Buddies, Bargains and Bandon Dunes

February 2010

It was the week before Thanksgiving, and all 'round the course, the forecast was as prickly as the Bandon Dunes gorse. The weatherman warned of rain, wind and chill, but for Jake Ramirez and crew, that's part of the thrill. OK, you might not think much of my attempt at verse, but the winter deal at Oregon's Bandon Dunes Resort really is poetic.

From November through February, for $580 per person, you get three nights of lodging in a double-occupancy room, three rounds of golf on three of the top 14 on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Courses, two dinners (gratuity included), three buffet breakfasts and unlimited practice. Let me be clear: That's less than $200 per man per day for a bed, breakfast, range balls, a round of golf and a dinner. At Bandon Dunes!

If this was once a secret, it's out. All three courses were packed in mid-November when Ramirez and friends arrived for their sixth annual trip. He planned this one four months in advance and still had trouble getting tee times.

The group came from New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco; the eighth player couldn't make it, but like all buddies trips, they played on. I ambushed them before their first round at Pacific Dunes. I passed out hats, balls, three bottles of wine and coordinated a tour of Old Macdonald, Bandon's fourth course, scheduled to open in June.

"People say you take a chance coming this time of year," says "Tall Bob" Foran, part of the Ramirez group, "but we've been lucky. Even when the weather has been bad, it blows through."

Foran knows something about blowing through. In 1973, when he was 9, he was featured in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd for striking out 111 batters (of a possible 120 outs) in 40 innings of Little League.

In six years of this trip and 18 rounds of golf, the friends have had just 1 rounds canceled because of weather, and they've worn more short sleeves than thermals. This year they could've worn shorts. It was 62 degrees when they played Bandon Trails. The deal is so good that even though Mike Inchalik had a mild heart attack in September 2007, he was back with his boys attacking Bandon's flagsticks by that November.

The off-peak savings of about $700 gives the guys wiggle room for $20 skins and individual caddies by day -- cocktails, backgammon and cards by night. Their handicaps are 8 to 18, ages 43 to 53, and their final scores really don't matter.

With that deal, in those conditions and at a resort like this, there's only one way to describe it: pure bliss.

Bandon Bound? Fly into North Bend's airport, and don't rent a car. Contact Terra at aviationtransportation.com (877-315-7963). You get shuttle service to and from the resort, drinks, snacks and "Caddyshack" on the TV for $45 a man.

For more stories and videos from the road, plus a link to the Ambush entry form, go to golfdigest/courses/blogs/mattyg.

Matt Ginella
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