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Pacific Dunes Course Review at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
- Wood Sabold photo for amateurgolf.com
- Wood Sabold photo for amateurgolf.com
Tom Doak and Jim Urbina combined talents on the second links course at Bandon Dunes Resort, aptly named Pacific Dunes. Doak was no household name, but his pedigree as a student of golf architecture, combined with his internships and initial work landed him a job that in a sense be considered more risky than the first course. He built a shorter, shot maker’s course just north of Bandon Dunes, with adjacent holes intertwined like puzzle pieces. Putting on the 6th green at Bandon Dunes? You’ll see the two back-to-back par 3s at Pacific in the foreground, prompting Two Man Links Championship tournament director Jake Wiese to comment during an afternoon of play, “are those three of the most awesome par 3s right next to each other or what? The same thing happens on the 8th tee of both courses, so close to each other that they could almost share the same tee box.

Like Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes teases you a bit with an inland hole, but once you walk up to the elevated tee on No. 2 it all starts to stare you in the face. After hopefully writing down pars on the easy two openers, No. 3 – a slightly bending-to-the left par 5, provides a great birdie opportunity. But it’s here that one of the resounding themes of Pacific Dunes shows up for the first time. Take a risk, and put a potential big number (or no number sometimes) into play. A long shot into the 3rd requires a bounce up to an elevated surface and if that shot gets rejected short and right, welcome to one of the nastiest bunkers on the property, a natural-edged beast that only looks fun if someone else is in it. Over this green isn’t good either, I once had a ball trickle off the green and down a walking path. Quick eight.

Hopefully, none of the bad stuff on No. 3 has happened as you step to the next tee, where the ocean guards the right like a disappearing edge pool and the yawning bunker on the left takes the word “safe” right out of play. There simply is no bail out if you want to get to this green in two. Add some wind, and it’s even trickier. But nobody that plays the 4th will say a bad word about it. Golf holes don’t come any better. The ocean doesn’t even come into play on the 7th, but it’s one of the most strategic and gorgeous holes I’ve ever played. The fairway is wide open, but it’s firm enough that a little “steer job” can trundle towards the rugged trees on either side. Assuming your ball is in the middle, you’ll stare in the face of the most daunting approach shot on the property. Mounds and tall grasses in front (so much for running one up) and huge bunkers on the left plus a deep sloping green that seems to push anything but a well flighted shot into the wrong places. It’s No. 7 that will remind you to play the proper tees, because the hole truly is friendlier from the greens than the blacks. Snowmen are only enjoyable in the winter.

I don’t want to rush through the back nine, and I’ve already mentioned the first two par-3s (14 is also a one-shotter) Nos. 10 and 11. No. 10 plays downhill with alternate tees providing two different approaches. The 11th is one of the “most-photographed holes” with the ocean on the left and only one thing, a deep bunker, between a hooked shot and the deep dark depths of despair. The 13th keeps heading north before the course turns and heads towards home, and it’s a beauty. The entire right side, from landing zone to the green, is either a “scrape-away” bunker or hilly sand dune and on the left is the ocean. A well-struck drive is required. When 13 is playing into the wind I have hit driver-driver. The 17th, the fourth par 3 on the par 35 back nine, (there are also three par 5s) is simply gorgeous, especially when the yellow gorse is in bloom all around the gigantic putting surface. What looks like an easy shot is made tougher by the left kick that seems to draw seemingly good shots towards more really deep bunkers. The 18th is my favorite par 5 on the entire property, you’ve got to avoid a big waste area on the left off the tee, then hang onto a fairway wood or iron before your even see the green. But there’s nothing tricked up about the 18th, and the Pacific Grill is one of the most scenic places to have lunch not just at Bandon Dunes, but anywhere.
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