Courses & Travel
August 29, 2008

Best Of Bandon (Dunes, Trails and Pacific)

I would call it "P.B. & T. C.C." The Pacific Bandon & Trails Country Club, designed by the collaborative efforts of Doak,Urbina,Crenshaw,Coore and McLay Kidd.

It's not the best 18 holes from Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails, it's the best of each first hole, second hole, third hole, etc.

I've now played the three courses at Bandon Dunes four times. On my most recent trip with 11 colleagues, friends and distant relatives (bros from different mos), we came up with this list of the ideal 18. From the black tees it's a par 69, plays 6,396 yards and has the three most difficult holes--the fifth at Bandon Dunes (pictured), the seventh at Pacific and the ninth at Trails--which makes for a tough front nine.

Hole: Course - yardage - par - (hole handicap at that course). Comment.

No. 1: Pacific Dunes - 370 - 4 - (9). I don't love any of the starting holes, but we agreed Pacific is the best from the back tees.

No. 2: Bandon Trails - 214 - 3 - (17). The card says it's the 17th handicap hole. This is NOT the second-easiest hole at Bandon Trails. It's an early gut check, with most swings stopping short of a full follow-through and leaving you a difficult sidehill lie in the sand.

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No. 3:__ Bandon Trails - 549 - 5 - (3). Reach it in two? Pee in a cup.

No. 4: Pacific Dunes - 463 - 4 - (3). I'm calling it the best hole on the property.

No. 5: Bandon Dunes - 428 - 4 - (1). Pull your long, accurate clubs for your tee shot and approach. You don't have those? Me either. Time for the hit-and-hope.

No. 6: Pacific Dunes - 316 - 4 - (13). I always hit the fairway. In fear of flopping sod with a textbook chunk, my sand wedge catches the ball in the forehead sending it screaming over the elevated green. In other words, I suck.

No. 7: Pacific Dunes - 464 - 4 - (1). The hardest hole on one of the best public courses in the country. 'Nuff said. Make a birdie here and consider retiring from the game and going out on top, a la Elway (not Favre).

No. 8: Bandon Trails - 321 - 4 - (11). Going for the green off the tee? Wait. I press the bet.

No. 9: Bandon Trails - 567 - 5 - (1). Reach it in two? Pee in a cup.

FRONT-NINE RECAP: 3,692 yards; par 37.

No. 10: Pacific Dunes - 206 - 3 - (14). It's long and usually plays into the wind. A hole like this puts a spike in rescue-club sales.

No. 11: Pacific Dunes - 148 - 3 - (18). If Doak was OK with going back-to-back par 3s to start the back nine, so are we.

No. 12: Bandon Dunes - 199 - 3 - (18). Back-to-back-to-back? That pot bunker in front of the green is a better catcher than Johnny Bench.

No. 13: Pacific Dunes - 444 - 4 - (2). Am I on Candid Camera? This is not a par 4. If the fourth hole at Pacific is the best on the property, then this is the second-best, and the second-hardest.

No. 14: Bandon Dunes - 359 - 4 - (16). The 14th at the Trails gets a lot of attention, but I'm not a fan. The 14th at Bandon won the majority vote and would be a nice relief after the 13th at Pacific (and before the home stretch).

No. 15: Bandon Trails - 406 - 4 - (8). Hit it a long way off the tee, just not in the fairway bunker. Use one more club on your approach, but don't be above the hole or par is impossible.

No. 16: Bandon Dunes - 363 - 4 - (10). Many a man claims to have driven the green here. I've never seen one. Don't miss the view down the coast as you walk to the 17th tee.

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No. 17:__ Bandon Trails - 180 - 3 - (16). Trust it. What is "it"? Your alignment, your club selection, your swing and the little man they call courage who's sitting on your shoulder with a pair of pompons.

No. 18: Bandon Trails - 399 - 4 - (6). It plays more like 499, and I've yet to finish it in less than 6. I'm always yelling*, "FORE on the porch!"*

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BACK-NINE RECAP: 2,704 yards; par 32.

TOTALS: 6,396 yards; par 69.__

The first time I went to Bandon I was sure I had the answer to the question, "Rank the three courses." I've been saying: Pacific, Bandon and then Trails but always claimed it was a close call. Only now, after this trip, do I have the right answer. The best course is the one you're playing at that moment. In doing the exercise we did above, you could easily have voted three ways on 14 of the 18 holes on each course. It was hard to leave out the fourth, 11th, and the 15th at Bandon Dunes. We could've easily voted for the 11th, 13th and the 16th at Trails. The 17th at all three courses is the closest we came to a three way tie.

We used seven holes from both Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails, only four holes from Bandon Dunes. There are five par 3s and two par 5s. On paper, the front nine will play a lot tougher and longer than the back nine, but with four par 3s, some short and tricky par 4s and no par 5s, the back nine might be the harder nine to break par (it's more likely you'll break a club).

--Matty G.

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