The seven wonders of Bandon Dunes

Bandon Dunes, Bandon, Oregon :: Photo: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Much has been written about Bandon Dunes, just a 10-minute drive from the sleepy town of Bandon, Oregon.

Incorporated in 1891, Bandon was known for very little except the Cranberry Festival that started in 1947 and The Great Fire of 1936 when the town was decimated.

Most of the interest and knowledge of Bandon was local fare.

Not even when Mike Keiser, a Midwesterner, came, saw, and built a golf course north of town did anyone really take notice.

After all, it wasn’t Walt Disney building Disneyland in the middle of a barren Orange County, California in 1955. Dubbed the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland is to children what 25 years later, Bandon Dunes is to adults.

Yes, it’s been 25 years since the first golfers stepped on the property and were overwhelmed with golf as it was meant to be.

Over time one course grew to two, then three and with the opening of Shorty’s on May 2, the number will grow to seven courses.

The resort has many unique and wonderful things, which make a trip to Bandon Dunes special – and it should be special considering the effort required to get from point A to Bandon.

As a tribute to the unique and innovative golf property, here are the features that stand out for me. Each golfer will have their own, but that’s the best part about Bandon.

Ninth hole of Bandon Preserve

The Preserve course at Bandon was built in 2012 and quickly became not only a favorite of those who visit the tiny hamlet on the southern coast of Oregon, but was the impetus for par-three courses cropping up all over the United States. Every hole is unique and even when Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore walked the land, they were unsure of how many holes it would yield. Settling on 13 was a last-minute decision as Coore found one last place for a hole. After playing eight interesting holes, you step on the ninth tee for the 134-yard shot that is impossible to focus on with the Pacific Ocean staring you in the face. Even after the tee shot, the Pacific keeps your full attention. Depending on the clouds and the wind, the view stretches for miles and the sound of the ocean hitting the beach resonates from below.

Sixteenth hole at Bandon Dunes

Photo: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Because Bandon Dunes was the first course, it holds a special place for visitors. Its unique routing and views of the Pacific Ocean made it a stunner 25 years ago and it has stood the test of time.

The 16th hole is not only the most unique hole on the course, but the single best hole on the property.

On the tee, the idea of where to hit the ball is dwarfed by the pure beauty of the hole and the Pacific Ocean to the right. It’s a hole that — if played correctly at 363 yard from the black or back tees — is not that difficult, but it takes a little cunning and guile to maneuver around the large cavern in front of the tee.

The walk to the green there is almost nothing but ocean in the background and off to the left are trees and more of what Bandon Dunes has to offer with Bandon Trails.

Grant Rogers

Photo: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Bandon Dunes isn’t just about golf holes, but it’s the people, the caddies, the pros, the superintendents, and all the workers who make the experience an experience.

Grant Rogers has been around Bandon Dunes since its humble beginnings in 2000 and wanted to spend 7,300 days working at Keiser’s masterpiece before retiring.It’s a number he surpassed over 3 ½ years ago, and the San Jose State grad is not seemingly interested in hanging it up yet.

Rogers has a lot of advice for the golfer, acting as part philosopher and part psychologist, as my good friend Jim McCabe wrote in a Power Fades article on Rogers in April 2023.

One of Rogers’ sage pieces of advice: Never bet with a stranger whose right shoe is chafed on the inside of the toe cap. That guy has a great weight shift, good timing and knows how to get through the ball. He will kick your butt.

Rogers can beat almost anyone with just a putter and it’s something to behold as you watch him maneuver.

He wields the one club like a magic wand over any of the seven courses, but the par-3 Preserve is where he has shown his prowess with a 3-under total at the Coore & Crenshaw beauty.

Rogers is one of the reasons you come to Bandon Dunes. He is Bandon Dunes and long after he is gone, Rogers will always be part of the landscape.


Photo: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Known as the official greeter, Bob Gaspar, affectionately known as “Shoe”, is so much more than his title.

Named after renowned horse jockey Bill Shoemaker, whom he resembles, like Rogers, Shoe has been around awhile, moving to the tiny hamlet in 1980, but was part of the days before the resort opened and as part of the opening day crew.

Shoe was a truck driver, then a worker in the local cranberry bogs before he got the call from Bandon that he was going to be part of the crew.

