starting in June.
This new course will be all about the cliffs. The routing was a challenge, as Friedmann and Keiser wanted to maximize exposure to the rugged coastline. The Sheep Ranch has a mile of coastline, compared to the resort’s three cliffside courses – Old Mac, Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes – that share two miles of coast.
“Bill went there and did a routing that knocked our socks off,” Keiser said. “The site is two parts: the lower deck, which is about 140 acres, and the upper deck, about 250 acres. Everyone, including Phil and me, thought we would have to go over the ravine that divided those two decks, with one or two bridges. And that was not an attractive thing for either of us, to build a links course with two bridges.
“Bill figured out, with his brilliant routing that we’re building, how to put all 18 holes into 140 acres. When it opens, it will be nine greens on the ocean bluff.”
Since it opened in 1999, 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 the more inland Bandon Trails at No. 15.
The most dramatic spot within the Sheep Ranch’s mile of coast likely will be the double-green for Nos. 3 and 16 atop Fivemile Point, which juts into the ocean about the namesake distance north of the town of Bandon. Unlike the cliffside holes at Bandon Dunes’ existing courses, on which play parallels the coast but never requires a shot over the cliffs, this double-green will require approaches and tee shots over the cliff faces to and from the promontory.
“I think that coming into those greens, it’s going to be breathtaking and exciting,” Friedmann said. “It’s probably a place you will remember forever.”