You read about golf trips all the time. Stories of people playing a golf course you can't afford, or can't get to, or just haven't visited yet. They suck, I know.
But this isn't a story about a golf course. It's a story about a golf experience. It's a story about a place that should be visited by anyone in the world that thinks they've seen the best golf in the world.
This is Bandon Dunes, folks, so check your swing jacket and pink polo at home. It's golf, and more golf, and just when you think you're sick of swinging that shifty 6-iron, there is more golf to be played.
The truth is, I've visited some of the coolest golf destinations in the world. I've been to Scotland more times than I should, and I've stood in the airport at Newark waiting for that late flight to Edinburgh. I've hung around groups of guys in the bar by the gate, drinking Guinness with their Muirfield-necessary jackets, talking of the next week they'll spend at the home of this crazy game, hoping they can par the Road Hole or birdie the Postage Stamp.
I've seen all that. And I've seen the men board our 747 in a jump across the pond. That's a golf trip. Bandon is a golf mecca. You see, the town of Bandon, Oregon is similar to one of those towns you've stopped in on a road trip in hopes that they'll have something other than a McDonald's to settle your hunger. A hair over 3,200 people, this place seems like a golfer's dream like Tucson, Ariz., seems like an ideal spot for a surfer. It's small. It's sleepy. It's unappealing.
But this is where four superb golf courses lay, all different yet all amazing. Last week I was sent to Bandon Dunes on a work assignment, and, well, for a golf fan, that's the equivalent of punishing a kindergardener in the blocks area. "Sure thing, I'll be on the links if you need me!"
The first thing you think when you get to Bandon is how simple it is. The hotel isn't extreme. The architecture is simple, and as I was told by a driver later in the week, the point is not to take away from the golf. "All golf, all the time," he boasted. He was right.
The best part about Bandon is just that. It's a type of place that you don't go with your wife or kids. You visit this place with golfing buddies that, like you, would be more than happy to sneak in a fifth nine holes as the sun is starting to set, if someone brings up the idea. It's the place that you don't count carbs for dinner or how many beers you had the night before.
From Bandon Dunes, the original course, to Old McDonald, the latest design that presents holes molded with some of the great ones in Scotland in mind, it's goosebump-worthy.
My first 18 holes was at Pacific Dunes, which would be like having Angelina Jolie seat you at your first Oscars. It is beautiful in a way that only golfers see beauty. The holes are set by the sea. They're tough at times and forgiving at others. It ends on a par-5 that would make you check your pants if you were forced to climb all the way to the back tee. If you can navigate Pacific around par, you are more than a golfer. You're a magician.
Then there is Bandon Trails, a course some don't like because, simply, it's too hard. I loved it, mainly because it combined everything you love in a golf course in 18 holes. A dunes-sided par-4? Yep. A par-5 cut through the trees? Absolutely. A drivable par-4? They've got two.
My job was never to convince you to go to Bandon. If you're a golfer with a set of eyeballs and access to the random golf magazine, you know about this golf course and the reason to visit the southwest of Oregon. You don't need me to convince you to get your buddies to book flights to an airport that could barely hold the entire Trailblazers team without forcing a trainer or two outside. It's just, I couldn't play Bandon without scribbling down a thing or two about how wonderful it is.
Nothing there will knock you on your arse, but everything about it makes you want to return. If they built 10 courses at Bandon, I feel they'd all be fantastic in their own way. That's what golf is really about, right? Beauty, creativity and competitiveness all rolled into 6,700 yards.