He has shaped bunkers, was caddiemaster for a short time, but eventually fell into the role of Bandon’s biggest supporter and the face of the resort to all those that visit.

Shoe is the smiling face you see not only when you arrive on the grounds, but he is the person you can roll up and talk to about all matters of things before or after playing Bandon Dunes. 

He is also the last face you see when you drive away, in hopes of returning and seeing Shoe’s smiling face again.

Shoe is the spirit of Bandon Dunes and while his job has no description and was clearly not part of the opening day roster, Bandon Dunes would not be what it is today without him.

17th hole at Sheep Ranch

The Sheep Ranch is the newest of the 18-hole courses at Bandon Dunes. So, you could argue that it’s not really part of Bandon because it’s actually on another piece of land — but that’s just a technicality.

The Sheep Ranch was first laid out by architect Tom Doak when he was building Pacific Dunes.

Doak didn’t believe there was enough land to build an 18-hole course that was worthy of being in the Bandon rotation, so he moved some dirt, doubled up on some greens and built a makeshift golf course.

Eventually Phil Friedmann and Keiser worked with Coore & Crenshaw to build a proper golf course on the windiest land in the area.While clearing away bushes and gorse, trees of different shapes and styles emerged from the overgrowth.

The most dramatic of these is on the 17th hole.

With the Pacific Ocean bordering the entire left of the hole, trees of odd shapes and sizes are dotted up the left side as well.

The compelling nature of the trees and roaring surf, along with the constant wind, makes the 17th a truly remarkable experience and one that was never planned when Bandon opened 25 years ago.

The hole is a great wonder because it incorporates all the elements of what Keiser desired when he first set foot on the property. No one could have envisioned the beauty of the trees that frame the hole.

Ghost Tree, 3rd hole at Old Mac

Photo: Bandon Dune Golf Resort

For a property that has tried to remove trees, bushes, and gorse, would be known for certain trees.

Old Macdonald was built as a tribute to architect Charles Blair Macdonald.

It’s hard to know what Macdonald would think, but one thing is clear — of all the properties on Bandon Dunes, this is the closest to parachuting into the middle of Scotland.

Each hole has its uniqueness, but the hole with the most telling landmark is the par 4 third hole. After playing a demanding par 3, you walk to the tee on the next hole and there it is, the Ghost Tree. 

It’s really a Port Orford Cedar and it does serve a useful purpose. Driving the ball left of the tree is the more aggressive line, while to the right is safer but a longer second shot in.

Apart from its need for course management, the old cedar is part of the inherent beauty of the hole, the course and Bandon Dunes.

It is the answer to the question: What is Bandon Dunes?

The Ghost Tree answers that question as it stands majestically on the little ridge keeping watch of all the golfers that play Old Mac. It’s become a beacon and also a prominent logo used by Bandon Dunes.

Pacific Ocean

Bandon Dunes is not Bandon Dunes without the Pacific Ocean.

The courses are magnificent from an architectural standpoint, but they would not have the same sizzle or pizzazz without the Pacific.

Outside of Bandon Trails, the ocean is a primary part of the show and if you think about the ocean holes on Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Sheep Ranch, you realize how ordinary they would be without the Pacific Ocean in a supporting role.

When you walk up to the top of the seventh green at Old Mac — the only water hole on the course — you look out and see how special the land is. When you stand on the tee on the ninth at the Preserve, the ocean view is what takes your breath away.

There are great courses built that are not on the ocean, but each one would carry greater influence if the ocean is part of the story.

Flatly, without the Pacific Ocean, Bandon Dunes is not Bandon Dunes.

Mike Keiser (The Maestro)

Photo: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

The person responsible for Bandon Dunes, Mike Keiser, is not part of the seven wonders.  The reason is simple, he is the reason the seven wonders exist.

Who I will now affectionately call “The Maestro of Bandon Dunes,” Keiser made Bandon Dunes out of his own desire to make the best course possible for the public golfer.

In finding the land that Bandon Dunes sits on, Keiser took an idea, and with the help of so many, never lost sight of his goal.

Now 25 years later, Bandon Dunes, while hard to get to, is a beacon of public golf in the United States.

It represents the best golf possible on a piece of land that most would have moved on from, but Keiser saw its raw potential and persevered.

Pinehurst is the home of golf in this country, but Bandon Dunes is golf’s cathedral, and like many such landmarks should not be missed.